Nassau County Legislature voted in favor of laws that would drastically affect the way you can now ride your bike, e-scooter or skateboard on a road or park in Nassau County.
On September 23rd, the Nassau County Legislature criminalized cycling when they voted unanimously on two bills concerning Helmets and Reckless Riding. The bills were sponsored by Legislators John R Ferretti Jr and Legislator Tom McKevitt who were determined to save drivers from being terrorized by reckless cyclists. The laws raise the helmet law to 18yrs and includes a summons that would force some teens to go to court, raises penalties to “reckless riding” to a misdemeanor (give kids a police record), enables police to impound bikes, scooters and skateboards without due process and defines “reckless” vaguely to include doing tricks, swerving, riding between cars or lanes.
Since Monday, hundreds of cyclists from Nassau, Suffolk and NYC have been reposting on social media, mostly with questions of electronic devices but also wondering when police are going ot be allowed to impound cars and trucks who terrorize cyclists. Daniel Flanzig, Esq gives his thoughts on the two bills, Helmets and Reckless Cycling, via Facebook. Key findings:
Helmet law: The law is inconsistent with State Regs and not based upon any reliable data that shows helmets reduce injuries in high speed crashes. The law is also inconsistent with neighboring Queens County. A cyclist can easily visit both in the same day but be confronted with inconsistent helmet laws.
A summons will be issued to a parent who is present if a cyclist is under the age of 18. For a cyclist between the ages of 16-18, they will receive and have to answer the summons. Yes, miss school and have to go to Court.
Reckless Cycling: The legislative intent discusses stunts, weaving between traffic and use of phones and other electronic devices. It does not, based upon my read, make the use of electronic devices unlawful.
As to operation, I am troubled with the portions that make it unlawful to ride "between road lanes or in-between vehicles" What if I am there first and a car comes up from behind. We are also allowed by law to leave the shoulder portion of the road to execute a turn and forget about the safety of "taking a lane". This is again inconsistent with State law and open to interpretation. Vague language like this is a problem.
Language that is also ambiguous is scary to a lawyer. For example operating a bicycle "without exercising reasonable and ordinary control over such bicycle ... without due regard for the personal safety or the safety of the public". Is a sudden lane shift to avoid a pothole or other rider now possibly a violation? This language is troubling.
This statute considers motorized bicycles without defining them. We need to define them BEFORE you can legislate their behavior.
Seizure: NCPD can now seize and hold the bike. The bike will be held by the County. The bike will ONLY be returned upon a final disposition of the charge and payment of the fine. Keep in mind NCPD allows unlicensed drivers and unregistered and uninsured owners to keep their cars but these kids lose their bikes BEFORE they are even allowed to challenge the charge.
Penalties:Anyone over the age of 12 is subject to a misdemeanor. We are now CRIMINALIZING the riding of bicycle in a certain manner.
This legislation is poorly written, full of inconsistencies, and is not the answer to any problems. The two bills are waiting for Nassau County Executive Laura Curran’s signature before they become law.
If the County is interested in protecting people with methods proven to save lives, they ought to stop being distracted by lazy laws and consider real solutions to address unsafe streets such as:
Support a 3-foot amendment to the Safe Passing Law
Strengthen penalties for drivers who flee the scene of a crash
Reinstate and ran opt-in school zone speed camera program
Amend Complete Streets policies to include road resurfacing