Bike New York Offers List of NYPD/DOT Reforms

Police using their bicycles as weapons against protesters in Union Square last year. File photo
Police using their bicycles as weapons against protesters in Union Square last year. File photo

One of the city’s foremost bike-education organizations is demanding less involvement of the NYPD in transportation enforcement, less use of squad cars, but better investigation of the criminality of drivers who cause crashes — a series of concrete reform ideas that come two weeks after the group was the target of an open letter accusing it of not sufficiently addressing police brutality.

Bike New York — which says it is “dedicated to a city where anyone from any part of town can choose to bicycle for transportation, health or fun without fear of unwarranted attention from law enforcement” — made a lengthly list of demands because the group felt obligated “to state clearly that the NYPD has not been” a good Vision Zero partner of the city Department of Transportation.

The list of demands also comes two weeks after a group of former employees of Bike New York, which partners with the NYPD on the annual TD Five Boro Bike Tour, asked the organization in an open letter [coverage by Streetsblog here] to do more to condemn police violence.

The Bike New York list includes the following demands:

  • Manage traffic law enforcement to avoid disproportionate racial application: The group wants the mayor’s Vision Zero Task Force to not only update the public, but also explain “the specific problems traffic law enforcement is seeking to address and how enforcement resources are being employed.” That level of transparency simply does not exist now.
  • More cameras: The city must lobby for state permission to install more speed cameras to “minimize enforcement car stops” by the NYPD.
  • Public involvement: Allow members of the public to submitted video evidence of reckless driving, as London has done. This would also reduce the NYPD involvement.
  • Expand alternative sanction programs: This one is tricky, because the mayor already cut funding for just such a program that he says he supports, the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program.
  • NYPD out of DOT: The city must end police involvement in decisions about traffic patterns and event-related bike detours (like the West Side greenway and Fleet Week). Specifically, the NYPD’s transportation bureau should strike the words “expedite vehicular traffic within the city” from its mission statement.
  • Stop the silliness: The Department must end ridiculous enforcement, including:
    • quota-oriented and randomly applied summonses for bike riders for non-dangerous offenses like proceeding through T intersections with no traffic conflict
    • riding with no bell summonses.
    • riding-on-sidewalk summonsing, which are disproportionately enforced against Blacks.
  • Stop blaming victims: Reform the NYPD’s public information office so that it does not reflexively blame victims and reflexively defend drivers.
  • Come clean: The groups wants the mayor to admit that NYPD vehicles “routinely stop and park in the city’s bike lanes and set a negative example for motorists citywide.” The best practice would be to “make precinct commanders accountable for ending the practice in their areas.”
  • A car-free force? To reduce climate and social impact of police driving, the department must put more officers on foot and bicycles.
  • Expand collision investigation: The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is understaffed. As a result, many serious crashes are never investigated, meaning that thousands of reckless drivers go free — and city safety planners never get data to learn from those drivers’ (or street designers’) mistakes.

The last request remains controversial, as many supporters of police reform don’t want the NYPD involved in any related to traffic.

Bike New York’s Advocacy Director Jon Orcutt said the list of demands has been shared with City Hall and the Speaker’s staff. But what happens now is unclear. On Thursday, Mayor de Blasio said he flat out disagreed that the NYPD has been a poor Vision Zero partner:

“I could not disagree more and you already know my answer,” the mayor said. “I have said from Day 1 … that NYPD has been essential to Vision Zero. They believe in it. They put a huge amount of energy into it. Is there more to do, yeah! But I don’t doubt for a minute the commitment of the NYPD.”

(The mayor has obviously not read this story about the NYPD’s Vision Zero record.)

The list is the second major statement that Bike New York has made to address the open letter it received on June 29. The group has also created a program called “Street Action Now!” that is “designed to help New Yorkers identify and report roadway safety issues and develop location-based design solutions.”

The kickoff for that program is July 27, according to the sign-up website.

The latest initiatives suggest the group is taking the open letter seriously, and backing up what CEO Ken Podziba told Streetsblog earlier this month after the letter was released: “This is a defining moment in our history, and while we grapple with emotions of anger and pain, this moment calls for action; for all of us to do better and to be better — and definitely myself included,” Podziba said in a letter to his staff shared with Streetsblog. “But in order for us to effectuate real changes at Bike New York we must begin by examining ourselves and our organization.”