NYPD’s Racial Bias in Ticketing Cyclists Continued Last Year
The NYPD’s history of disproportionately ticketing cyclists of color continued in 2021, new data show.
From Jan. 1, 2021 through the end of the September, police issued 118 tickets to bikers for bike-related infractions such as reckless operation, biking in a park, and biking on the sidewalk, according to a city database. Of those where race was listed, 88 — or 75 percent — went to Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Just 12 tickets — or 10 percent — went to White cyclists.
And data from previous years reveal the same troubling pattern.
Police issued 381 tickets for the same infractions during the same nine months in 2019. Of those where race was listed, 311 — or 82 percent — went to Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Just 34 tickets — or 9 percent — went to White cyclists, according to the NYPD’s database of historic criminal summonses.
And in the same period of 2020, the NYPD wrote 146 tickets to cyclists. Of those, 109 — or 76 percent — went to Black and Latinx New Yorkers. Just 30 — or 20 percent — went to White bikers, according to the same database.
The number of tickets issued to Black and Latinx bikers is not only disproportionate, given that they comprise roughly 49 percent of the city population, and are roughly that portion of the cycling public, according to the Department of Transportation, but it’s also a dangerous practice in that it can lead to police brutality, advocates and experts say.
“The enforcement of traffic tickets follows the same playbook as stop-and-frisk and the intrusive surveillance of communities of color that has become the hallmark of NYPD,” said Wesley Caines, chief of staff at The Bronx Defenders. “What starts as a ticket can have long-term consequences for Black and brown New Yorkers and increases interactions with law enforcement that lead to unconstitutional searches, arrests, and police violence. We know that families and communities thrive when we move away from punitive ticketing structures.”
Advocates argue that slapping cyclists with tickets does nothing to actually keep them safe from the real danger on the road — reckless drivers — especially when unpaid fees for minor infractions can result in incarceration.
“The NYPD’s racist Broken Windows policing criminalizes everyday life, needlessly sweeping almost exclusively Black and Latinx people into the legal system and imposing draconian fines and fees. Under the guise of ‘street safety’, this is just another tactic the NYPD uses to stop, harass, and frisk people of color,” said Jackie Gosdigian, senior policy counsel at Brooklyn Defender Services. “It does nothing to keep our streets and communities safe, instead it encourages policing-for-profit, extracts wealth from people unable to afford it, and puts people at risk of arrest and an endless cycle of punishment and poverty.”
The new data follows similar reporting by Streetsblog, which revealed that police issued a whopping 99 percent of tickets for jaywalking to Black and Hispanic New Yorkers during the first quarter of 2020 — a stat that worsened after Streetsblog’s initial expose. A City Council bill to decriminalize jaywalking was held up in committee, and would have to be resubmitted by a new council member.
Advocates have long argued for removing the NYPD traffic enforcement and returning street oversight to the Department of Transportation — a campaign that gained momentum in 2020 when the state’s top prosecutor, Attorney General Letitia James, unveiled a report recommending that police cease conducting traffic stops.
A spokesperson for the NYPD denied any bias in its enforcement.
“The men and women of the NYPD work around the clock to keep all New Yorkers safe. Part of this work includes education and enforcement of New York City roadways and paths, and this is done lawfully to prevent incidents wherever possible, and keep people safe,” said Sgt. Jessica McRorie.
The latest data comes as the NYPD will have to start logging the race and gender of every person they pull over in the new year, whether in a car or on a bike, The Post reported last week. Several officers told the tabloid that the new requirement would be a “recipe for disaster” and lead to scrutiny they don’t want.