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Why the NYPD hates bicyclists

There is ample evidence that the NYPD harshly and regularly discriminates against bicyclists. In a city that would benefit immensely from alternative transportation one might conclude that the police would be spearheading a campaign to promote and protect cycling. They do the opposite instead.

A recent case adds a new twist to what is really happening on the streets; the police spent more resources on surveillance of those who suffered a loss than on the attacker who caused it.

Incredibly, there are no photos of the scene of the incident in the NYPD’s file because “the investigators’ camera was broken.” However, the file does contain “numerous” photos of the Lefevre family and their attorney, prompting Erika Lefevre to write, “Apparently, NYPD cares more about investigating our family’s efforts to get information from it, than about properly investigating Mathieu’s death.”


A description of surveillance video of the crash, as provided to Streetsblog, describes Mathieu being struck by the passenger side of the truck before being hit again by the driver’s side wheel. The footage makes the NYPD’s decision to not file criminal charges against Degianni all the more puzzling.

Camera broken? The police in New York City could not find a functioning camera?

The necessary change, if you agree with the risk thermostat theory I’ve written about before, is to get the police out of their tax-guzzling gasoline cars (you thought I would say doughnut shops, didn’t you) and onto bicycles. It would help if city officials also would ride, like Mayor Villaraigosa in Los Angeles.

The mayor was riding in the bicycle lane on Venice Boulevard in Mid-City at about 6:50 p.m. when a taxi abruptly pulled in front of him. The mayor hit his brakes and fell off the bike.


The mayor’s accident comes as bicyclists in the city have increasingly been complaining about safety issues and pressing city officials to do more to make cycling safe.

It is a sad fact that one incident in Los Angeles has a very different outcome than all the combined accidents in New York, yet that is just further evidence of how empathy plays a major factor in our risk thermostat.

Just one month after he was injured in a bicycle accident, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa spearheaded a special bike summit on Monday morning, aimed at improving bicycle safety across the city.

Even if there are brush-ups between cyclists and the police, and a lack of training about why cyclists are safer and easier to deal with, the economical and logical fix is more police and officials riding cycles. That would generate empathy and dramatically shift their view of how incidents should be investigated.

Posted in Energy, Security.

4 Responses

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  1. Typical Cager says

    Yeah, but I saw a cyclist run a stop sign once.

  2. Davi Ottenheimer says

    Signs, signs, everywhere signs.

    …the city of Sausalito recently installed a number of signs along Bridgeway that contradict California Vehicle Code (CVC) Section 21202 and tell cyclists that they “must ride single file in bike lane” and ride “single file on roadway” when passing through the town. In fact, the CVC allows cyclists to ride in the middle of a narrow lane, does not explicitly prohibit riding side by side, and allows cyclists to leave the bike lane under a number of circumstances.

    According to Dan Gutierrez, Policy Chair of the Caltrans District 7 Bicycle Advisory Committee, this is a case of improper, non-standard signage. “The CVC does not require that bicyclists must only ride in bike lanes…

    There’s a good argument to be made that cyclists should not have to stop at stop signs at all, unlike motorized vehicles. This would mean, in effect, that motorized vehicles always would have to yield to human-powered vehicles.

    The Guardian has pointed out that the police blame their enforcement of red-light rules on demand from car drivers.

    Why, then, do I see so many City officers pulling over cyclists? The main answer, it seems, is public demand.

    Police forces are now obliged by central government to tackle issues flagged up by local communities. In the City, this tends to bring complaints about rough sleepers and law-flouting cyclists.

    “When we ask the community what they want us to do, cycling comes up again and again,” Cussen says. “It’s the same in other police areas – when people are asked what they’re most concerned about it’s often anti-social behaviour rather than more serious crimes.”

    This is a whole other area of compliance and security theory but it again cycles around (pun not intended) to a question of empathy. Note the story with video of a police cyclist that stops a cyclist for running a red light but does not write a ticket.

  3. Chris says

    I’m not doctrinaire — basically one should do what the other guy expects, everyone should expect the same thing, and that thing should be efficient in some social sense.

    IMO, a rolling stop is fine 95% of the time, especially where motorists expect it. Where they aren’t, it can create blowback and ill-will. If I had to pick a set of rules to make law from, they’d be Forrester’s _Effective Cycling_

  4. Davi Ottenheimer says

    @Chris, agreed! How do we explain the stop sign or the stop light? Where does the expectation of correctness come from? They seem the most obvious form of doctrinaire thinking, to your point. It is odd that we have become so accustomed to a model of wasting energy and time by braking and idling. What was so wrong with the roundabout model of rolling stops that has been used for thousands of years?

    Study suggests red-light cameras don’t add to safety

    That’s what a surprising study by KC police suggests. But the cameras generate tickets by the tens of thousands.

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