Cyclist Fined $ 1,555 For Blowing Through Red Lights and Wearing Headphones in New York

mail truck in bike laneA mail truck in a bike lane in New York. I wonder if he got a ticket./CC BY 2.0

Aaron @Naparstek tweets that "the NYPD has completely lost its mind." You have to think he's right, when they slapped a cyclist with $1,555 in fines in one stop. The cyclist was caught going through three red lights while wearing headphones; New York has tough new fines that increase with each offense.

The fines are $190 for the first offense, $375 for the second, $940 for the third, the same as for a transport truck. The cyclist told Gothamist:

I was guilty for sure of going through the lights and wearing headphones so naively I pleaded guilty and sent in the tickets. A few weeks later I got a letter in the mail, it contained my 4 tickets stapled to a piece of paper that indicated I owed $1555. It didn't itemize the cost of each ticket so I have no idea what each one is worth.

The real question is, what is the point of having an increasing fine? To stop serial offenders. Stopping a cyclist once after going through three lights is not really three separate offences. As a lawyer told Gothamist:

The point [of the increase in fines] is to harshly punish recidivists," attorney Steve Vaccaro says. "But a person who goes through three reds in a row is not really a recidivist.

Neither running red lights or wearing headphones while cycling are smart moves, and there are stiff fines for both in New York. But is $ 1,555 in fines reasonable for what is really a first offense? Sounds like abuse to me.

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