600 cyclists pulled over since start of crackdown

Posted: July 18, 2011

Cyclists Justin Murphy and Greg Johnson, both 24, openly admit that they regularly break traffic laws while biking in the city.

"I never obey a single law," Murphy said flippantly, balancing his black Schwinn fixed-gear near 16th and Walnut streets. "I'm not worried."

Maybe he should be.

As bike lanes spread around Center City, the Give Respect, Get Respect campaign aimed at promoting and enforcing the peaceful coexistence of motorists, cyclists and pedestrians has started cracking down on rogue bikers.

A traffic-enforcement team of bike cops stopped 803 cyclists and motorists from its May 16 launch through Thursday. Of those, 600 were cyclists, according to statistics from the Mayor's Office of Transportation and Utilities.

"Cyclists seem to be where the educational focus needs to go," said Capt. Alan Clark, who leads the patrol out of the Police Department's Center City District substation. He added that motorists received more tickets, while cyclists were mostly issued warnings.

"[Motorists] don't need education. If they ran a red light, they know what they did," he said.

Of the cyclists stopped, 590 were issued warnings, while three were cited for moving violations, which commonly include running red lights or riding against traffic and carry the same $120.50 fine as they do for motorists. Seven cyclists received code violations for riding on the sidewalk, which carry a $50 fine.

Andrew Stober, chief of staff of the transportation office, said he expects the number of tickets given to cyclists to increase in the near future.

"That's going to be at the Police Department's discretion, as they see particularly repeat offenders - and that's largely who's been getting the tickets that have been written already," Stober said.

During the bike patrols, which take place a few afternoons or evenings per week, a group of eight to 12 officers cruises Center City for three to four hours. The group either patrols a planned route or monitors busy crosswalks for violations.

In an average patrol, Clark said, officers generally make at least 40 stops.

Despite a push for equal enforcement as part of Give Respect, Get Respect, some cyclists said they feel unfairly targeted.

"Just because you give respect as a cyclist does not mean you're going to get it by some mysterious bicycle karma," said Julian Root, 24, a bike messenger for TimeCycle.

"As cyclists, we do have equal rights, and I do think equal rights come with equal responsibilities. [But] there's a big difference between a 30-pound bike and a 3,000-pound car."

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