NEW YORK CITY — A scooter-driving NYPD veteran burned through his summons book during the past three years, handing out a record number of tickets to rule-breaking bicyclists pedaling around the Upper West Side.
Officer Joshua Vincek issued 1,249 tickets to bicyclists between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 26, 2015 — far more than anyone else in the police department, according to records obtained by DNAinfo New York.
A review of state Department of Motor Vehicles data shows that during that period, the NYPD issued a total of 51,841 tickets to cyclists, with the number of summonses growing sharply each year.
The data shows Vincek, 33, was peerless in his pursuit of scofflaw bikers, beating out his closest competitor by at least 300 summonses.
The officers who issued the most bicycle violations after Vincek were Joseph Gutierrez with 923 and Michael Ignatz with 861.
Even those two were veritable workhorses when compared to the rest of the police department. In all, only 84 officers issued more than 100 bike violations during the three-year period — and most barely made that milestone.
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment on Vincek’s singular effort.
But Joseph Bolanos, the president of the West 76th Street Park Block Association, spoke glowingly of the 11-year veteran who works in the Upper West Side’s 20th Precinct.
Bolanos, who knows Vincek from his outreach in the neighborhood, credited the officer with helping to curb the bad behavior of restaurant delivery bicyclists and recreational bikers bucking traffic laws along Columbus Avenue.
“He is what I consider the consummate NYPD community-policing officer,” Bolanos said.
Bolanos said Vincek is tasked with addressing quality-of-life issues and zips through the Upper West Side on an NYPD-issued scooter. During his tours, Vincek makes a point of getting to know residents and store owners, he said.
“He’s very aware of what goes on and he gets good intelligence from the community,” Bolanos said.
Bolanos said that he trusts Vincek so much that last year, when he witnessed a package thief in a building near his apartment, he called Vincek’s cell phone rather than 911. The officer rode over and arrested the suspect.
Bolanos said he wished Vincek, who works a day tour, could also pull duties at night, when delivery bikes are really a problem.
Vincek’s tickets seem to stick. Only 21 of the 1,249 tickets were dismissed or declared not guilty.
After an NYPD officer issues a violation to a bicyclist, the summons is adjudicated in the state DMV’s Traffic Violations Bureau. The fine for a ticket ranges from $25 to $190.
Only 3,470 of the 51,841 tickets were thrown out or ruled not guilty at trial. However, more than 20,000 of the guilty judgments were by default, meaning the cyclist never formally responded to the summons or showed up for the court date.
DMV data shows that the number of tickets issued each year has nearly doubled since 2012. That year 11,978 tickets were issued.
In 2013, the year the Citi Bike program rolled out, the number of tickets rose to 18,091. And in 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first year in office, police issued 21,302 summonses.
Aug. 20, 2014, was when the most bicycle tickets were handed out in a single day. The ticket blitz came a few days into Operation Safe Cycle, a two-week NYPD campaign to crack down on bad biking.
The DMV data shows that the area south of 59th Street in Manhattan was the most ticketed part of the city, with officers handing out 19,800 violations between Jan. 1, 2012, and Feb. 12, 2015. During that time, the north side of Manhattan received 11,537 summonses, and the north side of Brooklyn racked up 8,704 violations.
Staten Island received the fewest bike violations with 176. The Bronx got 711.
About 21,500 of the 51,841 tickets went to bicyclists who blew through red lights. Another 16,198 were issued to cyclists for breaking road rules and 3,734 were for riding on a sidewalk.
Steve Vaccaro, a bike advocate and lawyer, said the dramatic increase in tickets during the past three years may be because of the rise in the number of cyclists on the streets. He said the start of Citi Bike might have also had an effect on tickets because, while experienced bicyclists use the blue cruisers, many novices who don't know traffic laws also ride them.
Vaccaro said that the NYPD should focus enforcement on dangerous traffic behavior like riding a bike on a sidewalk or cycling against the flow of traffic.
The police department, he said, mostly targets bikers who go through red lights, but “sometimes they’re given when there really isn’t a safety concern.”
He said at some T intersections in the city, bicyclists can ride safely through red lights because there is no cross traffic and a bike lane keeps them well away from vehicles.
However, Vaccaro, whose firm represents cyclists involved in accidents or who have received a summons, said that the NYPD will set up checkpoints at T intersections because “it’s the easiest tickets for police officers to write.”
“I think for red lights they should be exercising discretion,” he said. “A T-crossing scenario in a bike lane is a waste of resources.”
The NYPD did not respond to requests for comment on its enforcement of bicycle violations or the rise in ticketing.