GREENPOINT — Nine cyclists were snagged in a ticketing blitz in the 72 hours after a bike rider was killed by a garbage truck driver in Greenpoint in July, compared with just three truck drivers ticketed during that same time, under a law enforcement tactic that advocates say puts the blame on bicyclists.
"It's a strategy," said Assistant Chief Jeffrey Maddrey, head of Brooklyn North Patrol, who described officers posting up near the location of pedestrian and cyclist fatalities to talk to people about traffic safety. They then issue tickets to people they see running red lights.
"We don't target victims. We target people who commit violations," he said.
Maddrey said police focused their enforcement on cyclists blowing through red lights along Franklin Street — where Neftaly Ramirez, 27, was fatally struck by a garbage truck driver on July 22 — and not on those who slowed to a stop and then pedaled through them.
Police said that the garbage truck was turning right on Noble Street from Franklin Street when the driver struck and killed Ramirez. Though the driver left the scene, he was cleared of any charges because an investigation revealed that he didn't know he'd hit Ramirez, police said.
In the hours after the fatal collision, advocates and Greenpoint residents cried foul on social media, posting pictures on Twitter of cyclists being ticketed, including several by officers in an unmarked vehicle.
Advocates questioned how public awareness was helped by the use of unmarked cars and ticketing more cyclists than drivers.
"You should be out there [ticketing] the behavior which actually gets people killed, which is failure to yield,” said Caroline Samponaro, a spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives, a street safety advocacy group who has been pushing the NYPD to release more on the policy for more than a year. “If the immediate response is to get other cyclists it implies that there was some wrong doing. There is a quality of victim blaming in that.
"That's a very anti-Vision Zero message."
The tactic first came to the group's attention in April of 2016 following the death of Lauren Davis, 34, in Clinton Hill, who was killed by a left-turning vehicle that failed to yield.
They saw cyclists ticketed again following the July 2016 death of Matthew von Ohlen, 34, who was riding in the bike lane on Grand Street in Williamsburg when a driver sped through red light and veered into the bike lane.
In April of this year, a week after Kelly Hurley, 31, was fatally struck on her bike in the East Village by a box truck driver making an illegal left turn, NYPD officers ticketed cyclists a block away from where Hurley was killed.
Transportation Alternatives representatives met with police in 2016 to discuss the policy and pressed them for more details about it, hoping to get a formal description of the goals and any data they had on its effectiveness.
For now, though, it's a strategy that the police department intends to continue.
"The NYPD is taking steps to try and prevent a traffic fatality in the future. The officers will write violations to anyone breaking the law. Cyclists are not singled out," NYPD spokesman Lieutenant John Grimpel said.