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Rider falls foul of new fine structure aimed at repeat offenders - but lawyer says it shouldn't apply in this case...

A cyclist in New York City has been fined $1,555 - equivalent to just under £1,000 - for wearing headphones and riding through three red lights on a 250-metre stretch of road. The unnamed cyclist fell foul of new rules that see fines escalate for repeat offenders, although a lawyer insists those rules should not apply in this case.

The website Gothamist reports that the unnamed cyclist from Brooklyn admits that he ride through three sets of stop lights last month as he rode home from Williamsburg to Bushwick, with the three offences taking place within the space of two city blocks, a distance of around 250 metres.

On a cost-per-distance travelled basis, a $200,000 ticket for one of Sir Richard Branson’s planned Virgin Galactic sub-orbital space flights seems a bargain by comparison.

The cyclist said that after going through the third red light, a police car “cut me off in the bike lane and I stopped.”

The officer, he continued, “began asking me what I thought I was doing and we discussed what had just happened, he asked for my opinion on what I thought certain bike laws should be but quickly dismissed my answers as wrong. 

“He told me I went through three red lights and I was wearing two headphones so he wrote me four tickets. 

“He couldn't give me a price of how much the tickets would be, but estimated it would total around $700.”

That turned out to be a bit of an underestimation, less than half the fine the cyclist eventually received.

“I was guilty for sure of going through the lights and wearing headphones so naively I pleaded guilty and sent in the tickets. 

“A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail, it contained my four tickets stapled to a piece of paper that indicated I owed $1,555. It didn't itemize the cost of each ticket so I have no idea what each one is worth.”

According to Gothamist, the law states that for the first instance of red light jumping, a fine of $190 applies. That rises to $375 for the second and $940 for the third, plus a $50 fine for riding with more than one headphone, giving a total of $1,555.

"This is my first bike infraction in New York City," the cyclist added. "$1,500 seems pretty excessive, especially for a 24-year-old where $1,500 is a little less than 10% of my yearly income."

Lawyer Steve Vaccaro told Gothamist that the escalating fines were intended to be applied to repeat offenders and not to what in this case he considered to be a single incident. He added that the police displayed an inconsistent approach to offences committed by motorists, and incidents in which a cyclist was involved.

"The point is to harshly punish recidivists," he explained. "But a person who goes through three reds in a row is not really a recidivist."

He added that while the police are able to follow drivers and cyclists to note any traffic law they are violating, "this kind of following almost never happens with motorists, but happens surprisingly often with cyclists.

"Many traffic court judges will treat multiple violations issued this way as 'double-dipping' and dismiss some of the duplicative charges," he added, advising cyclists that they should carefully consider whether to plead guilty in cases such as this one where multiple breaches of the same law are involved.
 

Born in Scotland, Simon moved to London aged seven and now lives in the Oxfordshire Cotswolds with his miniature schnauzer, Elodie. He fell in love with cycling one Saturday morning in 1994 while living in Italy when Milan-San Remo went past his front door. A daily cycle commuter in London back before riding to work started to boom, he's been news editor at road.cc since 2009. Handily for work, he speaks French and Italian. He doesn't get to ride his Colnago as often as he'd like, and freely admits he's much more adept at cooking than fettling with bikes.

27 comments

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SevenHills [205 posts] 3 years ago
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No sympathy for the idiot. It could have been worse whilst going through a red light he could have been hit by something going through on the green light. $1500 seems pretty fair to me.

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theclaw [73 posts] 3 years ago
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I personally would love to see fines handed out to the idiots on Barclay's superhighways that ride with their headphones in and through red lights at full pelt.You should witness the chaos coming in from Clapham every day to the City. On a quid pro quo basis we could get people nailed for a long time for dangerous driving. Problem is nopbody wants to take a balanced view of anything, it's hysteria and overreaction every time (and yes I think $1500 is a little rough, even for an idiot).

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TurboJoe [72 posts] 3 years ago
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Not only that he had headphones on as well!??

F***ing Hipsters.

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 3 years ago
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As long as they treat motorists the same, well done NYPD, keep up the good work.

