NYC cracking down on ‘scofflaw cyclists’



NYC cracking down on ‘scofflaw cyclists’

Per the NYT:

“We’ve installed 250 miles of lane over the last four years and thousands of new bike racks,” Janette Sadik-Khan, the city’s transportation commissioner, said at a news conference. “We have been friendly to cyclists. Now it’s time for cyclists to be friendlier to the city.”

It’s past time for Providence scofflaw cyclists (mostly Brown and RISD students per my observations) to start obeying the rules of the road too.  26,000 tickets have been issued to cyclists in NYC last year.  It would take just a tiny fraction of that in Providence for kids to begin stopping at stop signs and red lights, and traveling in the correct direction on one-way streets.  As a pedestrian and cyclist I’ve had multiple near-misses with dumb kids on bikes.  What can we do to encourage the police to start enforcing the law in this regard?  Comments please.

(And yes, before you post about how awful car drivers are in this state: we agree with you and encourage greater enforcement of scofflaw car drivers.  Save your keystrokes: there’s no need to further flog that issue.)


  • Oct 22, 2010 at 5:51 am

    We have to have PPD understand the laws. I think the worst offenders are RISD and Brown students, and PPD bike officers. I can't count how many times I've been nearly run down by a bike cop on the sidewalk.

    We can't have a do as I say not as I do enforcement situation with the police.

    It may not really have to go to the police level. The schools could do a lot to work on teaching kids the rules of the road.

  • Jack
    Oct 22, 2010 at 6:47 am

    I would hate for it to come to that because it probably would not be good in the end for the continued growth of cycling in Providence.

    At my store I see a lot of Brown and RISD "kids" who get it. Some people (in this case cyclists) are simply oblivious or think that they have a halo around their head because they believe they are saving the planet and so the rules of the road and physics don't apply to them. It seems the young and truely clueless risk takers stand out more and become the focus of our angst.

    In my opinion, safe cycling habits usually comes with experience: one too many close calls, routine habits, etc. Its all part of figuring it out. I for one do not want the Providence PD to be "educating" our local cyclists.

    Be careful what you wish for. Lead by example.

  • Barry
    Oct 22, 2010 at 7:04 am

    I tend to believe a first step for police is to issue warnings rather than tickets – that cn be abused to raise money – witness some parking enforcement – or turn inexperienced users off to biking when they need education. I feel the same way about busineses that don't remove snow from sidewalks, motorists texting, etc – start with warnings

  • Labann
    Oct 22, 2010 at 10:55 am

    Oh, brother. Give the mayor another source of revenue? At the risk of sounding like a broken record, these traffic laws are for MOTORISTS. You can't find ANY stats on injuries that bicyclists cause to pedestrians. THIS IS ONLY THE MOTORISTS WHINING BECAUSE THEY CHOOSE THE IMPATIENT, LAZY WAY and found to their regret it's costly and inconvenient.

    That said, 70% of bicycling fatalities are 18 to 24 year olds, but nearly 100% are killed by MOTORISTS.

    Distracted, drunken, impatient, selfish drivers are the bad actors.

  • Chris
    Oct 22, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    while I don't like it when people ride unsafely or to purposely anger drivers, I don't agree that enforcement of rules should be a priority. the NYC person's argument is that because the city has accommodated cyclists, cyclists there need to follow the rules of the road.

    if you follow this argument, it's definitely not yet time to start cracking down on cyclists' obeying street laws in Providence. 250 miles of bikes lanes!! it seems like we have hardly any, and what we do have is poorly marked and not really respected by cars. going West to East Side and back each day, I don't have the chance to use any unless I take a big detour around the mall to go up Promenade/Kinsley. there's also a lot of headway that could be made in terms of bike racks at public/city/state locations.

    further, I think the focus should be on education, with enforcement being secondary. for instance, in the Albany (NY) area, the regional transportation committee (which primarily runs the bus system) launched a big public education effort, . this is an effort to educate drivers about how to treat bikes on the road, and to teach cyclists what rules they need to follow — and coupled with strong outreach to cycling commuters and enthusiasts, it seems like it's actually working.

    once the city's infrastructure starts treating us more like valid users of the street, I'll start treating its road signs as more valid instructions of how to use the street.

