A heads-up to Hogtown cyclists: just as April showers bring May flowers, and as lighting a cigarette summons a bus; with the waning of the inaptly named Bike Week invariably comes the police bike crack-down - be warned.
With reports from a number of cyclists in different parts of the city, we can safely say that the blitz is on; police will be aggressively pulling over bike riders who don't have the mandatory equipment - lights, a bell, and if you're under 18, a helmet. With fines reaching over $100 depending on the infraction, it's probably going to be much cheaper (and safer - I don't know how I'd survive without my bell) to get the equipment now, rather than hoping you just don't get nabbed. Cops will also be targeting sidewalk riders, and those who ignore traffic rules.
I'll be blunt: cyclists who run reds or ride over sidewalks are one of my biggest pet peeves; they make riding on the streets more dangerous for the rest of us, and when red light runners are invariably slower than I am, that means that I'm just going to have to keep passing them, exposing myself to traffic over and over. Is a ticketing blitz on bicyclers the best way to accomplish this? Many people would disagree. It is a cruel irony indeed that as we pump our legs, helping to save the environment, a police car, after pulling us over, leaves itself to idle for minutes - defeating the point. There has to be a better way.
Kat Collins, while speaking as a finalist in the City Idol competitions suggested one: instead of handing out tickets, police officers should hand out bells and lights to errant cyclists. While the idea may at first smack of rewarding people for breaking the law, careful consideration shows it not to be so simple. Ticketing, especially with equipment offenses which will generally be thrown out of court if the equipment is purchased or if the officer doesn't show up (which is increasingly likely), is an expensive excercise, especially once the police and court time are taken into account - alternates to tickets would prevent that. As well, if the goal is truly to make the roads safer for cyclists, giving out equipment has a greater success rate of getting people to have safety gear than ticketing - especially after being dinged, many cyclists may not be willing to pay even more out of their pocket for new gear. It's certainly an idea to consider.
Personally, I'll have a lot more respect for the police cracking down on cyclists 'for their safety' if they were to also crack down on all the little things that cars do that make the roads much more dangerous - a zero tolerance policy on stopping in 'No Stopping' zones (which are the very places that cyclists ride) would be a good start. Shouldn't we be making everybody make the roads safer? I think so.
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