It's a routine (if risky) practice: A cyclist approaches a red light, slows to a near-stop, checks both ways for pedestrians and cars, and—acting like a pedestrian in that situation—keeps rolling right on through the intersection. But it's also illegal, and one New York cyclist is paying dearly for it. The anonymous cyclist, who ran three consecutive red lights on his way home from the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn to nearby Bushwick, was followed and pulled over by a NYPD officer and issued four tickets—one for each red light and one for wearing headphones. He admitted his wrong, and naïvely pled guilty to the tickets. Weeks later, the bill came in the mail for a whopping $1,555.
Put into the context of New York's "bike wars," though, such a stiff punishment was probably predictable. You see, New York is turning into a very bikeable city, laying 250+ miles of bike lanes since 2006 to give it more than any other city in North America (and 280 additional miles are planned). Partly in response to that, the number of cyclists has roughly quadrupled in the past decade. Add to those riders the (now delayed) Citi Bike bike share program that will unleash 10,000 rent-by-the-hour bikes on city streets, and non-cyclists have started feeling like an invasion is on. Not so much a literal invasion, but an invasion of their already cramped personal space. Motorists in bumper-to-bumper traffic don't like having bikes in the mix, and pedestrians feel threatened by speeding cyclists who disobey traffic laws.
Over the past two years, tensions have flared, political and personal battles have been fought over bike lanes (just last week, a saboteur scattered tacks across one busy lane), and the NYPD entered the fray by cracking down on cyclists who flout the rules of the road in an ongoing sting it's dubbed Operation Safe Cycle. Bikers, beware! Follow the rules of the road—it's good for your safety and good for your wallet, as the poor anonymous cyclist made crystal clear: "This is my first bike infraction in New York City. $1,500 seems pretty excessive, especially for a 24-year-old where $1,500 is a little less than 10% of my yearly income." Yikes.