  • Oct 22, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    I have a hard time imagining the PPD issuing tickets to cyclists. Mostly because the police seem to completely ignore the existence of cyclists. Whenever I encounter a cop directing traffic around a construction site or an event, they will wave the cars on and then stop waving and turn and look the other way when I come up to the construction. It's like I'm wearing a cloak of invisibility, even when I'm wearing a florescent yellow jacket. Anyone else have this experience?

    NYC has done a lot for bike infrastructure in the last few years. Has Providence? I don't know, I've only been here for 3 years, but it seems like we've only gained the Blackstone Blvd. Bike lanes and the Fred Lippet Woonasquatucket River Greenway Bike Path.

    I would love to see some sharrows show up around here. I've used them in Boston a little bit and they seem to work. They are much better than the bike route signs at indicating that bikes belong on the road. They also show cyclists which direction they should be riding.

    I did ride more foolishly when I was younger (and got in a couple of accidents as a result). The more I rode, the more I realized that it was safer and smarter to just obey the law (99% of the time). I also found that it didn't significantly slow me down to obey the law.

    With all of that said… Yes, I'd like to see some enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists. If education is the goal, warnings would be the best way to go.

    The younger cyclists certainly seem to be the most frequent breakers of laws (especially if you live near one of the Universities), but lets not forget the many working poor of Providence, riding their dept. store bikes on the sidewalks and the wrong side of the street. Would tickets be the best way to educate them? What they are doing is illegal, but more importantly, it's unsafe.

    In conclusion: I'm in favor of warnings for cyclists breaking traffic laws, but I really wonder if the PPD is even aware that cyclists exist.

  • MattyCiii
    Oct 23, 2010 at 7:41 am


    In most cases, a warning is the right thing to do. But not in the case of motorists texting – nobody should get a warning for that.

    Enforcement has to be full across the spectrum, to minimize resentment of any one group (pedestrians, drivers, cyclists). In NYC the Broadway bike path is simply unusable from the pedestrians randomly stepping off the curb. I hope they ticket the cars and pedestrian scofflaws alongside the lawbreaking cyclists.

    Here in PVD, there really isn't a critical mass of cyclists or pedestrians to target.

  • Oct 23, 2010 at 9:41 am

    Dick had a good meeting with the PPD this past Friday and I'll encourage him to post something exclusively about this. The end result is that RIBike and US Open Cycling are going to be actively involved in the next PPD Bicycle Patrol training. The majority of the current course focuses on how to quickly dismount from a bike to cuff someone, how to ride down stairs, etc. We are being brought on board to help tell the cyclists perspective, about what we face every day and also take part in reviewing the rules of the road when it comes to cycling.

    Back to the topic at hand, I certainly believe that we should start with education. I do agree that it's nuts around Brown and RISD and I'm surprised there haven't been more accidents. Regardless of whether they are following the rules of the road, they are putting themselves in danger with the way they ride and some education needs to happen. Given how many verbal warnings are given to motorists for doing far more dangerous things, I'd be hard pressed to have the police push hard for tickets right out of the gate. It's not just PPD either. We need to educate the Brown Police as well. I regularly see them riding the wrong direction, etc.

  • Labann
    Oct 23, 2010 at 9:58 am

    Yeah, give tickets to 10 year olds. You'll NEVER NEED a license to bike, because it poses no road hazard. Time to start revoking and suspending more motoring licenses.

  • Oct 23, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    That bicycles need to obey all the rules and traffic customs that were designed for motor vehicles is a very bad idea. Traffic rules and customs need to change to promote and accomodate increasing bicycle traffic. A lot of what is being condemned as lawlessness and chaos is best viewed as experimentation and evolution toward that end.

    Why is Thayer Street one way? Because with parking on both sides only one lane remains for moving cars. So what? There is ample room for bicycles to travel in both directions. It is a lot dumber to expect bicyclists to detour around the block so they conform to a traffic scheme that never once considered their interests than to expect drivers to slow down, and watch out in a place where most people are on foot and bicycles.

    I refuse to apologize for rolling on my bicycle through 4 way stops when drivers are stopped, and I see that they see me. Almost all of them are pretty cool with that. I sure am when I happen to be driving. It just makes sense.

    If I am on a bicycle stopped at red light at a big intersection and I can see perfectly well that I can cross more safely now than after it turns green and all those drivers floor it, turning this way and that, I cross. No one was thinking about a guy on a bicycle when they designed that intersection or wrote the law, but there I am, just doing my best to stay in my skin.

