The death over the holiday weekend of a well-known figure in Brooklyn’s cycling community is being investigated by police as a possible intentional hit-and-run, according to the local website Gothamist. The death is focusing attention once again on the dangers the cycling community faces even in cities that strive to be bike-friendly.
The website, citing law enforcement sources and a local television station, reports “that the driver of a black Chevy Camero intentionally crashed into (the victim) around 2:20am Saturday” on a Brooklyn street as he was riding home from his job as a bartender in Manhattan. Video of the incident was captured by a security camera at a restaurant near the scene of the fatal bike and car crash.
It is especially important to note that the victim was riding in a bike lane at the time of the incident. “Investigators believe the driver pulled alongside… slowed down and moved the car partially into the bike lane, where the victim was riding… the driver then hit (the bicycle’s) rear tire and as the victim fell off his bike the driver slammed into him again, running over him and dragging him about 20 to 30 feet.”
As the New York Times reported a few days later grief at the 35-year-old man’s death was compounded by what many regarded as misplaced priorities on the part of the police. The newspaper quoted local residents saying that officers visiting the scene the following day seemed more focused on issuing tickets to cyclists for infractions such as not having a bell than on finding the car involved in the fatal bike crash. “There’s an assumption that it is always the cyclist at fault (when) most of the time it’s errant and lawless motoring that is to blame,” the newspaper quoted the head of a local bike and pedestrian advocacy group saying. According to the Times the incident was the city’s “12th cycling fatality of the year; this time last year, there had been five cyclist deaths.”
As a Portland bicycling lawyer I think we in Oregon can learn several lessons from this incident and the reaction to it. While we may not think of New York as an especially bike-friendly place the city has, in fact, invested heavily in bike infrastructure over the last 15 years. The Times reports that “on a typical day over 400,000 cycling trips are made in the city.” Yet even in as bike-friendly a place as Portland we, too, see regular instances of bikes being struck by cars or trucks. The New York incident is a reminder that even the best bike infrastructure is not a guarantee against reckless driving and that strong enforcement action is always necessary when drivers act negligently. Let us hope that the NYPD finds the person responsible for this terrible accident and that justice is served.
Gothamist: Police believe fatal hit-and-run driver intentionally struck cyclist in Williamsburg
New York Times: Grief for an avid cyclist killed in a Brooklyn Hit-and-Run