Cyclist fined over $1,500!!!

So it goes without saying, every serious commuter has broken some kind of law. For those that have commutes where no cars are seen, running a stop sign or a red light may seem okay but what about places that are full of traffic like New York or Chicago? An experienced commuter may develop the fast-paced mindset that one develops living in a big city and thus break laws that would have substantial fines. In this case, I came across an article where a cyclist was fined $1,500 for ignoring laws.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

“He was stopped by police and given four tickets. However, he is now weeping to the New York Daily News that the money demanded by the authorities far exceeds his minor excesses.

“I know what I did was wrong and I understand that’s the penalty, I just think it’s astronomical,” he told the Daily News.

You see, he only expected a fine of, oh, somewhere between $700 and $900. But the police decided that the more red lights he went through, the more he became a repeat offender. So the fines escalated.

He could have fought this logic, but reportedly had to go out of town and, well, just pleaded guilty. Now he seems to be pleading gouging.”

Now I’ve had some boring commutes in the past where I thought I’d keep myself company by wearing a set of headphones (on the street, I only wore one but on paths, I had both so I never broke a law) so it makes sense to me that the rider would wear headphones. But ignoring laws that would protect the cyclist’s physical safety seem a bit much for me since it affects others’ safety like drivers and pedestrians.

What do you think?

Do you think the punishment was too severe or just right?

Original Article: Cnet


21 Comments

  1. Ordinary Bob October 19, 2012 5:43 am 

    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.

    I’m a serious cyclist, and I stop at red lights and stop signs. Your “So it goes without saying, every serious commuter has broken some kind of law” may be correct, but it doesn’t make it right.

  2. harry krishna October 19, 2012 5:46 am 

    @bob: amen

  3. Ghost Rider October 19, 2012 6:22 am 

    Damn, Ordinary Bob beat me to it!

    I agree totally — while I’ve broken my share of road laws, I don’t feel particularly good about it. “Sharing the road” means ALL of us must adhere to the road rules…cars and bikes alike. And if I were caught by the cops, well, I’d pay the fines.

  4. Frank October 19, 2012 7:01 am 

    He got caught and has to face the consequences. I occasionally commute by bike and follow the rules on the road and be as courteous to others as possible (except for running a red light after stopping when it doesn’t detect me at 5am in the morning and no cars are around).

  5. DanD October 19, 2012 7:19 am 

    I’m not perfect, I will do a rolling stop at a stop sign if I can see there is no traffic, but I would never blow through a light or sign.

    I agree with all of the above, if we expect to be treated as serious vehicles, we have to behave like them.

  6. Jean-Marc October 19, 2012 7:28 am 

    I feel like it is fair to punish him for the fact he broke the law , but i have a problem sharing the road and following the law when cars do not respect me as a vehicle. In the last week i have benn cut off no less than 4 time while simply riding during the day in the far right lane, i have had 3 cars push me off the road and into the side walk. Bike rights need to be increased.

  7. Dalton October 19, 2012 7:44 am 

    Yeah, I have a hard time with bumping up the fine the way they did it. I tend to stop for lights, but roll through stops and if I got ticketed, I would probably just pay it, but it seems like they had it out for this guy.

    That said, I also agree with Jean-Marc, that until they give us equal rights, we shouldn’t bear the same fines. I go back and forth on the whole thing when it comes to equality. I don’t really want equality because cars and bikes are not equal. I want separate sets of laws governing the use of the same space. Cyclist infractions are not necessarily going to kill someone like a car infraction, so our rules and fines should take that into consideration. Laws were made for safety, so I think that the safety of bikes is easier to govern because we are not going as fast and our infractions most times not as serious. I think some penalties may be the same, but I think, for example, things like stop signs with no traffic should be moderated differently than cars. I dunno how it would ever happen tho…..

  8. Pete October 19, 2012 7:54 am 

    I guess the question is if a motor vehicle did the same thing (blew through three traffic lights while the driver wore head phones), would the fine be the same? If so, I see no problem with this. A cyclist blowing threw red lights can be just as dangerous as a car. Both can cause other vehicles to swerve into other cars, pedestrians, or traffic control devices.

    $1500+ seems a bit excessive fine wise, but hey, that’s the law, and odds are, the guy was probably a jerk to the cops.

  9. BluesCat October 19, 2012 7:59 am 

    I cycle through stop signs all the time; like DanD, I don’t simply blow through them, I’m down around trotting speed. I will also roll through some stop lights, because the traffic light loops at those intersections are not sensitive enough to pick up my bike and initiate a light change.
    .
    I NEVER wear a full set of headphones or earbuds. Part of keeping safe sharing the road with 2+ ton steel behemoths is being able to HEAR them coming. If some bicycling idiot can’t hear that SUV coming up behind him because he’s listening to some Lady Gaga tune, how is he going to hear me calling out “On your left”?
    .
    Another question for this dolt rider: he was oblivious to the cops following him through three or four traffic lights?? When I ran a ’55 Chevy pushing around 500hp, you can bet that whenever I was at a light and got challenged by some dumb punk in his mother’s Oldsmobile … I was looking around REALLY carefully to make sure there were no coppers around to congratulate me with a citation and a court date!

