Cyclist Doored, Killed by Truck in Midtown

A truck driver opened his door into the path of a 63-year-old cyclist this morning, sending him into traffic, where he was run over by another truck. Though the cyclist, who has yet to be identified, was conscious immediately following the collision, he was later pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.

Here is the wire report:

FINAL UPDATE,RESP-4 REPORTS A CYCLIST TRAVELING NORTH BOUND 6 AVE BTWN 36 & 37 ST WERE A RED PICK UP TRUCK WAS PARKED BY THE HYDRANT WHEN THE PASSENGER OPENED THE DOOR AND STRUCK THE CYCLIST . THE CYCLIST WAS STRUCK BY A PASSING BOX TRUCK.THE CYCLIST WAS TAKEN TO BELLEVUE HOSPITAL {DOA} ..SIGNS & MARKING IN GOOD WORKING ORDER..PER OP-26

And here is how it was reported in the Daily News. Note the number of steps taken, and not taken, by the cyclist to put himself in mortal danger — starting with the headline.

Bicyclist killed after falling in front of truck

A 63-year-old man bicycling in midtown Manhattan Wednesday morning hit a car door and flipped into the street before he was run over and killed by a box truck, police said.

The man, whose identity wasn’t immediately released, was not wearing a helmet, a police source said.

It’s as if every action — hitting the door, flipping into the street — was initiated by the cyclist, who wasn’t even wearing a helmet. The drivers of the vehicles, meanwhile, are never mentioned in the story. In fact, the article makes it seem as if there were no drivers.

The Ace Hardware truck that hit the man stayed at the scene.

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of victim-blaming, even in the News.

Here is the 1010 WINS account:

Police said Wednesday that the victim, a Manhattan resident whose name
was not immediately made public, was riding northbound on Sixth Avenue
near 36th Street when he encountered the open door of a parked vehicle.
The impact caused him to land on the street, where he was struck by a
passing truck.

In this version, the cyclist encountered the door of a parked vehicle, which he apparently decided to crash into. At least this article refers to him as a "victim."

And though it almost goes without saying:

There were no charges, cops said.

  • Thank you for this comprehensive look at the power of media language to reflect and shape our biases and misperceptions about traffic crashes. This is one of the best and most useful streetsblog posts I’ve read yet (and I’m a big fan in general). Though this one will always be my favorite:

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2006/05/18/or-you-might-call-it-attempted-homicide/

    Thank you Streetsblog,for calling it like it is.

    You might also want to note for your advocacy purposes that the language in initial media reports about traffic collisions is often taken directly from police reports.

  • Hilary

    I looked at all the pictures and imagined an argument the driver might attempt in each case, e.g. “I was moving into the parking space,” “I was making room for a truck that had to pass,” etc. I’m not unsympathetic; I just think there’s a better way than having cameras clicking away on every square inch of the city’s streets (causing strobe flashes, if the one on Houston is an example) and necessitating intrusive infrastructure, screening of the pictures, and inevitable court appearances. Better to design the streetscape to obviate all of this.

  • I commuite every day on 6th in midtown and I always ride in traffic because the lane is so dangerous. Direct action is needed to get the city to do something.

  • sylent type

    first of all i know the man that was in the red truck hes an excellent man and should not be charged at all,its not his fault some idiot flying down the block in manhatten no less got struck by and opened door, he should have been wereing a helmet regaurdless,i think the whole bike lane should not be legal its dangerous to pedestrians and drivers, way to much traffic in the city, you have to be an idiot if you choose to ride in traffic in manhatten…..idiot!!so brent #3 and mike#1 commentators you are both retards if you wanna ride in the city with your bike your an idiot as well!!

  • Brownstone

    Dear Silent Type,
    With a friend like you, the man in the red truck doesn’t need enemies.
    Keep up the good work, I’m sure he appreciates your energetic support.

  • Steve

    Hilary,

    In case I wan’t clear, I was suggesting that TEA agents use cameras assist them in gathering evidence. TEA are already using small handheld computers with bar code readers that allow them to automatically print a summons by simply scanning the bar code on the registration sticker.

    I don’t see how giving them cameras would change things much (except for the violators). It certainly would not involve “having cameras clicking away on every square inch of the city’s streets (causing strobe flashes, if the one on Houston is an example) and necessitating intrusive infrastructure”, as you suggest. As for screening of the pictures, the TEA agents would use the digitally captured info as soon as it is captured to complete the summons in case the scofflaw drove away while being written up, and at the end of the day would upload the images to database for archiving and possible later use during court appearances.

    Rather than making court appearances “inveitable,” I think more violators would simply pay by mail if they knew they were facing photographic evidence bolstering the summons. In any event, I can’t see how taking the photos would result in summonses being contested at a higher rate than they are now. Some percentage of people who get parking summonses have always attempted to contest them, with the same kind of excuses you mention, and they still end up paying in most cases. The city has consistently increased the rate at which it issues summonses; life goes on.

    What might be changed through photographic and other enhanced enforcement of bike lane violations is to send the message that bike lane blockage is a serious, safety-related violation different than simply failing to feed the meter. There are almost always viable options to parking in the bike lane, and people will choose them if the penalty for bike lane parking appears more certain or serious.

