UPPER WEST SIDE — Police have greatly increased the number of tickets written to cyclists so far this year on a large swath of the Upper West Side, while reducing the amount of summonses issued to drivers for failing to yield, NYPD data showed.
Tickets to cyclists in the 24th Precinct — which runs from West 86th to 110th streets between Riverside and Central parks — have increased 80 percent so far in 2015 compared to the same period last year, while citations to drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians dropped 2 percent, according to police data.
Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 6 of this year, police in the precinct issued 873 tickets to cyclists for breaking rules, compared to 484 for the same time last year, police said.
Tickets to drivers for failing to yield to pedestrians, a Vision Zero enforcement category, over the same stretch stood at 558, versus 570 last year, the data showed.
The tickets given out by officers correlate with precinct trends in crashes and injuries, explained Capt. Marlon Larin, commanding officer of the 24th Precinct, at a Community Board 7 meeting Tuesday night.
Injuries involving cyclists — including a cyclist hitting a pedestrian, a car hitting a cyclist or two bikes crashing — were down this year, Larin said.
There were 37 injuries involving a cyclist between Jan. 1 and Dec. 6, as compared to 45 during the same period last year, he said.
"We try to move with the conditions as they arise," he said. "If we’re seeing a spike in pedestrian [injuries], we’re going to focus on failure to yield to pedestrians rather than texting [while driving]."
Because pedestrian injuries were not as high as last year, while crashes involving only drivers were, police put their attention on writing tickets to drivers who run red lights, he said.
"As those pedestrian injuries are going down, we’ll try to focus on something else — such as our vehicle occupant [injuries] — like running a red light," Larin explained.
However, "in our opinion, the failure to yield to pedestrians category is the one we’d like to increase," he admitted.
Some residents have complained that the precinct's strategy of targeting cyclists is akin to going after "low-hanging fruit" when car crashes are likely to cause more harm.
"The reason for the increase in bicycle enforcement is based off of community complaints," Larin added. "I hear about [cyclists] a lot."
Board 7 could help the precinct communicate to residents that there are other categories of traffic violations that his officers should pay more attention to, he said.
"I understand that Captain Larin is responding to community complaints about lawbreaking cyclists, but the level of enforcement is way out of proportion to the actual threat, and that enforcement is generally focused on innocuous behaviors like slowly rolling through a red light," said board member Ken Coughlin, who attended the meeting, in an email Wednesday.
Larin also noted that the majority of tickets given to cyclists were for running red lights.
Bikes running red lights "makes them seem scarier to me as a pedestrian," noted board member Linda Alexander at the meeting.
In the past, Larin has credited the decrease in cyclist injuries to stepped-up enforcement of bike riders.