Bicycle riders and police officers don’t always get along very well in New York City. Bike riders have a reputation for flouting traffic rules, and cops don’t always know which rules to enforce and which to ignore. The number of people riding bicycles in New York has grown in recent years, and will certainly increase when bike sharing comes to the city in the spring. Both police and advocates are concerned that the number of bicycle accidents will also grow.
Bike advocates note that many police officers live in the suburbs and don’t really understand bicycle issues. They have a “windshield perspective,” according to a spokesperson for Bike New York, an advocacy group.
The Midtown Community Court in Manhattan began sentencing delinquent bike riders to a rider education course. The class includes a survey of city and state traffic laws that relate to bicycle riding and tips on safe riding in the city. The class also discusses the rights and responsibilities of cyclists.
According to the teacher of the class, Rich Conroy, the types of violations that should get bike riders sentenced to the class include running red lights, riding the wrong way, riding on the sidewalk and not riding with lights at night. However, officers are not sending riders to class for these types of violations, Conroy says.
Rather, he has had students sentenced to class for riding in the bus lane and not riding in the bike lane. However, the violations that could result in serious injury or death seem to be under-represented in his classes. Conroy said, “I’m not sure how the officers who are doing the ticketing are being trained.”
When asked about laws he would like to do away with, Conroy said, “I would like to see the rule about mandatory use of bike lanes simply go away. … It is confusing. What is a “usable” bike lane? I think officers who aren’t experienced at cycling and don’t ride around much in the city aren’t going to understand that a bike lane that’s striped right next to parked cars, in what we call the Door Zone, is really dangerous. You can get killed by a car door that opens up suddenly.”
Source: Atlanticcities.com, “In New York, Toward a Harmony of Police and Cyclists,” Aug. 27, 2012.