By J. David Goodman
The New York Times
July 23, 2012
The eight wrongdoers sat inside a windowless basement classroom, serving a court-ordered penance for their transgressions. For the next 90 minutes, they would learn about the proper rules of the road, how to use hand signals and when to change lanes safely — even if most did not believe they had done anything wrong.
“He said I wasn’t in the bike lane,” said Kenny McKissick, a 32-year-old messenger. “But I was on the line.”
This spring, the Midtown Community Court began sentencing cyclists who had been issued tickets for certain offenses in and around Midtown Manhattan to a class to learn about bicycles and traffic.
Think remedial driver’s education — for bike riders.
“You couldn’t possibly ticket all of the stuff you see irresponsible cyclists do,” said Judge Felicia Mennin, who worked with the nonprofit organization Bike New York to develop the new sentencing option.
But, she acknowledged, some riders may be honestly confused about what is allowed. “There are a lot of laws and not always clarity about abiding by the law,” she said.
The class, held below a sports store on the Upper West Side, is the first dedicated to cyclists but is a close cousin to other education programs at the court, which seeks to address quality of life offenses like prostitution and graffiti with alternatives to jail or fines.
It comes amid broad agreement among bike advocates and the Transportation Department that compelling riders to obey traffic signals, go with traffic and stay off the sidewalk is critical to improving the image of cycling and ensuring the long-term health of New York City’s expanding bicycle network. That mission will become even more important once the city’s bike-share program rolls out in the next month or so.