When the NYPD testifies, you better have a speed dial fact checker.
On Wednesday, Transportation Bureau Chief Kim Royster was part of a team of NYPD officials who fielded questions from city council members, but some of Royster’s answers defied logic and, as it turned out, , the truth.
When Transportation Committee Chair Selvena Brooks-Powers (D-Southeast Queens) asked Royster if the NYPD was continuing its commitment to clearing bike lanes of illegal parking, Royster said something few cyclists have personally witnessed: “So far this year, the bike lane app is up 148 percent.
Really? We contacted the NYPD for the raw numbers and learned that bike lane enforcement was not in place at all. It’s actually down…significantly.
So far this year, cops have issued 24,754 tickets for parking in a bike lane, up from 26,445 at the same time last year. That’s a drop of 6.4 percent.
It turns out that even though Royster mentioned “enforcement of bike lanes,” the NYPD later said Royster was only talking about summonses for conduct in a bike lane, which is a tiny part of the NYPD app. Indeed, this year, the cops wrote 930 fines of this type, against 375 at the same time last year. That is, in fact, up 148 percent.
Add them? “Bike lane app” is always down more than 4 percent.
Later, Brooks-Powers questioned Royster about illegally parked tractor-trailers being left overnight on city streets, which is certainly a quality-of-life issue the NYPD said it would address.
Instead of giving numbers on how the NYPD tows these illegally parked vehicles, Royster said this:
“We do a lot of call-ups in some of these areas. So for code 78, which is a commercial truck parked at a location [overnight], that particular fine is $65, but we’re looking at tractor trailers. This particular fine is $250 for the first offense and $500 for the second offense, so that’s what police stations do, that’s that enforcement.
Note that Royster did not answer the question and instead read the violation code book instead. Brooks-Powers could not follow up, so we asked the NYPD if, in fact, precincts are make this app. Turns out they’re not.
Here are the year-to-date numbers for Code 78 calls:
- 2019: 11,075
- 2020: 7,856
- 2021: 7,789
- 2022: 5,886 (down 24% from the previous year and 47% from 2019)
So, no, they are not. The NYPD said Royster also reports Code 6 violations, which relate to illegally parked tractor-trailers, but those numbers are also down this year:
- 2021: 532
- 2022: 395 (down 25%)
Royster’s revelations came after she took up most of Brooks-Powers’ five-minute questioning by speaking in generalities that seemed designed simply to waste time. The Council member asked: “Cycle lanes continue to be added every year and now car use and traffic is increasing. Fatalities for every type of transport increased in fiscal year 2021, from pedestrians to motor vehicles. What new initiatives or programs, if any, do we have to address this issue? And how do we ensure the safety of pedestrians and cyclists? In terms of cleaning cycle paths, for example? Do you issue tickets for blocking bike lanes? »
This is Royster’s full answer that didn’t answer the question in any way, but sounded like Royster was reading a DOT Vision Zero press release. It arrives at 4:45 – using all but 15 seconds of Brooks-Power Question Time:
So hello. Advisor. Nice to see you, and thank you very much for this question. I am happy to talk about road safety, it is public safety. And one of the ways we coordinate with the Department of Transportation is we look at the engineering, education, and enforcement of our Vision Zero initiative. I am responsible for coordinating the Vision Zero initiative for the NYPD. And every week we have a road safety forum. This is a multi-faceted, holistic traffic forum where we meet our Vision Zero partners. This would be the Department of Transportation, TLC, MTA and other city agencies. But the most important thing is to focus on pedestrian and cyclist deaths. It is about reducing the number of deaths and saving human lives. And how do we do that? It is a layered effect. Our law enforcement is focused on one, the science, the data — where are these deaths happening? Where do collisions occur? What about collisions with injuries? And we’re focusing on that particular data, but we’re also focusing on where should the law enforcement be? Where do we deploy our officers, precinct officers, as well as transportation office officers.
And then the last pillar would be culture. How to change the culture? The driving culture, which we have seen since COVID, has been reckless. People who take the wheel, people who accelerate, people who don’t yield to pedestrians. So, with these three pillars of the Road Safety Forum, our main objective is to reduce the number of fatalities. And how do we do that with the Department of Transport? One of the ways we do it is that all the executives from our 77 ridings attend these forums, and they have to tell us what their plan is in that riding. What are their security plans? What are they tackling, and the Department of Transportation sitting side by side to figure out what engineering issues need to be fixed in these various neighborhoods?
The other thing is we look at outreach: how can we reach the community. And we are stepping up our efforts this year, because we wanted to make sure that not only motorists, but also pedestrians know about road safety. And awareness is also done through our social media, and also by going to different audiences and talking about what we see in the community and what we should be looking at safely.
Now, when I mentioned law enforcement, we saw that a lot of fatalities—I mean over 50% of fatalities involving pedestrians—occur at intersections, and so our enforcement is focused on intersections. And I just wanted to say that the enforcement this year, year-to-date, is reinforced at intersections. [Note: This is not really true.]
We also look at speed, speed during hours of darkness and also speed on our highways. And we actually deployed road units all over the city in various places where we found motorists were driving too fast. What caused our deaths this year is on the highways. Seventeen people have died on the highways due to speeding. And this concerns both passengers and operators.
I just want to say that when you start looking at enforcement levels, we need to do that in all of our ridings. Everyone is involved. It’s a fair application. We review dangerous violations. This means red light violations, people failing to yield to pedestrians, people speeding down our streets, people not using their seatbelts. These are all dangerous violations that we review and we enforce fairly. I just want to say that last year we had to visit because we realized that we wanted everyone to be involved in road safety, not just for 28 days, not just during the day but every day. So last year we implemented a way to track whether agents were actually interacting with the public. And that particular process has resulted in over 88,000 engagements with the public regarding public safety awareness.
I’ve reached out to council member Brooks-Powers and will update this story if she responds.
Gersh Kuntzman is editor of Streetsblog. His Cycle of Rage chronicles are archived here.