Drunk Driver Kills Cyclist on Hudson River Greenway

Gothamist has the sad, outrageous story.

  • Steve

    It is hard to fathom how drunk Mr. Cidron could have been to have misunderstood he was on a bike path, apparently for the several miles between the Chelsea Piers and Clarkson St. More likely he had become depraved and knowingly rode on the path for the “fun” of it. How do we prevent this tragic incident from bolstering statistics on the so-called heightened dangers of bike paths vs. roadways? For every drunk driver on the bike path there are 10,000 on the road, each as potentially dangerous as Mr. Cidron.

  • What a tragedy. I mean, the guy sounds like a saint. And so young!

    I say charge the Drunk Driver with full on manslaughter, not just vehicular which I believe has a much lighter sentence. No excuses for driving on a bike path. That is one of the most reckless driving moves you can make.

    Anyone up for a march or bike ride to raise awareness of this (while we can sans permit…)

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    “Raise awareness”, how about a mass rally to scream fucking bloody murder. Every cyclist on the East Coast should come. Don’t dignify the system by asking for a permit.

  • P

    It’s remarkable how low standards have been dropped when it is noteworthy that the driver actually stayed at the scene of the crash. Of course the car was nearly totaled.

  • Terrible though this tradgedy is,
    Right of Way, in its police report analysis analysis, “The Only Good Cyclist…”, found that drunk driving was the cause in only 4% of the bicycling fatalities that it studied.

    http://rightofway.org/research/cyclists.pdf
    See page 9.

  • gecko

    Haven’t been on the bike path in quite a while, particularly since it seemed to be getting quite dangerous. They must have fixed it up really well so that a drunk could drive on it all the way up from Clarkson.

    They should make it so cars cannot drive on it at all with only special small slow service vehicles allowed. I’ve seen cars, trucks, and police horses three abreast block more than a single lane.

  • Frank

    I’m ready for a protest at City Hall on the level of 50-shots-fired-at-an-innocent-black-man. Does the Livable Streets movement have an Al Sharpton? I’m so fuggin tired of the carnage and the injustice on New York City streets

  • d

    steveo,

    even though a small number of bike fatalities are caused by drunk drivers, that doesn’t change the fact that the west side bike path – a path ostenibly for cyclists, rollerbladers, and pedestrians – is highly vulnerable to infiltration by cars. witness the death of dr. carl nacht. no one was drunk in that situation.

    this tragedy is not about drunk driving. it’s about finding safe space for cyclists no matter what state car drivers are in.

    if ng and nacht weren’t safe on a bike path then there isn’t a place in this city that’s all that safe for cyclists.

  • Mitch

    The driver should obviously be held responsible, but I hope the victims family also sues the Canon Corporation.

    If they throw a big party like this (with free drinks?), they should take some action to make sure their guests don’t drive drunk afterward. In some places, bars offer free cab rides home to customers who are in no condition to drive. They have to come back in the morning to retrieve their own cars, but that’s better than spending the night in jail, or the morgue.

  • Steve

    Today’s coverage in the NY Times (found at http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/03/nyregion/03bike.html ) twice asserts that Mr. Cidron’s entry upon the bike path was unintended:

    “Mr. Cidron traveled south along a cobblestone access road after leaving a Chelsea Piers parking facility and apparently meant to turn onto the West Side Highway, park workers said yesterday morning.

    But he cut his turn short and ended up on the bicycle path instead.

    To do so, he had to drive over or around a narrow, three-foot plastic pylon mounted south of where the bike path intersects the Chelsea Piers access road. The park workers repaired the pylon yesterday. . . .

    Though Mr. Cidron’s wrong turn appeared to be accidental, . . .”

    How could these reporters possibly conclude that Mr. Cidron’s entry on the bike path was “accidental”? On the basis of statements from “park workers” who surely were not eyewitnesses to the accident, and who were interviewed the following morning? This conjecture that Mr.. Cidron was accidentally on the bike path flies in the face of the FACTS that gave him notice he did not belong where he was: (1) he had to drive over a YARD-HIGH pylon to get there and (2) he traveled for a mile without seeing any other cars (but seeing multiple white graphics of bicyclists on the pavement, not to mention a yellow line up the middle).