  10. PhilGE October 19, 2012 8:05 am 

    What Pete said. $1500 is a whole lot cheaper than sitting in a hospital with a full body cast. It’s cheaper than a funeral. It’s cheaper than years of therapy, pain and anguish, and loss of productivity for the person who killed you – no to mention the suffering of your survivors. How do I know this? Cause I’ve worked with the survivors of car/bike accidents.

    Blaming others while behaving poorly won’t protect you from tons of weight traveling at about any velocity.

  11. Derek October 19, 2012 8:41 am 

    The amount of damage a moving object can cause is proportional to its kinetic energy, 1/2 m*v^2. Therefore, a 2-ton vehicle moving at 45 mph can cause 180 times as much damage as a 200-pound bicyclist moving at 15 mph.

    And therefore, the motorist should pay a fine 180 times greater than the bicyclist.

  12. Matt October 19, 2012 8:42 am 

    He broke the law (stupidly IMO), then agreed to pay before he figured out how much the amount was (doing no homework on what this might mean).

    I feel very little sympathy. Sure he might have gotten excessively ticketed (multiple tickets for the same offense instead of one), but he chose not to fight it…

  13. Hermes October 19, 2012 9:03 am 

    @Ordinary Bob:

    Totally hear ya man! I’m not a proponent to break laws at all. If anything, I’m the guy that my friends don’t like in their cars bc I hold them to all the driving laws.

    That said, I know that no matter how much a person likes to adhere to the laws, they still will roll through a stop sign at 2 am/reall odd hours in the morning when there’s no one around hence my opening sentence.

  14. Ghost Rider October 19, 2012 10:12 am 

    @Dalton — in most jurisdictions, we DO have the same rights as motorists. Most places classify a bicycle as a “vehicle”, granting us the same rights and holding us to the same responsibilities as cars.

    The rub, though, is that those rights and those rules are routinely trampled on by clueless motorists, ingnorant law enforcement application and a variety of other “injustices”.

    Derek is onto something — a lot of places are enacting “vulnerable user” laws that help balance the damage potential between heavy cars and relatively lightweight pedestrians/cyclists; motor vehicle drivers pay steeper fines and receive greater penalties for incidents involving bike/peds. Still, those additional laws are only as good as their enforcement.

  15. RANTWICK October 19, 2012 10:12 am 

    Like just about everybody else says, you have to be ready to pay the price if you’re ready to break the laws. The huge amount faced by this guy is mostly stupid tax for not thinking before signing off on those tickets.

  16. bigbenaugust October 19, 2012 10:14 am 

    The law is the law. I paid $160 this year for running a stop sign (didn’t see the policeman behind me) and learned my lesson.

    Even my two-year-old knows what the red octagon and red lights are for.

  17. DanD October 19, 2012 11:30 am 

    @Derick- The problem is that the bike is not the only thing in motion. If a cyclist blows through an intersection, and causes another vehicle to swerve or stop short, it can cause damage out of proportion with the KE of the bike.

    At most I think you could use the KE to make an argument for 1/2 (one car, one bike vs two cars), but probably 2/3 to 3/4 would make sense (1 bike, 2-3 cars).

  18. Derek October 19, 2012 12:23 pm 

    @DanD, stopping short is perfectly safe, as long as you aren’t being tailgated. (Remember, tailgating is “the practice of driving on a road too close to the vehicle in front, at a distance which does not guarantee that stopping to avoid collision is possible.”)

    If a cyclist causes another vehicle to swerve and that results in a collision, then it needs to be battled in civil court.

  19. Raiyn October 19, 2012 10:21 pm 

    I’ll admit to doing the Idaho Stop http://bikeportland.org/2009/01/14/idaho-stop-law-faq-13387 on my normal routes, but I know the roads and the traffic patterns. I’m well prepared to jam on the brakes or a snap u-turn should I need to. That said, I STOP at red lights regardless of time or conditions.

  20. DoctorKennyG October 20, 2012 1:43 am 

    I think there is a considerable difference in the way cyclists are treated under the law as compared to how the statutes are written. While the statutes might hold all vehicles as equal, I think cyclists are often unfairly treated.

    In this case, I think the punishment is too severe given the risk and damage that a cyclist can cause compared to that which a driver can cause. Anecdotally, I have read that the NYPD often engages in what seems to be campaigns of punishing cyclists.

  21. bg October 20, 2012 6:55 am 

    Once I got used to riding with a mirror, I couldn’t imagine riding without one. Using double headphones shows this rider wants to isolate himself from his environment. BUt that is not a good goal while in traffic bercause “Reality hits you hard, bro!”

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