More Fury Over de Blasio Ticket Blitzes After Cyclists are Killed

Aurilla Lawrence
Aurilla Lawrence

Cops again launched a ticket blitz against cyclists after a fatal hit-and-run in Brooklyn, setting off yet another firestorm against New York’s Finest and Mayor de Blasio for targeting the victims of road violence instead of the perpetrators.

The morning after Aurilla Lawrence was run down by the still-unapprehended truck driver on Broadway near Rodney Street in Williamsburg, cyclists were again targeted by cops. A cyclist posted on Twitter a photo of a ticket another rider received for allegedly going through a red light just feet from where the 25-year-old delivery cyclist had been killed Thursday night.

The ticket blitz came as dozens of Lawrence’s delivery colleagues and her friends held a vigil and installed a ghost bike on Friday, decrying the road violence that often makes them feel unsafe on the same streets, and as nearly 200 cyclists on Sunday rode through the streets of Manhattan and over the Williamsburg Bridge to the spot where Lawrence was killed for a memorial ride. Another rally is planned today at 5:30, this time to focus attention on the NYPD’s ongoing crackdown against cyclists whenever a cyclist is killed, even though bike riders did not kill a single person in New York City in 2018, while drivers killed 201.

The motorist who killed Lawrence is now the fifth hit-and-run driver this year that has killed someone — police say they have made just one arrest in those cases.

The targeted enforcement follows a familiar pattern. Last month, cops went on a ticket blitz against cyclists after 72-year-old Chaim Joseph was struck and killed on Eighth Avenue near 45th Street in Manhattan on Feb. 4 — an officer days later issued a biker a summons for not wearing a helmet, which is not against the law. And another cop tackled a cyclist to stop him for riding outside a blocked bike lane — a move that led to a massive rally outside the Midtown North stationhouse.

Bike Snob Eben Weiss has chronicled many post-death crackdowns against cyclists, concluding, “There is one thing New Yorkers can pretty much count on after a driver kills someone on a bike though, and that’s an NYPD crackdown on cyclists in the vicinity of the incident for behavior that may or may not even be illegal.”

“If you ride a bike in New York City, it’s hard not to feel like the NYPD is the older sibling who occasionally grabs you by the wrists and forces you to punch yourself in the face,” he added.

Mayor de Blasio continues to defend the NYPD enforcement strategy, saying cops will stop anyone who breaks the law in order to keep everyone safe — despite the simple statistics that car drivers caused every one of the deaths on New York City streets last year. 

“Whenever there is a fatality at anyone, it’s a horrible situation, and we all feel it. That does not mean we’re going to stop enforcement,” the mayor said. “We’re going to be enforcing on anybody who we think puts other people in danger, period. So if an officer observers a cyclist doing something they regard as dangerous and illegal, of course they’re going to ticket them,” he said. “We need cyclists to obey the law, and of course enforcement is a part of that.”

But Transportation Alternatives said there’s a better way to make the roads safer for everyone without targeting cyclists: fix the streets and install better bike infrastructure.

“Broadway, which lacks protected bike lanes, is far from ideal for traveling on two wheels. When a driver makes one bad move on a street like Broadway, where there’s no room for error, people die,” said Marco Conner. “But it doesn’t have to be this way — a true, connected network of protected bike lanes with an accelerated timeline for doing so.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said officials will now take a new look at the area to see how they can make it safer, in addition to the recently installed and in-the-works bike lanes leading to the Williamsburg Bridge.

“In light of this tragic fatality, DOT will evaluate the crash location for potential further Vision Zero safety enhancements in addition to the bike infrastructure we have installed in the surrounding neighborhood,” said Brian Zumhagen.

Reminder: Cars are 3,000-pound machines. Drivers of those vehicles caused more than 200,000 crashes last year, injuring roughly 15,000 cyclists and pedestrians, killing 131, city statistics show. Bicycles weigh about 50 pounds and their operators killed no one last year.

Update: An earlier version of this story misidentified the 72-year-old Chaim Joseph because of information from the initial NYPD reports.