    This tendency to interpret the event as an accident is outrageous–yet so typical, as a review of AD’s “carnage reports” will demonstrate. Mainstream journalists are in a discursive rut that leads them, unthinkingly, to label any mishap involving an automobile as an “accident.” If Mr. Cidron had been driving down the sidewalk for a mile, the story would be a national headline. But because it was a bike lane, it is somehow an understandable and unintended accident–I suppose because bike paths are outside the everyday experience of the Times reporters (and, possibly that of Mr. Cidron, although if so this still would not create a basis for interpreting what he did as an “accident.”).

  • P

    Steve, I agree that there is something perverse about calling an ‘accident’ the actions of a man that will likely be found to be criminal in a court of law. However, it’s my understanding the resistance to the labeling of car crashes as ‘accidents’ is related to the systemic predictability of them not a claim that any individual is immune to mistakes while driving.

    Particularly looking at the bike path with its double yellow line in the middle it is entirely possible that a very intoxicated man could ‘accidentally’ believe that it is a roadway.

  • d —

    I agree 100% My main (implied) point was thet we ought to be cracking down on outrageously dangerous driving, especially if it results in a death, whether the person is drunk or not.

    Steve O.

  • Steve

    P, as to the tendency to label motor vehicle collisions “accidents,” I think it primarily reflects the fact that most of them fundamentally are accidental. I doubt that Mr. Cidron had a specific desire to kill Eric Ng, but I do suspect he intended to proceed down a bike path and probably told himself it was OK because probably no one would be out bicycling on a Friday night when they could be tooling around in a beemer like him.

    Ultimately you are right–I can’t know what Cidron was thinking. My point is that it was both ridiculous and typical for the Time reporters to stress his “accidental” entry on the bike path when they had nothing to go on but the uninformed speculation of park workers, and there was a mile worth of objective evidence that should have tipped Cidron off that he was on a bike path. They should have just reported the facts.

  • justicia

    Frank-
    Re: Does the Livable Streets movement have an Al Sharpton?

    The death of this young man, teacher, and cyclist is indeed an injustice. People who care about safe streets have a right to be angry and frustrated. But drawing parallels to racism and the persecution of African Americans is not appropriate or productive to the Livable Streets cause.

  • AD

    Mitch wrote in comment 9: “In some places, bars offer free cab rides home to customers who are in no condition to drive. They have to come back in the morning to retrieve their own cars, but that’s better than spending the night in jail, or the morgue.”

    And Santa Cruz, California, is considering a pass that would allow drunk people to park overnight downtown without incurring a parking ticket. Of course, the best defense against this, but one that will never happen, would be to require that all bars be located near public transit.

  • Frank

    Justicia,

    Why not?

    American automobile dependence and its attendant ills — 45,000+ dead per year, sprawl, obesity, oil war, climate change, the list goes on — is responsible for incomparable violence, destruction and evil in the world today.

    Not much is going to change unless there is a mass movement to change it. The American Civil Rights movement was a successful and historic effort to effect large-scale social change. If the Livable Streets movement also wants to be a successful mass movement, why wouldn’t its participants compare notes, steal ideas, and learn what it can from Civil Rights?

    Al Sharpton has made lots of screw-ups in his time. But he is also, potentially, the exact kind of highly effective and impossible to ignore NYC powerbroker and shit-stirrer we need. The guy created his own power base out of nothing but talk, hairspray and outrage. There are lots of potential models out there. He’s one of them.

    I’m not going to stop looking at models for social change just because some stupid, knee-jerk, NYC Liberal orthodoxy tells me that certain modes of outrage, rhetoric or protest only belong to one special constituency and no other.

  • Boogiedown

    Thanks Frank! Well put!

  • justicia

    Frank,

    You are absolutely right. Our streets will become safer when more people demand it as a right. We have a lot to learn from other social movements and it is exciting to think of the possibilities for new strategies. Maybe we do need to be more outrageous in our tactics to reflect the insanity of the situation at hand.

