Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Vague Law Confuses Gwb Bicyclists

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Vague Law Confuses Gwb Bicyclists

Article excerpt

After pedaling over the big bridge and tying her bike to a small tree in front of the Fort Lee Municipal Building, Maureen Lin entered municipal court with a helmet in one hand, a traffic summons in the other and a question for the judge:

How should she pedal back across the George Washington Bridge without getting a ticket?

That's been asked by scores of cyclists who have been getting tickets for doing something on southbound Hudson Terrace that they've done for a decade with little fuss: They turn left across northbound traffic onto a limited-access ramp leading to the walkway across the bridge.

But after four hours, the Manhattan cyclist left court confused and $33 poorer. She and another cyclist reluctantly pleaded guilty to failing to stay right on Hudson Terrace, but two others got off for making the same turn.

"I'm not any better informed than I was before," she said.

Faced with four pedestrian deaths in the borough this year and with bike-car crashes mounting on Route 9W, northeast Bergen towns are struggling to improve safety. New York City bicyclists pour over the bridge and head north through Englewood Cliffs, Tenafly and Alpine, then continue past Bear Mountain. The return trip ends in Fort Lee, where police now strictly enforce road safety laws, including those requiring cyclists to keep right.

Does that mean the old turn is now illegal?

"We need a trial with both sides making strong arguments to the judge," said Capt. Tim Ford, who heads the patrol division. "That's how to resolve the safety issues there."

Maybe. But courts in towns with clogged roads and a big bridge that carries 200 vehicles a minute don't encourage trials. They encourage plea bargains.

Lin and three other New York Cycle Club members were among 200 defendants who lined up to make deals with the prosecutor. With the efficiency of a stock-exchange floor trader, Raffi Khorozian spent a minute or two with each of them as he offered to reduce charges and penalties in exchange for guilty pleas rather than resorting to time- consuming trials over petty offenses.

But the cyclists didn't budge.

Betsy Hafkin and Morene Bangel, who were pulled over together in June, ganged up on Khorozian to fight their $85 tickets. …

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