Do New York City Police Care About Bicyclists?

I’m writing about the bikes vs cars war here in Washington, DC, and how the police handle things when motorists target cyclists (hint: not very energetically). But as I mentioned in an earlier post, Washington is a Cycle Safety Utopia compared to New York City, where cyclists are being injured and dying at a shocking rate (with pretty lame police follow-up).

Now even CNN has taken note, with the intrepid Dr. Gupta investigating.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Here’s a pretty stunning detail from the accompanying article:

In 2010, in more than 6,000 New York City traffic accidents involving cyclists, 36 people died, according to the state Department of Motor Vehicles. Transportation Nation reported that no criminal charges were filed against the drivers involved.

So each and every time the cyclist who died was at fault and the motorist broke no laws, or the police just couldn’t put down their doughnuts long enough to track down a suspect? I’d be willing to bet that a bunch were hit and run, at a minimum.

With those kinds of stats every cyclist should wear a headcam. It won’t save your life, but it may help jail the bastard who killed you.

Is Cycling Like Wearing A Hoodie?

I’ve been working on a story for Washingtonian magazine about drivers in the DC-region who are afflicted with what I call Cyclist Derangement Syndrome, and use their cars to target cyclists that annoy them.

A theme in bicycle-vehicle collisions around the country, whether premeditated or accidental, is that cyclists are often cited (sometimes incorrectly) for breaking some rule, and drivers who injure (and sometimes) kill them too often cruise away with no repercussions.

It’s one of the most puzzling and frurstrating elements of current traffic enforcement culture, and the cycling community has been trying to push back and get police officers and prosecutors to try and take a more even-handed, objective look at collisions involving cyclists. My article for Washingtonian is about an incident that illustrates this problem in the Washington region, but even I was surprised to see how much worse the situation is in NYC.

According to a report by WNYC:

Last year, 21 cyclists were struck and killed but only two drivers were arrested. And about 40 percent of the time a driver is involved in a fatality – a pedestrian, cyclist, other motorist or themselves – not even a ticket is issued.

“We as a society have chosen to drive these big cars,” said Joe McCormack, an assistant District Attorney for the Bronx whose job it is to prosecute traffic crimes. “And we also as a society have chosen not to criminalize every single small mistake that just has a dramatic consequence because you’re driving a car.”

Well, I would say that when someone dies or is seriously injured it’s not really a “small” mistake and it might be time to start criminalizing the action.

You can listen to the full report:;containerClass=wnyc

So NYC seems to have a lot of deaths and injuries, and a pretty low penalty rate. Part of the problem is that there is often little evidence, or no witnesses, or a driver-said/cyclist-said dynamic. Regardless, it’s hard not to feel that cyclist injuries and deaths are not investigated with the same energy and persistence that other homicides get.

I don’t know for sure, but I am tempted to say that some law enforcement officers are predisposed to assume a cyclist that becomes a victim probably did something wrong, and is therefore at fault or somehow deserves what he or she got. To me, it is similar to the way in which the Sanford Police Department leaned over in the direction of George Zimmerman (no, he’s not related!) instead of investigating Trayvon Martin’s death with open eyes, and an objective attitude.

So there you have it: cycling is the equivalent of wearing a hoodie.

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