    But what I experience as a pedestrian and cyclist is just not comparable to racism. If we truly want to build a mass movement in New York City, we should work on developing a language and culture that attracts people of all backgrounds to the cause.

  • Justicia wrote, “We should work on developing a language and culture that attracts people of all backgrounds to the cause.”

    In this regard, the Adventure Cycling Assocation and the Center for Minority Health have formed a partnership and developed an Underground Railroad Bike Route. Adventure Cycling and CMH formed the partnership to “promote lifelong health through a form of physical activity available to people of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds” — namely, biking.

    Here’s a link to learn more about the Underground Railroad Bike Route:
    http://www.adventurecycling.org/ugrr/index.cfm

  • mattio

    justicia – well put. i think you and frank missed each other’s points a bit but got caught up.

    i think it’s really important to avoid the oppression mentality of comparing the bad, problematic, and dangerous use of public space to systematic racism, as one anonymous person did in the recent New Yorker article when s/he said, “bicyclists are the n—rs of new york.”

  • JB

    To me, when Justicia wrote

    “We should work on developing a language and culture that attracts people of all backgrounds to the cause”

    it smelled a Ieetle bad. Like, by comparing “the cause” to the Civil Rights movement, you risk alienating some people.

    White people?

    The Civil Rights movement did “attract people of all backgrounds”. Looking at it as a model for freeing the streets shouldn’t alienate ANYone.

  • Steve

    It can be hard to maintain fine distinctions in the context of a battle in (and over) the streets, but I think you can analogize the issues raised by the Cidron attack (I think that is a fair way of characterizing it) on bicyclists and the NYPD assault on bicyclists civil liberties to the black civil rights movement. They are different, but there are analogous issues and we can learn from the experiences of 30 and 40 years ago. Plus the two are intertwined: I have seen cops target black and Latino riders for equipment violations at CM rides. What we are dealing with is an undemocratic hierarchy in the allocation of public space in which bicyclists are, to put it mildly, second class citizens and motorists are encouraged and allowed in many different ways to exercise “self-help” to enforce that status on bicyclists and assert their own claim to the streets. The latest and most overt example of this process is the attempt to control and criminalize group bicycle riding by declaring it a “parade.” If you look at the development of the law regarding the constitutionality of parade regulations like the NYPD now has pending, the first group of important decisions were reached in the context of the 1960s civil rights movement, where federal courts struck down anti-parading rules used against protesting blacks in the South. Then in the 1970s and 1980s there are additional decisions in the context of the anti-choice abortion clinic demonstrations, and then later decisions address the rights of gay and lesbian people for inclusion in “mainstream” parades (i.e., St. Patty’s, etc). The right of access to the street holds “center stage” in the history of most civil rights struggles in the U.S. So while bicyclists’ struggle in NYC is not “the same” as the black civil rights movement of the 1960s (and beyond), it draws on and should be informed by that history.

  • JK

    As disgusted and sickened as I am by this horror, I am not surprised.

    Like the cyclist interviewed in the Times, I have often seen cars driving down the path south of the ferry and Chelsea Piers. On Thursday night (11/30) at 6pm, the bollard at the intersection of the Chelsea Piers service road and the greenway was definitely not there — nor was it there the previous day or week or month. I am skeptical it was there when the motorist exited Chelsea Piers.

    I can easily see how a motorist could mistake the greenway path for a road at that location, and south of the tow pound and ferry — which cabs often seem to do. Without the bollard (flimsy and inadequate as it is) it looks like a road, down to the big yellow line down the middle. Cycling advocates complained years ago to the State DOT that the path is marked to look too much like a road and that driver confusion was inevitable.

    Lastly, I wouldnt be surprised if the SDOT deliberately took the bollards down to avoid lawsuits by cyclists crashing into them — which is why NYC DOT doesnt have a bollard at the entrance to the protected bike path at the south approach to the Brooklyn Bridge. Which is another place where I’ve seen motorists driving straight at cyclists.

