Because of the nature of the city, many New Yorkers don’t have their driver’s licenses, choosing to commute on two wheels instead of four. But now that the New York Police Department has announced its initiative to more stringently enforce traffic laws as they apply to cyclists, everyone had better make sure they know the rules of the road, regardless of what they’re driving.
In the coming weeks, The NYPD will begin issuing tickets to cyclists in violation of basic traffic laws such as stopping at red lights, failing to signal when turning, tailgating and breaking the speed limit.
“This is geared toward safety. We want to ensure safety for bicyclists as well as pedestrians and motorists,” said Deputy Inspector Michael Kemper of the 90th Precinct. “It’s certainly necessary because, through the years and months, we have taken actions regarding bicyclists. Sometimes they get injured, sometimes they get into accidents and it’s often because they aren’t following the rules of the road. We want to reduce accidents and injuries.”
While NYPD representatives claim that enforcing these rules is a necessary and productive step towards creating safer, more functional streets, many have spoken out in opposition.
“I think it’s a waste of time to selectively enforce things, the whole idea of following people through the park. I think the traffic laws should be enforced, but there’s a lot of misinformation about what the laws are,” said Ryan Cuonen, a Neighbors Allied for Good Growth organizer and a volunteer with the Ghost Bike Project, which installs bicycle memorials for cyclists killed in traffic. “Time would be better spent educating everyone about how to navigate the streets safely. I wish they would be as vehement about nabbing people who park their cars in bike lanes. But I think bike vs. car stigma makes everything worse. The majority of cyclists who have been killed were following the laws and were hit by drivers who weren’t.”
It is uncertain how successful the NYPD will actually be at enforcing the laws, however cyclists and motorists in North Brooklyn have certainly expressed strong opinions. While Kemper explained the initiative includes an increased education program for cyclists and motorists, community members are calling for more.
“It’s twofold. Yes, I agree with enforcement, but with enforcement needs to be education,” said Karen Nieves, who serves as the chair of Community Board 1 Transportation Committee. “Unfortunately, so many cyclists don’t even know the laws and they’re getting penalized. By the same token, it’s like the wild west out there. Unfortunately, we do need enforcement.”