NYPD Bike Equipment Checkpoint Snares Cyclists For Missing Bells

DOT materials reminding cyclists to use lights when riding at night and to have a bell on your bike.

Check your bells, New York City cyclists, and check your reflectors. The NYPD looks to be stepping up its bike safety efforts — not by ticketing speeding motorists or bike lane blockers, and not even by citing reckless cyclists, but with checkpoints for improperly equipped bikes. Based on an initial report, the checkpoints seem more like an exercise in cyclist harassment than an effort to help cyclists ride safely.

According to the Village Voice, NYPD checkpoints to pull over cyclists for missing bells and lights will continue through the summer. One Voice reader commented on her experience at one of these checkpoints:

“He explained that this was a checkpoint for enforcing bike safety, and that I was about to be issued a summons for failing to have a bell on my bike,” she said.

“While this was happening, another car rolled up, and there were total about five officers on the scene, blocking traffic on Bedford and trying to stop every biker that went by. I saw several bike go by without bells who the cops didn’t get to, or who just plain ignored the calls to stop. I was corralled in with another young man who was stopped. He suggested to the officer that we leave our IDs and run to the bike shop up the street to purchase a bell on the spot. The officer denied it.

Having a properly equipped bike is important; lights and reflectors, in particular, help drivers see you at night. But the NYPD’s efforts, as the Voice notes, seem more punitive than supportive. While targeted motorist enforcement is often announced in advance — think drunk driving checkpoints over a holiday weekend, or the special heads up that often precedes a distracted driving ticket blitz — the NYPD is keeping its bike checkpoints under wraps.

“If bike checkpoints are supposed to encourage safety so that people get things like bells and lights — why not give some heads up?” the Voice asked the NYPD. “Some have said that not giving any indication beforehand makes it seem like the police department is more concerned with ticketing than safety.” The paper has yet to receive a response.

If you want to double-check your compliance with the city’s bike laws, head over to the Department of Transportation’s website.