  • galvoguy

    memorial ride for eric ng Saturday Dec 9 washington square park 1pm

  • Clarence

    To follow up on JK…

    Yup if the DOT doesn’t do something, next crash killing a cyclist will be on the protected path approaching the Brooklyn Bridge.

    See cars in it all the time. Over the summer, my girlfriend rode into to Bike Habitat to work. THREE DAYS in a ROW she saw a car in the bike path.

    And I know someone who saw a car in the bike lane and rode over to an NYPD cop and asked him if he was going to write the car a ticket. The officer told the person to, “Mind their own business.”

    Of course it is that EXACT lassiez-faire attitude that is going to get more cyclists killed. That’s gotta change.

  • alex

    What recourse (immediate or after the fact) does one citizen have against another when one is a motorist who navigated their vehicle, whether malicious or not, onto a separated bike path? Harrassment, reckless endangerment? Would someone who is knowledgable with these issues want to help out with creating a cyclists rights campaign, perhaps with streetsblog? Perhaps this is already being done. I would certainly donate time and resources to construct painted metal/wooden signs to be placed along separated bike routes that are ostensibly enjoyed by motorists too. Such signs, regardless of city approval, could have contact information to report motorists or a website address where a list of suitable actions could be followed by the endangered cyclist.
    For example, if I am riding on the Hudson River greenway and encounter an errant taxi driver on the bike path, what can I do? Should I photograph his vehicle in the separated bike lane and march to the nearest police station to press charges against the driver (what charges would I want to file?)? At present, I would probably ride by and use a downward stroke to smack the shit out of his side view mirror such that it would break off (note: taxi mirror break off with relatively little effort). Without a clear course of actions that would actuallly yield results/consequences to the driver, my neanderthal-vigilanti-ism (an american genotypic trait from what I understand) is all that I, as a cyclist have left. Of course, after the fact, I would lament about what an asshole I was to the driver, but hell what other risks do aggressive and neglient drivers currently face in our city? Is there a fear of enforecement of current automobile regulations in NYC?
    I am curious what options cyclists have to protect themselves – in as much as the fear of prosecution encourages people to abide by the rules.
    Note that my question is specifically aimed at separated bike paths (Hudson River, various bridge entrances, etc.), I assume that it would be near impossible to lodge a solid complaint/charge against folks blocking bike lanes painted on the sides of streets – despite photographic evidence of their transgression.
    Off topic, but I am very interested in statistics regarding the number of citations written for moving violations of automobiles versus bike related tickets – standardized (normalized) to the respective number of users of each mode of transportation. How often do other people see moving violations being written to motorists? I have never seen it in my 2+ years of daily bike commuting. Yet, over that same time period I have witnessed about 8 cyclists being ticketed (during commutes – not related to CM). Does anyone know if these numbers have been compiled? Were these numbers in the recent TA report?
    Otherwise, remember to call you elected officials – especially city councilpersons – and let them know that the current risks posed to cyclists and pedestrians, as evidence by this incident and others like it, cannot be accepted as a fact of life in our city.

  • Sproule

    I have to chime in here with my experience on the West Side bike path while on my daily commute. I have seen cars driving down the path twice, one of them at speed, which was horrifying. I could easily have suffered Eric Ng’s tragic fate. In one case I was able to get the plate number. I called 911 and reported it, leaving my name and number. I never heard anything back, but the officer did say that mine was the appropriate response. So to #26, while I share your destructive urges in the face of such shocking and dangerous stupidity, I think calling 911 is all you can do.

    What’s the solution? Clearly, we need better markings or bollards on the bike paths, particularly at the intersections. Better enforcement of the laws would help too – I told a cop about one of the cars I saw on the path and he seemed indifferent. I hate to concede this point, but it could be a little confusing to the unfamiliar driver. The path really does look like a miniture road. In my opinion, some of these accidents (yeah, it was an accident…the driver didn’t mean to hit the cyclist) could be avoided if cyclists were more careful. I shake my head at the riders I see down in their aerobars, at night with no lights, ignoring the red bike light indicating they should stop at a crossing.

