Crashing a Bike into Trucks, Laws, and Public Perception

Casey Neistat got a $50 ticket for riding outside of a bike lane in New York and made an amazing video in which he demonstrates why, exactly, a cyclists might venture outside of the lines. (Skip ahead to 1'10" or so to see him crashing into stuff.)

Neistat got his ticket around the time the city was cracking down on cyclists for traffic infractions. The police officers giving the tickets were often ignorant of the rules; biking outside of a bike land is allowed, as long as it's for safety reasons.

This video is funny, but it's another piece of evidence that New York is taking exactly the wrong approach to expanding cycling in the city. After rapidly expanding the infrastructure for cycling, the Bloomberg administration decided to cave to bike critics and make it super annoying for cyclists to use the nice new lanes by ticketing them excessively and beginning a public ad campaign that target cyclists as "jerks." Who wins here? Not the administration, which is undermining its own policy goal; not cyclists, who have to worry about being ticketed even when they're not breaking laws; and not bike opponents—the bike lanes are there. More people are biking. It's done.

A much smarter strategy for the city (and one that other cities should adopt as they expand bike infrastructure) would have been to promote safe cycling and to educate both cyclists and non-cyclists about the (correct) traffic laws to follow. In New York, an outside group, Transportation Alternatives, has taken up that mission. TA is a vocal and sometimes adversarial advocate for cycling, so it doesn't have as much credibility as the city does with the greater public. Nor does it have as much reach. But at least their new "bike ambassadors" campaign includes an "I Bike Polite" slogan, for instance, which is a nicer and, I imagine, more effective message than "Don't Be a Jerk," the city's choice.