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State Supreme Court emerges as battleground over bike lane ticket

As many people know all too well, the New York Police Department (NYPD) is more than willing to issue tickets for traffic violations to unwitting motorists and bicyclists. While many of these tickets are likely legitimate and follow the letter of the law, others are not. In fact, recent reports indicate that bicyclists here in the Big Apple are regularly being ticketed for a bicycle maneuver that many people believe is technically not illegal.

Under New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law 1234 (VTL 1234), all bicyclists are required to do the following: 1) Ride on the left-hand side of the street 2) Ride no more than two across and 3) Ride in a bike lane if provided.

Interestingly enough, however, many people are arguing that this last provision doesn't apply here in New York City, where bicyclists must often exit the bike lane in order to make turns at intersections.

Specifically, they point to the applicable city rule, which states the following: "Whenever a usable path or lane for bicycles has been provided, bicycle riders shall use such path or lane only except under any of the following situations: (i) When preparing for a turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway..."

In fact, New Yorker Evan Neumann, who received a ticket for riding outside of a bike lane on the Lower East Side, is taking the fight to the State Supreme Court.

According to Neumann, he was riding in the bike lane and was approaching the intersection where he needed to make a right turn. Accordingly, he looked over his shoulder for traffic, exited the bike lane, and rode to the opposite side of the street to make his right turn. Shortly thereafter, he was issued a ticket for riding outside the bike lane.

He subsequently appealed the ticket -- which would cost somewhere between $50 to $100 -- ultimately losing both in traffic court and before the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) appeals board.

"The NYPD has been enforcing VTL 1234 against cyclists since the Republican National Convention in 2004," said Steven Vaccaro, the attorney representing Neumann. "The NYPD has been confronted with their mistaken enforcement of this law in a variety of contexts, in two major federal litigations, and in each case members of the NYPD have given sworn testimony that they know VTL 1234 does not apply in NYC and should not apply. And yet it keeps happening!"

Stay tuned for further developments on Neumann's lawsuit from our New York vehicle traffic law blog ...

If you have been issued a traffic violation, fight to keep your driving privileges and your insurance premiums as low as possible. Consider contacting an attorney who understands New York's confusing legal system, and who can help you evaluate your options and make the right decisions.

This post was provided for informational purposes only and is not to be construed as legal advice.


The Gothamist, "Cyclist ticketed for riding outside bike lane fights fine in State Supreme Court" March 6, 2012

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