    Alfred Stone Road is an excellent bicycle route. If the only way to get to it from Hope Street is "salmoning" or riding on the sidewalk for one block along Blackstone Blvd, well, I refuse to apologize for that too. Most thoughtful bicyclists can give any number of examples like this in their travels.

    I follow rules like stopping at lights and riding on the right, except when it makes sense not to. I am not reckless and I am not inconsiderate. It is perfectly appropriate that bicyclists get to bend the rules more than drivers do.

    The rules must change, and this is the way we are going to muddle through to a new set of rules. When the new rules properly address the realities of bicycle traffic, I and other scofflaw bicyclists will be breaking less of them.

    On the list of threats out there waiting to kill us, that need to "cracked down" on, "Scofflaw bicyclists" is so far down that I can hardly believe this discussion is taking place on a blog that supposedly is about promoting and enhancing bicycle riding.

  • Labann
    Oct 24, 2010 at 8:35 am

    Hear, hear, Andrew! Well put! I tend to attack core points after futilely trying to explain in details that are seldom read. These laws were only designed to protect bicyclists, pedestrians, and other legitimate users of shared public byways from MOTOR VEHICLES. Automotive lobbyists got the laws twisted back onto them, and wriggled out of obligations and responsibilities not to kill them. They practically never accuse anyone of vehicular homicide even if dead drunk, high on drugs, or willfully negligent. They BLAME VICTIM instead.

  • MattM
    Oct 25, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Interesting, you argue that you have the privilege of selecting which laws needn't be honored based whether they are inconvenient to you at any particular moment. I'm sure that many a person who texts while driving, or parks in a no-parking zone, or drives 5 mph over the posted limit feel the same way.

    Warnings to cyclists that focus more on the dangers their riding choices put them in is probably the best choice. Given the level of egregious law-breaking by people driving, any concerted effort by police to educate/enforce laws on bicycle riders is mis-spent. Enforcing urban speed limits, failure to stop at signs and lights (especially for right turns), texting(!) while driving would be a much better use of police traffic enforcement time. My guess is that the bulk college students riding, and those who ride in lower-income neighborhoods simply don't know what laws they're required to follow, making education and outreach the most important. A lot of the people that I see riding I'd guess are simply doing what is expedient for them at that moment.

  • Oct 25, 2010 at 10:18 am

    First off, we don't even have bike lanes in Providence! There's maybe one or two that no one even uses, is poorly mantained, and is usually parked in.

    You may disagree with this, but I think that cyclists should NOT stop at stop signs or red lights. Its dangerous for a cyclist to take off with motor traffic. If the street is clear, pass the red light and save yourself.

    The real problem is there is no bike infrastructure in providence. So before you start a crack-down, install some bike lanes.

  • Oct 25, 2010 at 11:04 am

    Why are we discussing the rights of all transportation users (including drivers) on this blog? Because it needs to be discussed in the open and cyclists are one form of transportation.

    Alan and Andrew, I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts about pedestrian rights.

    I too agree that cars currently enjoy an unfair "ownership" of roadways and that My personal take is that you yield to the least common denominator; motorists should yield to cyclists and pedestrians, cyclists should yield to pedestrians. In most cases, pedestrians and cyclists should be able to coexist without any issues, but cyclists should always prepare themselves to yield to pedestrians. While it doesn't happen often, it's entirely possible for a cyclist who is flying through a pack of pedestrians to seriously injure or even kill a pedestrian.

    All this said, there are current laws on the books and I believe they should be followed. Do I come to a complete stop at every single stop sign? No, but I do approach every single stop sign with the intent to stop, slow down to a pedestrian crawl and proceed through at that pace. I do stop at stop lights, because of the speed at which cars go flying around this place and if they have a green light (or even yellow), you can be assured they aren't stopping or slowing. The way people ride around Brown, really the one place I can talk about, is crazy. I think it's nuts to think you can safely ride against traffic on Thayer, Angel, or Waterman; there is simply too much car, bus, and pedestrian traffic to take into account every possible movement. These other road users don't expect a cyclists to be coming the wrong direction and are likely not to look. Can you fault a pedestrian this action? I don't, unless the road were marked in a way to allow cyclists to ride contraflow.

  • Oct 25, 2010 at 12:33 pm

    Interesting, you argue that you have the privilege of selecting which laws needn’t be honored based whether they are inconvenient to you at any particular moment. I’m sure that many a person who texts while driving, or parks in a no-parking zone, or drives 5 mph over the posted limit feel the same way.

