With the rise of bike riders in congested urban zones like New York City has come, inevitably, a rise in altercations with the law. The New York Times reports that the city has (not surprisingly) a “myriad” of regulations about riding that most cyclists simply aren’t aware of (nor are police, necessarily). Aside from the hazards of speeding taxis and car doors opening, riders earlier this year endured a ticketing blitz, not to mention ”stepped-up police enforcement of red-light and other, less-obvious rules, like having adequate lights or not riding with earphones in both ears.”
Other violations that cyclists have been ticketed for include riding without a bell (a bell is required by law in NYC); riding without a helmet (which is not required for adults); riding with a purse over the handlebars. The New York Times does note that, according to the Police Department, officers should not have issued summons in these cases.
Due to all this, New York is seeing a rise in lawyers specializing in the rights of cyclists. The small firm of Rankin & Taylor is preparing a class-action suit against against the city, contending that cyclists are being handed out summons for “phantom violations — bike behavior that it says is not illegal in the city.” Among the knotty legal issues they find themselves addressing are whether a cyclist must ride in a bike lane if there is one:
For example, it is legal to leave the bike lane to make a turn, and cyclists are allowed to prepare to make a turn by getting to the appropriate side of the street. But just where one can move out of the lane — 50 yards away, or two blocks, perhaps — is not specified.
On its website, Rankin & Taylor specifically mentions the NYPD’s “ongoing bicycle crackdown,” noting that, prior to 2004 — when the Republican National Convention was held in the city and a Critical Mass bike ride was seen as a “threat” — the NYPD seemed “generally to ignore traffic violations by cyclists, except in certain neighborhoods.”
Photo by Paul Beattie
Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may
not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.