  • the city is supposedly paying all this money for bike lanes and stuff and we are going to be too afraid to ride in them, or unable to because they are now delivery lanes and unusable. so new we are forced to ride in traffic, which puts us back to square one. wtf?

    the police, who’s salaries we all pay are supposed to do their fucking jobs by enforcing some kind of laws set up to protect us by ticketing these people blocking out lanes and never do.

    people will never give us any respect until THEY ARE FORCED TO. we can’t beg them to watch out for us. spending money on useless marketing campaigns is a waste of time and money. we can be thrown in fucking jail for riding together in a group and yet assholes like this can cause the death of another human being and still make it home in time for america’s top model.

  • Timothy

    this story rings, especially close to home as just yesterday my classmate and I were doored on our commute to school. There was heavy traffic on the side of us and a woman opened her car door quickly without looking at the traffic (and us coming). Both my friend and I went flying off the bikes after he hit the door and I hit him (riding single file). Luckily none of us were hurt badly although my front and back wheels were both so badly damaged that they had to be replaced. And of course the first thing the woman says is that you kids ought to be wearing a helmet. The she drove off.

  • Hilary

    Steve – You’re right about arming the TEA’s with cameras. That makes eminent sense, though its impact will be limited to frequently-patrolled areas of Manhattan. I suspect that what will change motorists’ behaviour than the risk of tickets is the risk of serious damages from claims made by injured bicyclists. Even small claims court would garner publicity and help establish precedents re liability. As it is, truckers and motorists don’t recognize who is at fault.

  • Hilary

    I can’t remember if there’s a question on the driver’s license exam re the liability of motorists in any encounter with bicyclists. If not, there should be, and incorporated into the mandatory educational video & booklet.

  • flp

    right on, cochon!!!!!

  • bike commuter

    This occured to me over the weekend.

    All this rage and discussion about bike lanes is useless until there is less cars on the street.

    The bike lanes are only as good as they can be with the rampant proliferation of cars and trucks on the street.

    Nothing will change until congestion charging takes effect.

    As long as drivers are so a huge majority, they will hold onto the mentality that they are superior.

  • hands on

    Who put that door in my bike lane?

    Bike lanes are almost more dangerous than regular streets. They create a false sense of security and all the double-parking causes a much higher amount of “merging” with speeding traffic. Make no mistake, it’s no-man’s-land out there on the streets.

    Of course more civilized countries have discovered the magic of separated bike lanes. Just swap the placement of parked cars and bike lanes and poof, it’s suddenly safe for everybody. Rocket science, I swear.

  • Tim W

    I rode by the scene of this accident that day on my way to work. The police had it roped off. I saw the bike, the truck and some stuff spilled on the ground. I saw blood on a towel. I’m sad to hear that that situation had a tragic end. WE NEED THE CITY TO BE SAFE FOR BICYCLING!! Wake up Bloomberg and DOT!

  • Memorial Ride in honor of David Smith and Franco Scorcia
    Wednesday, December 12, 2007
    Union Square South, 7 pm
    6th Avenue and 36th Street, 7:30 pm
    Broadway and West 40th Street, 8 pm

    Please bring flowers and candles. More info at http://www.ghostbikes.org and info@ghostbikes.org.

    There have been 23 cyclist deaths thus far this year. The annual Memorial Ride for cyclists killed in 2007 will be held January 6, 2008.

  • trek970

    A memorial ride is a wonderful idea, but when will nyc bike commuters finally unite and engage in direct, concerted action that will bring these *preventable* deaths and injuries to the attention of DOT, the city, and the general public in a way that cannot and will not be ignored? I am not thinking of a monthly institutionalization of something like critical mass, either. I am thinking about direct, concerted action of some sort in response to this senseless, preventable death.

    Everytime a cyclist dies somewhere in this city there is some sort of media event and response–a press conference, a ride to city hall, a memorial ride, a ghost bike….but at what point do these institutionally-sanctioned gestures simply play into a repeating cycle of death-victimization-uproar rather than acting as a catalyst for real change? In other contexts, Arundhati Roy writes about “officially sanctioned protests” and “media events” and I wonder if it isn’t time for us to brainstorm and begin to think more creatively….

    I don’t mean to downplay the significance of memorial rides, etc., but I do want to see more discussion of what these and other ways of “petitioning” accomplish….

  • trek970

    Here’s a moving quote about memorial rides and ghost bikes that, I think, also captures why–while beautiful expressions of grief and solidarity–they are also not necessarily the best ways to create political action. Notice how the quote is as much, if not more, about the personal expression of the participant as it is about direct action aimed at change.

    The quote is taken from an article at thegothamist.com about another rider, Ng, who was killed by a drunk driver who mistook a separated bike lane for a road.

    “Ng’s death prompted discussion of installing concrete and steel bollards on the bike path, instead of plastic pylons, to prevent further tragedy. And his friends and others saddened by his death (Ng was an NYU graduate and public school teacher) held a memorial ride and created a ghost bike for him: Eliot at Visual Resistance wrote, “When we create ghost bikes, or go on memorial rides, we tap into the hurt of this world and choose to honor that stranger we know could be our friend, our sister, ourself. We choose to remember, even if we never knew. That empathy is a holy rebellion. That choice makes us whole.”