    You are right! I'm with George Carlin: "Everyone who drives faster than me is a maniac and everyone who drives slower than me is a moron."

    But seriously. Which laws I choose not to honor and when depends on a lot more than whether they are inconvenient, as I am sure is the case with yourself. When I am driving a car I am more scrupulous about stops, yields and speed limits than most drivers around here, fear not. It is still legal to talk on a phone while driving here, but I choose not to. Going from the car to the bike, the law stays the same, but everything else, like who stands to get hurt, and how badly, is completely different. I think the most important matters here are among the everything else.

    Ask some people who like to ride bikes but don't, why? Why do people drive to the bike path? They do not feel safe bicycling on the streets. People who always ride against traffic do not do it because they like to be annoying. They do it because they feel safer that way. I think they are mistaken, but I sympathize.

    If people felt privileged and safe taking to the streets on bicycles, you would see a lot more biking. This is a matter of laws and customs more than a matter of infrastructure. There is plenty of infrastructure. How do we change the way it gets used? The existing laws and customs have given us an environment where most people are afraid to travel by bike. Convincing the small existing contingent of bicyclists to slavishly conform to those laws is not the way to begin to change them.

  • Oct 25, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    Of course I favor "Pedestrian Rights!" Mark, what you say about motorists, cyclists and pedestrians makes good sense. Yes, cyclists should always prepare themselves to yield to pedestrians. Let me go on the record as not excusing reckless bicyclists who are inconsiderate of pedestrians.

    To me it does not seem impossible to expect everyone to adapt to contraflow bike traffic on the busy streets around Brown. Pedestrians have learned to look both ways in plenty of other places. Some paint on the street and a few signs will be helpful. You say "there is simply too much car, bus, and pedestrian traffic" there. That is true only if you consider the nature of traffic unchangeable. Establishing cyclists' privilege to take the most direct routes through the area is quite possible, at the expense of motorists' privilege to pass through at 25 instead of 15 mph, and maybe (gasp) a lane of parking here and there. Something to fight for!

  • Oct 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    Some paint on the street and a few signs will be helpful. You say “there is simply too much car, bus, and pedestrian traffic” there.

    Now we are getting somewhere… I'm not opposed to talking about contra-flow bike lanes/markings, but feel strongly that it's something which would need to be signed, painted, and require an outreach to educate motorists and pedestrians. As you indicated, I don't see this as possible without taking away a lane of parking, something I wouldn't be opposed to. In it's current state, however, I stand by my belief that it's simply asking for trouble to ride against traffic in this area. It's only a matter of time until a cyclists or pedestrian is hit.

    I also wouldn't be opposed to taking it one step further. I've often thought Thayer would really come alive if you could make it bike/peds only, shared with the occasional RIPTA bus coming through. Other places do this type of limited access and I think it would be a perfect place for Providence to give it a try.

  • Labann
    Oct 26, 2010 at 1:22 am

    After ample input from me on what I think about rights, don't know why I bother.

    Everyone has an unalienable, unrestricted right to use (not block) streets, which are public rights of way shared by an enlightened society… EXCEPT MOTORISTS! Motoring is an earned privilege that you keep by obeying an onerous canon of laws that came about because motoring, a labor saving convenience, turns some operators into impatient monsters. On the other hand, Judge Caprio upheld a fine to a man who passed a stalled vehicle blocking traffic ON THE LEFT after waiting more than 5 minutes. By law, he should have been allowed forthwith, unless there's double yellow or solid white striping. Cops are too eager to write tickets; creates revenue for towns, but distracts them from collaring felons, protecting and serving. Makes you question ever driving again. Bicyclists don't get tickets, because tickets have to be issued against a driver's license, which you don't need to be moving along a street unless motoring.

    Bicyclists can use whatever portion of road they deem safely useable, not compelled to ride through cracks and potholes, and may shift left before a left turn. Correctly, I pass on left, sometimes between paused cars, because too often traffic planners have turned shoulder into a turning lane and you can't slide up to intersection on right without getting hooked. Often cross intersections with 4-way stop signs in the middle; this is the best way to avoid getting hit by motorists from either side who mostly ignore such controls believing that the other driver will stop. Ride in the travel lane as prescribed by law because riding in the gutter is illegal and risky for several reasons (bad lines of sight, grates, junk, punctures, sand). Slow at stop signs, but usually roll through because I'm not going to unclip unless there's other traffic. Stop at red lights, then go before it turns if conditions warrant. When I dismount my bike in a crosswalk, by law drivers better stop, because should something happen they'd be 100% culpable in court. Yet watch your back, because most don't. When light controls don't trip for bicycles, are you supposed to wait until a car comes along? I think not. A little civil disobedience is warranted when disrespected and neglected by planners.

