Wednesday, December 4, 2019

New Outside Column!

Here's my latest Outside column, and it's about the folly of ticketing people on bikes:


Please do not read this as a self-serving "Woe is me, I had to pay a fine!" screed.  Frankly, as a semi-professional bike blogger a $190 ticket is merely a relatively small business expense that has already yielded me not only a column in a mainstream publication (see above) but also a new brand name for me, that being Tan Tenovo:


See, I was ticketed while riding my erstwhile Renovo; the cop noted it a "Tan Tenovo" on the ticket, and this in turn served as the genesis of my latest alter ego.

So no, if anything the ticket was a gift I'm still wringing material from a year and a half later, and what I'm lamenting is all the people out there for whom a $190 fine is actually a crushing blow and yet another reason to swear off bikes and say, "Fuck it, I'm leasing a Hyundai."

Speaking of the Renovo, when you're done reading the column you can swing over to Classic Cycle and pay it a visit.  It is, quite literally, a museum piece.

17 comments:

HDEB said...

I disagree with most of your points. I'd like to see more ticketing of all road users and for much of that ticketing to be automated. The dystopian future is now.

theEel said...

W_E_E_D!

Billy said...

HDEB, I'm not sure how much of it can be meaningfully automated, and certainly not for bicycles. Red light and speed cameras for cars, but that doesn't address a whole host of other problematic driver behaviors.

I'd like to see cities invest in a veritable legion of traffic cops with no guns riding on bicycles patrolling the city streets. Cyclist fines are too high relative to the danger they cause, but car drivers don't get anywhere near enough attention for their dangerous behaviors.

Anonymous said...

"If anything, it just gives them one more reason not to ride a bike at all." Nailed it Snobby! The roads are for cars and trux, dontcha know? Bikes are for drunks and/or poor people. The only thing worse than them is some narrow-assed clown in sissy-britches who for some reason is not at work but instead is IN MY WAY!

Al said...

When I'm on my bicycle, I'm the lone invisible cyclist of the apocalypse and all cars are weapons and all motorist are a short fuse or drunk or distracted. So I'm taking my lane and stayin' alive. I concur W_E_E_D!

wishiwasmerckx said...

As I have said before, there are fewer conflicts when traffic is flowing.

The conflicts occur primarily where cars and bikes are jockeying for position over the same real estate, such as at traffic control devices.

This is why whilst aboard my bike, I habitually and purposely ignore traffic lights, signs and so on, and I encourage others to do the same whether it pisses off motorists or not.

wishiwasmerckx said...

...and in a twist of irony, I had to identify traffic lights in order to prove that I am not a robot.

Anonymous said...

It's like when I found out 9/11 was an inside job. I didn't obey a single stop sign that week!

dop said...

Good thing it’s been a year and a half. Now you can get another ticket without a repeat offender penalty appended.

Beck the biker said...

It's us scorchers that have ruined traffic for the moronists. Step up and pay your fine. It will be interesting to see if New Amsterdam can flip the switch and start proportinate ticketing, but like you point out, bicyclists are easier to pull over. And, there's also the chronic, terminal 'windshield view' moronists have of their two-wheeled brethren.

I only have one week's experience plying the streets of New York by bike, but in that week's time i had a run in with the popo. However, it played out like a monty python skit and didn't result in a ticket. I was moving faster than traffic in a bike lane off the Manhattan bridge and moved into the traffic lane to avoid a cop car parked in the bike lane. As i moved into the slower moving traffic, i got the squeeze play by a motorist moving toward the curb to avoid some intersection clusterfuck just ahead. Faced with three choices: slow down, shoot the narrowing notch biased toward the car, or the cop, and i chose option #2. My handlebars unfortunately were the exact same height as the side door mirror and wider than usual beach cruiser bars, a bit wide for traffic jammin'. I misgauged the notch to the handlebar width, and took out a car's side door mirror. The mirror exploded with a loud SHATTER. I contemplated continuing to ride, the traffic was rush hour cluster and i could have evaporated into the streetscape readily. However, the cops squawked me to the curb, and i wasn't about to go rouge, didn't know the streets, so dutifily stopped to see what they wanted to talk to me about... Instead of the gauntlet and yelling i was expecting, it was genteel pleasantries all around akin to the bicyclist skit in Monty Python, but with police and no injury to me, just the car. It was overly polite, no ticket, got the touch to 'give the guy a little something for his troubles' as in the $20 from my decoy wallet, and went on my merry way. That experience made my day, and i rode off into the evening traffic, whistling a song of victory. So unlike what i had heard was NYPDs reputation, i'm pining to come back for some more riding with a more performance-oriented steel whip.

mikeweb said...

