Bicyclists Roll on New York State DMV

     MANHATTAN (CN) – Bicyclists’ uneasy relations with New York took a turn into Federal Court this week, where a class action claims the DMV “systematically overcharged” cyclists by $88 for traffic tickets, and assessed them penalty points on their driver’s licenses, in defiance of law.
     Randy Cohen and five other named plaintiffs sued the state and four top DMV officials on Tuesday.
     Plaintiff Dan Kohn, a 41-year-old chief technology officer for a tech start-up living in Battery Park City, was pulled over in July for failure to yield to a pedestrian.
     An avid biker and occasional driver, Kohn said in a telephone interview that finding out that a cycling violation could affect his car insurance “surprised” him.
     “It seems kind of ridiculous,” he said.
     Kohn recalled looking at the back of the ticket, which said that the surcharge was mandatory.
     The lawsuit shows pictures of the type of ticket that Kohn and potentially thousands of cyclists got.
     “The total amount includes the fine and all applicable surcharges and CANNOT be reduced,” it states.
     When Kohn pleaded guilty online, the DMV website automatically charged him $133, he says.
     Only later did Kohn’s attorney tell him that New York traffic law exempts cyclists from surcharges and license points.
     “To find out that mandatory doesn’t mean mandatory is very confusing,” he said.
     His attorney, Steve Vaccaro with Vaccaro and White, told Courthouse News that he got the DMV’s counsel Ida Traschen, a defendant, to admit in writing that his reading of the law was “correct.”
     Their correspondence is included in the lawsuit.
     Traschen wrote in an Aug. 20 letter: “We will also remind our clerical staff of the need to be conscious of summonses with ‘bicycle’ designated thereon so that the correct entry is made,” according to the complaint.
     Cyclists kept complaining to him about the problem after that date, including after the filing of the lawsuit on Tuesday, Vaccaro said.
     Kohn added: “I think it’s a shame that it takes a lawsuit to get a state agency to follow the law.”
     New York State’s press office did not respond to a request for comment.
     The cyclists seek class certification, an injunction, refunds and damages for deprivation of property without due process.

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