If it's not bad enough that bike commuters have to worry about being hit by motorists, now they should be concerned about paying for repairs to those cars—at least when they're city-owned. A Brooklyn cyclist who was hit by an unmarked police car last November recently received a bill from New York City for $1,263.01, according to a darkly comedic story in yesterday's New York Post. Justin Johnsen, 31, was biking on a busy Brooklyn street in November when a police officer, driving an unmarked car, bumped into him, knocking him from his bike. The cop and his partner called an ambulance, which took Johnsen to a nearby hospital where he was treated for scrapes and bruises.
Four months later, well after Johnsen thought the matter was behind him, he received the massive bill for damages to the car, adding insult to his literal injuries. Lawyer Daniel Flanzig took on Johnsen's case pro bono when he learned the city was threatening to sue him if he refused to pay.
Johnsen gave the following version of events to the Post: "I had left the bike lane to make a left turn, and I looked behind me and saw that it was clear, and the farthest car was a fair distance,” he said. He hand-signaled to make the turn, but before he could he “was swiped by this car on my left side.” The officers disagreed with Johnsen's telling of the incident—and, tellingly, never even apologized—but evidently didn't think he'd done anything wrong, as they issued him no traffic ticket.
To its credit, the city has withdrawn the bill, claiming it was simply a billing SNAFU. Unfortunately, this is the third time in recent months that the city has billed people for damages to the police cars that hit them, including sending a $710 bill to the family of a Bronx man who was fatally run down by police. You can't make this stuff up.