    Since my messenger days, I’ve really toned down the aggression in the saddle, and I think it dramatically reduces the risk. Get a headlight and a tail-light, stay out of your aerobars, and don’t run the red lights, and you’re much less likely to get hurt. Maybe if Eric Ng had a light (the Times article didn’t comment definitively on this, but it seems that he didn’t), he might not have gotten hit. The car that came barelling down the path at me served away from me as it passed and I have a headlight. The West Side path is generally the safest place to ride in Manhattan, and barring these freak (I’ve only seen it twice in two years) idiotic moves by drivers, it will continue to be a model bike path for the city. I wouldn’t ride anywhere else on my way to work.

    Although the New Yorker “Holy Rollers” article was in my opinion a bit lightwieght (and the “cyclists are the n*gger of NYC” comment was just absurd – thanks for including that, Ben), the piece did raise the larger issue of cyclist reponsibility. This cuts across many of the cycling issues we discuss in this forum, including cars in Central Park. Many cyclists ride around like they don’t have to obey the rules, and it hurts our cause. If park racers yell at pedestrians, messengers run over people in the crosswalk at a red light, and delivery guys ride on the sidewalk, that’s how people will see us. We need to ride with some common sense so we are better prepared when the unthinkable happens.

    My thoughts are with the Ng family.

  • crzwdjk

    To those that are making the analogy between civil rights and livable streets: yes, there is an analogy to be made, though not in NYC. NYC actually has a workable public transportation system, and high levels of cycling for transportation, among all classes. But in other places, there are distinctly two classes: those who have cars, and those who take the bus, or walk or otherwise don’t drive. And the users of public transportation are a distinctly lower class. It takes three times longer to get anywhere, and you have to put up with the possibility that the bus just won’t come at all. The vast majority of bus riders in Los Angeles do not have a driver’s license. And they are, for the most part, minorities. It’s a separate and unequal transportation system.

  • JB

    And you know what, crzwdjk? United States cities HAD a workable bus system…until Rosa Parks integrated it!

    Then what? Pretty much disbanded. “Well, if BLACKS are gonna ride the bus and sit where they like, we’ll fix their wagon: we’ll destroy the service.”

    Look at the photos of the civil rights movement from the ’50s and ’60s. Those are the middle class riding the buses. Very different from today.

    So, yes they are linked!

  • brent

    Was it an accident to drive to the open-bar office party in the first place? Cidron is negligent and MUST be punished to the fullest extent of the law. Every time some moron does something like this, it creates more fear of motorists which discourages cycling and walking. How many parents will think twice before taking a child on the path now? Its completely absurd that we should even need to fear this in the tiny parcel of space that is supposed to be safe from motorists!

  • Steve

    Very interesting comments from Sproule and crzwdjk. Unlike the situation in most of the country, New York City’s mass transit system, parks and sidewalks are class- and race- integrated. However, the public roadway space in New York is very different. There, you have a diverse mix of drivers, most of which believe they “own the streets” vis-à-vis bicyclists and pedestrians, and which consequently drive and park their vehicles in an aggressive, unsafe and often unlawful manner. Included among this group are suburban commuters speeding down the HOV lane in Central Park alone in their SUV’s on their way to work; working class commercial drivers who double- park in and out bicycle lanes because it’s the quickest way to get their job done and there’s no enforcement; parents double-parking as they drop off their kids at public school after a twenty-or-fewer block drive from home (why do they do it?); and Mr. Cidron, who decided to drive a couple of miles to his booze-up in his BMW even though mass transit and walking were options, perhaps because car ownership is so much a part of his sense of self that he would have felt naked without it.

    As anyone who bicycles regularly in the city knows, some of all of these different types of drivers believe they have a pre-eminent claim to the road and that they should not have to obey the rules regarding speed limits, right-of-way, passing safely, double parking, and bike lanes. Such drivers view bicyclists as interlopers and a nuisance. No, they rarely if ever actually intend to kill bicyclists. But do they routinely drive and park in a manner that recklessly creates a risk of serious injury to bicyclists and pedestrians? Yes–all the time. And do the cops do anything about it? Almost never.

