Monday, January 24, 2011

Ticketing cyclists... and a question answered

$270 ticket given to a cyclist in Central Park on January 17, 2011.

The New York City Police Department has decided that it is now important to hand out $270 tickets to cyclists in Central Park. The tickets are being handed out for failing to stop at red lights on the loop road located within the park. Okay, that sounds like something you should get a ticket for ... so let me clarify a little. The traffic lights are primarily there to allow pedestrians to cross the road when vehicular traffic is allowed in the park. During the times when traffic is not allowed, nobody pays attention to the lights. Cyclists ride through the lights, rollerbladers sprint through them, and pedestrians cross regardless of whether it says "Walk/Don't Walk". The lights haven't been enforced for as long as I can remember.

But ever since the po-po started issuing dozens of tickets to cyclists, I've been hesitant to do my usual laps in the park. In fact, the other day I went for a ride and stopped at a red light because I saw a police officer standing there ready to hand out a ticket. So I waited at the light with NYPD... alone... with not a single other pedestrian, cyclist, or vehicle in sight. In fact, it looked a lot like my first picture from this post. I'm not sure what's suddenly made the police crack down on cyclists in the park but I do have a few thoughts related to this:
  • I can understand why pedestrians hate cyclists. There are plenty of a**holes on a bike who will blow through a group of pedestrians trying to cross a street. They will yell and curse at people, shouting at them to watch out or move out of the way. But not all cyclists are like this. Unfortunately, a lot of people seem to hate cyclists in NYC.
  • There are also stupid people who don't bother to look when crossing the road. Usually obliviously typing away on their iPhone or Blackberry.  Again, not all pedestrians are like this either. But I'd suggest that if you're crossing a road in the park used by runners, cyclists and rollerbladers (and even horses!), you should still probably look before you cross.
  • I noticed that the girl on a commuter bike who runs through the red light isn't given a ticket. But the dude in a team racing kit on a road bike gets a ticket 2 minutes later. If you're going to enforce a red-light policy, it should be equally enforced. Which means the visitors who rent a bike to ride around Central Park in the summer are in for a nasty surprise. 
    • Price of 2 rental bikes: $20
    • Price of 2 tickets from the NYPD: $540
    • Unforgettable visit to NYC: priceless....
  • Jaywalkers definitely do not get ticketed. Ever. People who push a stroller across a street when it doesn't say "WALK" should get ticketed every time.
  • $270 seems to be quite excessive of a fine for a cyclist in a park.
  • That said, the law being the law, running a red light is something you can get a ticket for. Personally, I think they should change the lights to yellow blinking lights when there's no vehicular traffic and then only aggressively ticket those cyclists who endanger pedestrians. 
  • Another idea... if the city wants to raise money, the police could also ticket cars that block the bike lanes. Oh wait... that would mean ticketing themselves. (By the way, the guy on the bike probably got ticketed under 601 KAR 14:020, Section 9(2): “If a highway lane is marked for the exclusive use of bicycles, the operator of a bicycle shall use the lane whenever feasible”) Think cops don't do this?

Photography by Time's Up! on Flickr

Okay, so I got that off my chest. I'm going to finish off this entry by briefly answering a question that several of my friends have asked me. Namely, how do professional cyclists pee during one of those long road races?

It's commonly thought that cyclists just pee on themselves. Under very rare circumstances, they might do this... but not often. Believe it or not, most cyclists are potty-trained. What does usually happen is that a large group or even the entire peleton will stop for a quick break. The television and news crews are usually good about cutting to commercial when this happens. But also remember that they don't have to take that many breaks during a race... in a race situation, riders may lose more than a liter/hour by sweating so they're actually mildly dehydrated and therefore don't have to pee that much.

And with that fine image, I will sign off for the day.

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