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Coleman [335 posts] 3 years ago
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The Rumpo Kid wrote:

As long as they treat motorists the same, well done NYPD, keep up the good work.

The trouble is that the New York Police Department does not treat motorists the same. Police officers in NYC act with a rabid dislike of cyclists.

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The Rumpo Kid [589 posts] 3 years ago
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Coleman wrote:
The Rumpo Kid wrote:

As long as they treat motorists the same, well done NYPD, keep up the good work.

The trouble is that the New York Police Department does not treat motorists the same. Police officers in NYC act with a rabid dislike of cyclists.

That's kind of what I meant.

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Matt_S [256 posts] 3 years ago
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If you can't do the time...

Sucks to be him.

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OldRidgeback [2620 posts] 3 years ago
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He was pretty stupid but the fine is outrageous.

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Darthshearer [134 posts] 3 years ago
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Coleman wrote:
The Rumpo Kid wrote:

As long as they treat motorists the same, well done NYPD, keep up the good work.

The trouble is that the New York Police Department does not treat motorists the same. Police officers in NYC act with a rabid dislike of cyclists.

There was a brilliant video of a cyclist who got a $50 fine for coming out of the cycle lane in NYC. He had to come out as there was a parked car in the lane, yet the officer wouldnt see this.

So, he made a video of him crashing into cars, down roads that had been dug up, into vans etc, it was so funny. When I get home ill try and find it.

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TheBigMong [212 posts] 3 years ago
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He then added, "My dad is gonna kill me... I just had to hit him up for rent money and a new MacBook Pro, and now this!"  20

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Mountainboy [96 posts] 3 years ago
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Fines for riding with headphones, absolutely.

I look forward to seeing fines for vehicles with glass in the window frames, or stereos fitted.

Similarly for pedestrians crossing roads with headphones.

We all need to be able to hear traffic around us without hindrance after all!

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Simon_MacMichael [2452 posts] 3 years ago
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Darthshearer wrote:

There was a brilliant video of a cyclist who got a $50 fine for coming out of the cycle lane in NYC. He had to come out as there was a parked car in the lane, yet the officer wouldnt see this.

So, he made a video of him crashing into cars, down roads that had been dug up, into vans etc, it was so funny. When I get home ill try and find it.

To save you the trouble...

http://road.cc/content/news/36803-nyc-cyclist-fined-not-using-bike-lane-...

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Darthshearer [134 posts] 3 years ago
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Simon_MacMichael wrote:
Darthshearer wrote:

There was a brilliant video of a cyclist who got a $50 fine for coming out of the cycle lane in NYC. He had to come out as there was a parked car in the lane, yet the officer wouldnt see this.

So, he made a video of him crashing into cars, down roads that had been dug up, into vans etc, it was so funny. When I get home ill try and find it.

To save you the trouble...

http://road.cc/content/news/36803-nyc-cyclist-fined-not-using-bike-lane-...

Thats it  24

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theincrediblebike [40 posts] 3 years ago
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No sympathy with this guy whatsoever as a cyclist the same laws apply Doh!

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thereverent [407 posts] 3 years ago
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This guy sounds like an idiot for red light jumping.

I would have no problem with the fine as long as the NYPD would do exactly the same for a car.

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zanf [838 posts] 3 years ago
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Mountainboy wrote:

Fines for riding with headphones, absolutely.

I look forward to seeing fines for vehicles with glass in the window frames, or stereos fitted.

Similarly for pedestrians crossing roads with headphones.

We all need to be able to hear traffic around us without hindrance after all!

There needs to be strict jaywalking laws enacted in the UK for pedestrians where the fines are tripled if they are looking at mobile devices or wearing headphones.

The number of times I see this every day to and from work would clear the national deficit pretty quickly!

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AndrewRH [56 posts] 3 years ago
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If a deaf person rides a bicycle then does he automatically get fined as if he was wearing headphones? Just asking...

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spindoctore [53 posts] 3 years ago
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well done, its about time and sounds deserved.

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Karbon Kev [688 posts] 3 years ago
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I think the fine is absolutely adequate and befitting. These idiots who constantly jump red lights need to be punished. This is exactly what they need to do over here.

