Will NYPD Enforce Cycling the Effective Way or the Useless Way?

The Brooklyn Paper reported today that police precincts across the borough, following orders from the top of the department, will soon embark on an enforcement campaign targeting cyclist infractions. A Streetsblog source who’s spoken to the 78th Precinct verified that a coordinated effort to step up cycling enforcement is in the works.

Suggestion: To avoid cycling enforcement based on windshield perspective, assign bike cops to bike enforcement detail.

Suggestion: To avoid cycling enforcement based on windshield perspective, assign bike cops to bike enforcement detail. Photo: Joe Shlabotnick/Flickr

We’ve written here before that from a public safety perspective, more cyclist enforcement only makes sense as one piece in a broader effort to police traffic safety, especially by targeting the most dangerous behavior on the street, like motorist speeding and failure-to-yield.

But it looks like the orders from One Police Plaza are just about cycling infractions. As outrageous as it is to see NYPD devote more resources to bike enforcement when kids are getting critically injured by hit-and-run drivers, there’s still a helpful way to do it and an ineffective, counterproductive way to do it. The question now is whether officers will recognize the difference.

Police could enforce norms that make sense — no wrong-way riding, no riding through crosswalks when pedestrians have the right of way, no biking on crowded sidewalks. Or they could catch people in dragnets, ticket every cyclist who treats a red light as a stop sign, no matter how cautiously, and otherwise harass people without actually encouraging safer behavior. What’s it going to be?

If you want police to, at the very least, enforce cycling rules with some common sense, I recommend attending your local precinct community council meeting. Each precinct holds one every month — a public forum to convey your concerns to the officers who police your neighborhood (find out when and where). The best thing you can do to get NYPD to pay attention to the lawless driving that’s really endangering people’s lives is to tell them about it.