T.A. Takes on the Ticket Blitz
How do we want bicyclists to be seen by the NYPD?
Hey New York Post, check out this victorious triumph of truth over tabloid: With the help of Councilmember Jessica Lappin and City Council Transportation Chair James Vacca, T.A. just passed the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill. No more hyperbolic presumption in the papes about the state of our streets; T.A. just won a mandate that the NYPD make traffic safety data a part of the public record.
Passing the Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill is a certain victory for T.A.'s NYPD advocacy, but it is not going to staunch the NYPD's recent surge of summonsing cyclists. This is not a blitz or a crackdown or a temporary condition. Cyclists summonsed for breaking the law may be the norm from now onward. At T.A. we have our own analysis of what's happening, and why it might not be the worst indicator.
Bicycling infrastructure is suddenly a serious piece of the streetscape. New York City's cyclist population has grown at an unprecedented pace. What we do is no longer a quirky hobby or an elitist sport but a legitimate method of transportation. Bicycling is so legitimate that even the NYPD, who are so adverse to change they still file reports by typewriter, have recognized it.
But let's be straight about this: Everyone from the local crossing guard to our grandma has been complaining about bicyclist behavior. Every elected official in the city has gotten the call. The tidal wave of complaints has overcome even Mayor Mike's best intentions. Now is when we need to do better. Give pedestrians more space. Make eye contact and smile. If you screw up, or startle someone, apologize. It is not so hard, but it is now more necessary than ever. Bike polite already; it is the most important advocacy we can do.
T.A. knows New York City's traffic system was built for the automobile. From signal timing to on-street parking, not much of the streetscape is ideal for bicycling. It's ridiculous that bicyclists are being summonsed while circling a park. Adults are not required by law to wear a helmet; it is not illegal to occupy a full lane of traffic; exiting a bike lane to avoid an obstruction (like this perhaps) is entirely legitimate. Cyclists being summonsed for legal behavior is unjust, and a massive failure in officer education on the part of the NYPD.
As the watchdog protecting New York City cyclists, we're keeping a sharp eye on every step the NYPD takes to increase bicycle summonses. From grassroots to tops and every angle in between, T.A. is on top of this. Here's how:
Keeping Track -- Micro: T.A. is documenting all bicycle summonsing activity. If you find yourself on the wrong side of a red light and the receiving end of a summons pad, let us know the deets.
Keeping Track -- Macro: Until yesterday, there was no City agency tasked with tracking, analyzing or publishing traffic violation or summonsing data. T.A.'s Saving Lives Through Better Information Bill just mandated the release of that data. Because the law does not go into effect until summertime, T.A. has submitted a FOIL request for all summonses issued to bicyclists by the NYPD to stem the tide until then.
Relative Danger: T.A. is calling on the NYPD to put a little research ahead of their outreach efforts. The majority of summonses should go to the most dangerous road users, no matter what the trending topic is on NYPD Rant. We want NYPD summonsing efforts to respond exactly to the road users likely to cause the most harm.
T.A. Talks to NYPD Community Councils: T.A. Volunteer Committees have been dispatched to Community Council meetings citywide. Precinct by precinct, T.A. volunteers are letting the NYPD know that enforcement relative to danger is the only way to make safe streets a priority.
Mandate the Green Wave: T.A. is calling for traffic lights timed to be more friendly for cycling. A "Green Wave," when lights change at a cyclist's pace on major biking corridors, would make it easier for everyone to not run the red.
Educate, Then Enforce: With all the ways our streets are changing, it's sometimes difficult to know how best to use a redesigned street. T.A. is calling on the NYPD to treat the bicycling boom like they treat all other new additions to New York, from parking changes to pooper-scooper policy: Educate first, then enforce.
Taking a Class with Senator Adams: State Senator Eric Adams introduced legislation last year to mandate that driver education include lessons on how to drive around areas dense with pedestrians and bicyclists. Urban-specific driver education is something T.A. wholeheartedly endorses.
We are proud to say T.A. is on top of this summonsing situation, but despite our head start we still need your help. The NYPD certainly is not summonsing relative to danger. Here's how to let them know you think their danger indifference is a faux pas: Attend your Community Council meeting and let the precinct commander hear it direct; Call your City Councilmember and ask their help amplifying your voice; Tell it like it is with a letter to the editor of your local paper. And of course, if you have been summonsed, be sure to help us keep track.
Until then, if the NYPD's looking, they can find us bicycling polite. It's always easier to protest when you're looking your best, so we hope you will be biking polite too.