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Nick T [913 posts] 3 years ago
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"The cyclist said that after going through the third red light, a police car “cut me off in the bike lane and I stopped.”"

Couldn't hear the sirens then?

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vexedveloist [8 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree with fining RLJ-ers, if only for the reason they get all cyclists a bad name.

But why all the indignation at headphones? Are people saying the deaf shouldn't cycle? I occasionally wear headphones while cycling, and I can still hear perfectly well when I do. This has been proven in Australia where tests were carried out and it was found a cyclist wearing headphones and listening to music could still hear more than a driver in a car listening to nothing:

http://rideons.wordpress.com/2012/07/09/an-ear-on-the-traffic/

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phax71 [287 posts] 3 years ago
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No complaints here ..

From all we read, cycling in NYC is fraught with danger anyway .. you'd have to be suicidal to run three reds with earphones on ..

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eccomi [5 posts] 3 years ago
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I used to live in NYC and once got 2 fines at once. I was biking briefly in the wrong direction of 5th av. and jumped on the pavement when 2 bike cops stopped me and gave me one ticket for riding on the pavement and one for riding the wrong way. One cop wanted to give me only one but the other one was real nasty. NO hard feelings at all.

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fatbeggaronabike [815 posts] 3 years ago
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I agree that for the heinious crime of rlj'ing he got what he deserved, but have to disagree with this business of wearing headphones, unless of course we ban all deaf people from cycling, driving, walking on pavements, living etc...

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K Stand Ken [59 posts] 3 years ago
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Great. I hope this pretty soon gets exported to the streets of the UK's towns and cities.
I say this as the magazine editor of one of the country's oldest cycling clubs, in which I frequently campaign against the dangers of urban riding. If more drivers became aware of cyclists being fined in this way then perhaps there might not be such negative attitude to us.
The guy's lawyer pleaded that "while the police follow drivers and cyclists to note any traffic law they are violating, this almost never happens with motorists, but happens surprisingly often with cyclists."
Hardly surprising really. I suppose even in NYC few bikes are fitted with mirrors. Wouldn't a driver be on his best behaviour knowing a cop was behind him?

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Nick12345A [1 post] 3 years ago
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This sounds really harsh, as a fellow cyclist, but when I rode this year's L2B bike ride, after a gap of 25 years, I found that 85% of cyclists jumped red lights, deliberately ignoring not just volunteers holding up big signs to try to get people to stop, but also ignoring police trying to stop them as well.

I'm utterly shocked by the arrogance of what appears to be a very substantial number of cyclists who evidently think that they have the right to make decisions about which laws they should abide by, even though those laws are set to try to protect all road users and pedestrians, regardless of the adverse impact that their actions have on peoples' opinions about cyclists.

Frankly, the ONLY way to solve this ridiculous and dangerous situation is to confiscate bikes, put them in a truck, sell them for charity, and post Youtube videos so we can all enjoy seeing the anguish on the faces of these selfish idiots. And if they're on Boris bikes, I'd love to see their faces when they get an email saying that their standard of riding was of insufficient standard to use the service, and that their access key has been forfeited.

If you're a red light jumper, and you're reading this, you need to realise that whatever excuse you're using to try to justify why you think you have a right to jump lights, you are partly resonsible for pedestrians hating cyclists, drivers hating cyclists, and other cyclists hating cyclists. In fact the only people who love you is the media, who love to create a situation where everyone hates cyclists.

You're arrogant, you're selfish, and I would love it if your bike was "donated" to charity.

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Tripod16 [157 posts] 3 years ago
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This guy is an utter tw*t, however the 'fines' regime in NY is a joke.

Having had the displeasure of being pulled over for speeding (in a car on a highway, no bicycles were involved), fair enough I was, willing to simply pay my fine...NY state want for you to sign the paperwork saying you are 'guilty' AND THEN they post out your fine.

You are stuck having already given up your right to argue if you thought the fine was disproportionate into having to pay an arbitrary amount as seems this case.

He certainly should get hit with a big fine, but let's be realistic. Motorists would certainly not see a fine like that!