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Riding a bicycle in Downtown Brooklyn can be hazardous — to your bank account.
Cyclists this week blasted what some describe as a ticket-writing blitz by cops on roadways in and around the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges, particularly at the intersection of Tillary and Adams streets, a dangerous nexus of commuters that has long been a battleground between bikes, cars and pedestrians.
“I have witnessed on two sting operations set up at Tillary and Adams,” said Park Slope resident Adam White, a personal injury lawyer and cyclist. “They were ticketing slews of people who were riding [outside the bike lane] on Adams.”
The situation is made worse because the painted bike lanes on Adams Street and the parallel bridge approach route on Jay Street are often so jam-packed with double-parked cars that cyclists are forced to swerve into the roadway — and into the crosshairs of keen-eyed cops.
“I’ve stopped depending on bike lanes as any sort of safe infrastructure because they double as parking spots,” said Summer Greenstein, a Downtown resident who bikes to work in Manhattan.
Unless there is enforcement, she said, drivers will continue parking in bike lanes.
“I think the police respond vigilantly to complaints about reckless cyclists from pedestrians and drivers — but there is a much greater volume of reckless drivers,” Greenstein said.
The top cop at the 84th Precinct, whose coverage area includes Downtown Brooklyn, insisted there was no ticket blitz for cyclists who veer outside of the painted lines, though Capt. Mark DiPaolo admitted that his officers are writing such tickets as “part of our traffic-control program, which is to prevent accidents and injuries.”
“We don’t specifically target one intersection,” added DiPaolo. “I definitely wouldn’t say there is a crackdown on cyclists.”
But Sheepshead Bay resident and avid cyclist Sholom Brody said that until recently, he never saw cops writing tickets for cyclists.
“They’re doing this out of frustration from the community,” he said. “I do believe that cyclists, like everyone else, need to follow the rules, especially if they are to be taken more seriously — but in this case, it was just wrong,” Brody added. “Potholes and double-parked cars make it impossible for cyclists to follow the rules of the road. I don’t think ticketing just for the sake of ticketing makes sense.”
Caroline Samponaro, the director of bicycle advocacy for the non-profit Transportation Alternatives, has been hearing “persistent complaints from cyclists,” ticketed even though the lane was blocked by cars. “The point of enforcement should be to figure out what’s really going on,” she said. “It should be fair and balanced.”
State law permits requires cyclists to pedal in the lane — unless conditions are hazardous or it is blocked, White said. “And frankly, the bike lane on Adams is atrocious,” he said. “It’s not only uneven, buy there are vehicles that park on it that make it almost unusable.”
The lawyer said he has nothing to gain from speaking out on the issue — if road conditions improve, he could see his client base dwindle.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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