May/June 1997, p.12
Ped Complaints Bring Red Light Rampage
Should a bicyclist have to pay $2,000 for slipping through six red lights on a low-traffic street early in the morning? Not an idle question, given the torrent of punitive red light ticketing that has cyclists fuming over draconian fines. While it is pretty obvious that bikes are not cars, State Vehicle and Traffic Laws don't discriminate between the 2000-pound car and 25-pound bicycle when it comes to moving violations. Ironically, laws intended to deter dangerous drivers are being used to inflict crushing fees on less than cautious cyclists. While the police' have not released specific numbers, anecdotal evidence suggests that the cops are on a bike ticketing blitz. T.A. has received a torrent of complaints about excessive fines and the T.A. staff has observed a regular red- light trap of six cops on 6th Avenue and 29th Street.
No one would argue that bicyclists should be above the law, but T.A. questions the fundamental fairness and good sense of forcing cyclists to obey traffic regulations intended for the higher speeds and characteristics of motor vehicles. Cautious, courteous cyclists agree that traffic signals can place cyclists into dangerous situations as packs of cars race off at the green and make sharp turns.
One solution is to give pedestrians and cyclists a 4- or 5-second head start with the "walk" sign before the green. Another, currently being used in Idaho, is to have cyclists treat red lights as "yield" signs. One thing is for sure, the red light crackdown will not end until cyclists stop threatening pedestrians and start respecting them. Many cyclists ride like the worst motorists drive. T.A. has asked the police to stop unreasonable ticketing, especially at locations like the entrances to the Brooklyn Bridge promenade, where cyclists have a tough time getting on and off without slipping through the red.
Write/fax and remind the police that bikes are not cars, and to act with fairness.
Commissioner Howard Safir
© 1997-2009 Transportation Alternatives
127 West 26th Street, Suite 1002
New York, NY 10001