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NYPD Targets Cyclists and Goes Easy on Truckers In Williamsburg, Data Shows

By Gwynne Hogan | October 10, 2017 11:35am
 Cyclists wait for a light to change at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, where a truck passes on a banned route.
Cyclists wait for a light to change at Bushwick Avenue and Grand Street, where a truck passes on a banned route.
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DNAinfo/Gwynne Hogan

BROOKLYN — Bicyclists were hit with twice as many traffic tickets as commercial truck drivers in Williamsburg's 90th Precinct so far this year, and more than any other precinct in North Brooklyn, according to NYPD data.

Between January and Sept. 28, cyclists were ticketed 1,160 times for violations like running red lights and riding the wrong way on a one-way street, compared to 463 tickets written to commercial trucks, for violations like texting while driving or not wearing seatbelts, the data shows.

Of the trucks ticketed since the beginning of January in the 90th Precinct, only 16 trucks were given summonses for driving on streets where heavy construction vehicles and tractor trailers are banned, according to the NYPD's figures.

Just last week, a cyclist was hospitalized when a dump truck driver traveling on Bushwick Avenue, a street not authorized for heavy truck traffic, made a right turn on Grand Street and crushed the biker under his wheels.

Police are probing why the driver was off-route at the time of the collision. Trucks are only allowed on banned streets if they're making local deliveries, according to the Department of Transportation.

An informal truck census taken at that corner for an Tuesday morning between 8:20 and 9:20 a.m. found that 77 trucks were driving on Bushwick Avenue — more than one truck a minute.

The trucks included food delivery, oil, box and dump trucks, and included companies like Quick Containers Inc., Mr. T Carting, Statewide Oil & Heating and Fresh Direct, though some of the 77 vehicles counted may have been stopping locally or making their way to Grand Street (a truck route) from a recent stop, and thus allowed to drive there.

"Illegal truck traffic is one of the biggest issues in North Brooklyn. Trucks are taking shortcuts," said Rolando Guzman, a member of OUTRAGE, a neighborhood organization advocates for the decrease in garbage truck traffic in the area. "We can use more enforcement whin it comes to trucks, off-route trucks, trucks that are speeding," Guzman said.

"Trucks are passing in really narrow streets," or on streets that "go by schools, senior centers senior or housing buildings," he said.

The dearth of truck enforcement in the 90th Precinct stands in contrast to Greenpoint's 94th Precinct, where the July 22 death of cyclist Neftaly Ramirez who was hit by an Action Carting garbage truck, prompted a public outcry that pushed the precinct into stricter enforcement of errant truck drivers.

In August, police in the 94th Precinct wrote 94 tickets against truck drivers, nearly double the 53 they wrote the month before. And in September they ticketed 170 truck drivers, police said.

"Keep us informed, we're reacting to it," Captain Peter Rose, the head of the 94th Precinct, said. He's asking Greenpointers to report speeding, off-route and wrong-way drivers to the precinct when they see them.

The increased enforcement of trucks corresponded with a decrease in the number of cyclists they ticketed, down to 45 and 48 cyclists in August and September, down from 65 in July.

Bicycle enforcement

Cyclists in Williamsburg were hit with more tickets than in any of the other nine North Brooklyn precincts, data shows. 

The numbers come amidst steady growth in the number of cyclists citywide, up about 80 percent between 2010 and 2015, with bike riders making about 450,000 trips on a bicycle each day, according to the city's Department of Transportation.

In addition to the 90th, two other precincts — Bushwick's 83rd and Bed-Stuy's 79th precincts — also ticketed more bikes than trucks.

The trend was reversed in three other North Brooklyn precincts. Police ticketed more trucks than bikes in the 84th Precinct, covering Brooklyn Heights, Boerum Hill and Vinegar Hill, Bed-Stuy's 81st Precinct and East New York's 72rd Precinct.

Two remaining North Brooklyn Precincts — Crown Heights' 77th Precinct and East New York and Cypress Hill' 75th Precinct — ticketed bikes and trucks at similar rates.

In all North Brooklyn precincts, drivers of private cars received more tickets, according to the data.

Bike and pedestrian advocates found the discrepancies between cycling and trucking enforcement troubling.

"It's discouraging to learn that the [90th Precinct] is so focused on bike violations," said Caroline Samponaro, a spokeswoman for Transportation Alternatives. "In this precinct it's a hotbed of truck traffic and commercial trucks violating the law."

"We need to be targeting that behavior that kills and injures."