    In the case of Mr. Cidron, I would say that he engaged in an attack on bicyclists and pedestrians by driving (apparently at cruising speed) down both lanes of a dedicated pedestrian/bike path at night, a path that in many places has physical barrier that would prevent a pedestrian or bicyclist from getting out of the way from an oncoming vehicle. I think there were enough “reminders” on the bike path to infer that, if Mr. Cidron was sober enough to navigate his way for a mile on the path without having wrecked his car, he must have been sober enough to know he was on a bike/pedestrian path (or at the very least on a two-way pathway with a yellow divider in the middle which would require him to stay to one side to avoid oncoming traffic).

    Sproule is absolutely right that everyone would ride with a light front and back and helmet. I was almost in tears when I read the interview with Ng’s father, who explained that he had helped his son attach reflectors to his bike just days before the collision. Imagine how that father feels now–having lost his son, wondering if it would have made a difference if he had just attached lights in addition to reflectors, or if he should never have taught his son to ride a bike in the first place. Yes, bicyclists should protect themselves, and ride safely even if it means some level of delays. But in any event, we know from that interview that Ng’s bike probably had reflectors, so unless Cidron was cruising down the path with his lights off, he should have seen Ng. Moreover, it is considered a scenic bike AND PEDESTRIAN path, so Cidron certainly can’t be excused on the ground that he anticipated the travelers he might meet that night would have had a light. No matter how intoxicated, Cidron must be presumed to anticipate the reasonable consequences of his actions, no less than if he decided to drive at cruising speed down a several block long section of the sidewalk surrounding Central Park. Those hex-paved walks have even fewer “reminders” on them than the West Side Greenway that cars are not allowed; no one would be speculating whether Ng was at fault or if Cidron’s acts were “accidental” if Cidron had struck a pedestrian Ng on Central Park’s exterior perimeter walkway.

    So my view is that Cidron’s attack last Friday is just a serious and tragic example of the general attitude of New York drivers toward bicyclists (let me say again that there are of course exceptions). That does not mean that these drivers–including Cidron–are “evil” or incorrigible; they just need to be persistently reminded, counseled and educated in a non-confrontational but direct way about the risks they create for others. The Ng killing has convinced me of the imperative need to devote as much time as possible to this task and I’ll be recording and posting footage of my efforts. I urge others who bicycle regularly in the city to do the same. Here are some of the sessions I filmed this morning:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aQCOH_xrL5E
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tiA0Mw9yG3M
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e_tsDGYE2gA

    I know that it’s not easy to find the time or nerve to engage in these traffic counseling sessions, and there is a risk of a violent confrontation. However you could have said the same thing back in the 1970s and 1980s about telling a rude fellow subway passenger not to use multiple seats or otherwise invade other users’ space, and now the situation has completely changed–in part because riders in general have become less afraid to assert their rights (and a lot of other reasons I don’t have time to go into now). As far as I’m concerned, the “streets renaissance” concept is about converting NYC streets from an anomic and Hobbesian contention for space (credit to RightOfWay) to a civilized realm of human interaction and cultural articulation. The only way to get from point A to point B is to start interacting and articulating–online and off.

  • Sproule

    Steve-

    Just want to clarify my earlier post: I was in no way excusing Cidron’s actions or his decision to drink and drive. I think he should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law…DUI, vehicular manslaughter, the works. I think we got tangled up in some side issues – of course, it’s inherent to forums like this – like “what is an accident” and race/class issues. The main point here is the lack of awareness among drivers, inadquate enforcement of existing laws and bikepaths, and cyclists’ responsibility to look out for themselves by taking precautions and riding with respect for others.

    Great that you’re harassing the bike lane scofflaws, Steve…keep on keepin’ on. In my experience the majority of people actually to listen to pesky cyclists, although I’m sure we all have our idiot stories.

    Over and out.

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