    Motorists don't appreciate a bicyclist's presence on the road no matter how well they behave, but that's their hard luck for opting for a dangerous, expensive, inconvenient, lazy form of transportation which carries such a wide range of hazards you need insurance companies to sort out all the inevitable carnage and complications resulting from 4 million accidents every year. You can't even get insurance for bicycling because it poses so little threat.

    Just restore ample shoulders, buffers that exclude motor vehicles, and you'll make streets a lot safer. You're less likely to be doored from passengser side. There are a slew of accommodating and quieting techniques already imagined and installed elsewhere: bike boulevards, corridors, gore zones, intersection bypasses, lanes, paths, ped-bike bridges, riverway overhangs, sharrows (bus or car), traffic islands, two-way shoulders, and whatnot. Just don't expect to see anything but official bike paths in RI anytime soon. Why? Even automotive lobbyists like them, since they exclude cyclists and pedestrians from legally using roads. It's not that I object to bike paths, but I do want to ride to them then leave from them to resume rightful place on roads.

    During a fine ride one recent morning, exited Coventry Greenway near Suburban Propane and turned back on Hill Farm Road into slanting, warming rays, past Mishnock, down Hopkins Hill and Arnold to Sawmill and WSBP. Tioque Avenue was scarred for repaving and all lanes but one were unusable, nonetheless, with heavy traffic. NO MOTORISTS were harmed or inconvenienced. A few acknowledged gratitude when I stopped pedaling and waved them on. Foliage was sensational at the bridges near Bradford and Clariant mills. No pedestrians were killed.

    In last ten years in NYC, bicyclists did kill a few pedestrians; took me endless hunting to find this factoid among hundreds killed by motorists every year. Obviously, you can't zoom down hills at 40 mph into crowds, but personally have had actual experiences harmlessly colliding with healthy walkers at normal speeds. Elderly and small children might be more vulnerable. Bicyclists alone are more likely to get hurt avoiding such mishaps.

    Traffic is a square dance. Change partners often, don't step on toes, show some poise, and smiles all around as the whole thing runs beautifully. Gross negligence as depicted in films and TV commercials disrupts flow and ruins chances for travelers to demonstrate their good manners. Bad motorists, not pedicyclists, create fear and escalate tensions. Parents are sensibly afraid to let children play in streets. But they aren't going to ban sales of cars or guns.

    Simpleminded to compare bicycling to threat of bodily harm motoring presents. We waste time discussing when little is being done to address situations where millions die every year.

  • Oct 26, 2010 at 9:39 am

    I would not force you to ride against traffic in that area or do anything else uncomfortable. But if I must read a demand for a police crackdown, let it perhaps be in a hate filled projo comments thread and not atop the Bicycle Advocacy blog.

    You say the change we both seem to favor would "require an outreach to educate motorists and pedestrians." Well, I think those kids on their bikes are doing the educating right now. As with every class of road user, there is rudeness on the part of some of them, but they are pushing in the direction we want to go! If we wait for centralized authority to permit every needed change in the customs of how we interact on our streets, we will wait forever.

  • Labann
    Oct 28, 2010 at 5:11 am

    This is what happens when you insist that bicycles are vehicles, which they patently are not. Vehicular cyclists wanted to earn recognition of bicyclists on roads and retain right to ride in streets, but they went about it the wrong way.

    It is a basic human right to be able to go forth on public property, including streets, self propelled. Everything that denies this right is regulated: assembling without a permit, conveying passengers, hauling loads, landing airplanes, loitering, operating motor vehicles, parking badly, etc. As long as you are moving along under your own power and not blocking the way, you're exempt. Otherwise is against United Nations charter, merely capitulation to commerce, and unconstitutional in America.

  • Mike
    Oct 30, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    "but lets not forget the many working poor of Providence, riding their dept. store bikes "

    Yeah, everyone who doesn't want to pay 1500 bucks on a status symbol that will likely get roughed up/stolen must be one of the "working poor." If you see my on the side walk on cranston street on my wally world ride, please stop and give me some cash. Thanks in advance!