Last Friday, New York State DMV responded to mounting evidence that it has been systematically cheating cyclists by imposing motorist-only surcharges and license points for bicycling violations, contrary to state law. The problem was first brought to DMV’s attention on August 12, in a Streetsblog post. DMV admitted that it was violating the law and agreed to refund the improper surcharge to two cyclists, but did not indicate that it would do the same for other cyclists, or change its procedures going forward.
On September 2, State Senator Brad Hoylman wrote a letter to DMV Commissioner Barbara Fiala demanding that she respond to the August 12 charges against the DMV in Streetsblog. Then on September 17, I filed suit against the DMV on behalf of six cyclists as putative representatives of a statewide class of thousands of cyclists who faced excessive and improper penalties for bicycling violations.
DMV finally broke its month-long silence by responding to Senator Hoylman in a letter delivered last Friday. Commissioner Fiala’s letter details DMV’s extensive efforts to identify all of the cyclists affected by improper ticket coding. DMV says it has reviewed 25 years’ worth of bicycle traffic tickets — including 50,000 bicycle tickets issued in the last five years alone.
Commissioner Fiala states that DMV has taken the following steps to remedy the “regrettable” miscoding of bicycle tickets:
- Paying refunds to 84 cyclists improperly required to pay motorist-only surcharges
- Removing penalty points improperly applied to the licenses of 222 cyclists
- Recoding 570 pending tickets issued for cycling violations that had been miscoded as motor vehicle violations
- Making plans to issue a memo to law enforcement officials to reduce the incidence of future miscoding of cycling tickets
- Making plans to change internal DMV procedures used to identify bicycle tickets
- Making plans to add language to form UT-60 and to the DMV website to advise cyclists that they are not subject to surcharges or penalty points
These are important and welcome steps to help correct the problem. Cyclists owe great thanks to Senator Hoylman for focusing Commissioner Fiala’s attention on the problem, and to the commissioner for her willingness to admit mistakes and to take the problem seriously.
Nonetheless, it appears that DMV’s efforts have only scratched the surface.