"But I did learn an important lesson: now, whenever I make that fateful right turn, I check twice for police before I roll the red."

After 4 red light/stop sign tickets over the last 12-ish years I do the exact same thing, **which paradoxically increases the likelihood that I will be killed or injured and/or a pedestrian will be injured by me**

We cyclists already need to pay attention to a myriad of things almost literally every second because of the potential of being killed: vehicles of all sizes, shapes, and speeds, the road surface (giant holes, glass, etc.), road 'furniture', pedestrians suddenly crossing in front of us at literally any time and any place, and yes, traffic signage and signals.

To add to all this the financial necessity of being on the lookout for police, who are very often in unmarked cars to boot, is utterly ridiculous - and UNSAFE. For EVERYONE.

Unknown said...

This is a message of solidarity. I live and bike in NYC, and I too got one of the $190 tickets for running red lights. It was a Sunday morning on Park Avenue in Manhattan with virtually no traffic. My thought was that the wealthy residents of Park Avenue complained about bike-riders, and, given their likely high level of influence, they got police action. I could not pretend that I was not going through the red lights so I begrudgingly paid the ticket (as late as possible) without protesting. There was a ripple effect afterward, and other bike-riding friends have told me that they stop at red lights after hearing about my ticket.

Since then I stop at all the red lights and take these moments for looking at the interesting buildings in my city, enjoying the blue sky and sunshine on nice days, and checking out hot men crossing the street in front of me. And I admit I sometimes (vengefully) wish those speeding by me through the lights would also get a ticket or feel like (virtuously) advising them to take it a bit slower and maybe enjoy life a little more.

I like reading your pieces, Eben! Thanks!

Some guy from upstate said...

A ticket based on your potential to cause damage, as expressed by your kinetic energy (energy equates to work, damage to a structure is proportional to work performed on that structure) assuming a 4000 lb car moving 35 mph vs a 200 lb bike/rider combo moving 25 mph, would be $4.85.

How many cyclists would they bother ticketing with a switch to a physics-based fine schedule?

BikeSnobNYC said...

Unknown,

Yeah, I almost always stop for lights in Manhattan (especially in bike lanes), and I fully agree there's a lot to be said for stopping and watching the world go by.

--Tan Tenovo

Uptight Luddite said...

Having a cyclist sit and wait at an empty intersection for all the cars to arrive, is a good study in self control. Has modern technology devised a means whereby a cyclist has some hope of triggering the light change?

Dooth said...

I must admit my youthful scorcher years, a la Beck the biker, cost me $1000 in fines in about a seven year period. My last ticket in 1994.
Occasionally, I'll get letters from the DMV, stating such and such ticket was dismissed...creeping me out. I apologize, belatedly, to all the citizens of Gotham for scaring the shit out of them with my riding (yes, I actually heard screaming). If YouTube had been around back then, you'd have seen me: I take no pride in this. Safe and law-abiding all the way.

Anonymous said...

Well, I got a $200AUD fine for riding a bike share unhelmeted in Melbourne while two (2) vehicles where parked *inside* a protected bike lane. Highway cop literally didn't see them until I pointed them out to him, to which he shrugged (right, no fine for them). Our regressive "peak bike body" had previously advocated for fines that matched motor vehicles so that we would "earn respect". Well, that did not work, and safety has continued to decline. Cops pursue the easy target of cyclists. The laws are absolutely not addressing the persistent safety issue, which is the danger posed by heavy machinery operated by unqualified layfolk. Make sure you fight the idiotic helmet mandation push, because this is just another vector upon which NYCs finest will fine and harass cyclists, particularly the young 'uns just getting out for some fun with their pals.