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Cyclist Nathan Brauer fought the law — and the law didn’t apply.
Brauer, an architect from Fort Greene, was among those caught up in what some describe as a Downtown sting operation orchestrated by cops to ensnare cyclists riding outside the Adams Street bike lane — even to avoid a double-parked car.
But the 42-year-old battled the ticket in traffic court and had the case dismissed — a small victory, he said, in an ongoing battle played out on the borough’s mean streets.
The facts of the case are not in dispute.
It was a bitter cold morning on Feb. 2 when Brauer made his way to the Brooklyn Bridge.
“I was approaching Tillary Street and I was in the far left lane to enable access to the bridge most directly without interfering with other traffic,” he said.
That’s when Brauer — and at least 10 other cyclists — was detained by a police officer, and slapped with a ticket citing a state law that says that cyclists must remain in the bike lane.
Brauer conceded that he may have been out of the lane, but said he had ample reason to be.
“I try to be a law-abiding cyclist, but this is a habitually unsafe bike lane,” he said. “The road is filled with obstructions, people park in it, and when you try to get on the bridge, people are turning into you.”
Capt. Mark DiPaolo, the commanding officer of the 84th Precinct, has dismissed the notion that there was a ticket blitz for cyclists, though he did say that such tickets were part of the precinct’s effort “to prevent accidents and injuries.”
DiPaolo said he could not comment about the specific ticket, as he has not seen it.
Brauer was incredulous, recalling that on that day, he observed cops only handing out tickets to cyclists and not automobile drivers.
“If part of the reason you give tickets is to deter people and try to get them to drive legally — and you don’t do it — and instead go after cyclists, then what are you really accomplishing?” he asked, rhetorically. “You make it harder for people to ride a bike and you are turning a blind eye to people driving in an unsafe manner.”
On his way to his work, Brauer encountered Adam White, a cyclist and personal injury lawyer who offered a bit of pro bono advice.
“These cops are charging cyclists with a law that does not apply,” said White, who had advised Brauer to argue that the traffic statute allows cyclists to use their judgement, and use the lanes when they are safe to use.
“You can’t be convicted of something that doesn’t apply in New York City,” White noted. “If they are charging you with something that doesn’t apply, it’s impossible for you to defend yourself — it’s a violation of due process.”
The judge agreed — and tossed the ticket.
©2010 Community Newspaper Group
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