    Again, my point is not to denigrate the importance of memorializing, but rather to ask, if we are to *demand* rather than ask for change, what else must be done?

  • galvo

    the bicycle ride that occurs on the last Friday of the month at union square park is the place to gather and let your voices be heard. The nypd continued harrassment and ticketing of these bicylse riders has had a negative effect on the turnout.
    NYPD top officals set the tone and example as to the police encounters with bicyclist.
    No one needs to run a red light to participate.
    just practice vehicular cycling and stop letting the nypd give the ruling of the roads to the cars
    whose streets ? our streets!

  • TIME’S UP! BIKE LANE ACTION TODAY
    3:00pm, Wednesday, December 12
    Greeley Square Park at 6th Ave (between 32nd and 33rd St)

    Time’s Up! will do an action to commemorate the death of 63-year-old cyclist, David Smith, one week ago and call attention to the unsafe conditions in the 6th Avenue bike lane.

    For more details on the action, go to times-up.org

  • david

    It seems [as it should] the tragic death has coalesced the cycling community in outrage. While enforcing the bike lanes might help to keep them clear it is obvious that the design of these unprotected lanes is faulty. The DOT seems aware of this because they are now installing physically separated lanes. Even the design that takes up a whole lane with separating stripes is better than these dangerous lanes that put us at risk of getting doored and are usually totally ignored by Trucks and cars, forcing us into moving traffic. I wonder if, as a pothole that is reported, makes the city liable if it causes an accident shouldn’t the city be held accountable when [as was the case of David Smith who was riding in the bike lane where he should have been safe and instead his safety was put in jeopardy] a design puts citizens at risk instead of making them safer. Maybe the pressure will speed up the installation of better bike lanes. I think that cyclists who experience first hand the danger of bike lanes that are continuously blocked should have cards to slip under the wipers of deviant vehicles warning them that they are violating the law, endangering cyclists and in most cases impeding vehicular traffic. The TA should make available these cards and if any cyclist wants they should make up their own. Still this doesn’t address the danger of dooring that is created by the design of the lanes. As usual it takes a tragedy to bring about outrage [I was about to say change but as of yet there has been none, except the ticketing of the car that caused the death of Mr Smith. what an insult].

  • OnlyBicycles
  • leah

    what do you suggest we do instead, trek970?

    making these deaths visible through public installations and rides, and creating solidarity among cyclists (and pedestrians) around these issues, has been helpful both for creating public dialogue about street safety and in the healing process for individual mourners. charlie komanoff described it more elegantly than i can in his “in defense of ghost bikes” article on this site.

    you can talk all you want about memorial rides not being radical enough, but these are powerful events for everyone that attends or witnesses them and they are drawing attention to the problems on the street in a way that is respectful to those most intimately affected by the violence of these crashes. what kind of direct action are you calling for, and what greater effect do you expect it to have?

    i agree that we do need all kinds of ways to recognize these crashes. but i’d like to hear new, insightful ideas rather than vague criticism of a project that has been bringing people together around these issues for years.

  • flp

    also, trek 970, have you yourself actually done anything? folks have been doing things for years, and, as leah points out above, they have accomplished a number of positive things. so they do not meet your satisfaction? then don’t just spit out rhetoric, DO soemthing! there have been several actions lately. did you attend any of them? you also are welcome to organize your own actions, campaigns, etc.. don’t just expect others to do stuff and then complain about it.

    BTW, the idea of a die in was floated way up among the first comments. however, how many of you attended the one that took place yesterday? maybe 1 or 2 of you, but the rest? yeah, that is what i thought….tooooo busy…. had to work…. blah blah blah – i guess as long as the excuse isn’t “i was doored and killed.”

  • Christa

    Cities can be designed to be bike-friendly.

    Here are some ideas for you: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4GwyXGtdNw#GU5U2spHI_4

    We also need programs/incentives that promote cycling over using an automobile.

  • Christa,

    We have at least *three* bike stair rails in New York City (two on the Triborough Bridge one on the E 82nd St. Greenway Pedestrian overpass). So there!

    Jealousy aside, though, this is a wonderful slide show that demonstrates the infrastructure and design elements that make, and reflect, a cycling-friendly city. It is so frustrating to sit through a local community board meeting where supposed “representatives” of the community will spend endless hours arguing over the disposition of three parking sports for cars, while complaining bitterly that the city is investing too much in infrastructure benefitting the minority who bicycle. But as long as cyclists are in the minority here, that will be the most potent argument against the modest investments that apparently have made Odense, Freiburg, Stockhom and Vienna, such cycling-friendly cities.

    Hopefully cyclists in New York City can break out of our chicken-and-egg status as minority road users undeserving of targetted investment in infrastructure (a DoT which is for the moment sympathetic doesn’t hurt, either). Let’s do it this year!

  • David

    I knew David Smith through a job of mine and only recently discovered about his tragic death when I happened to pass by his ghost bike. Thank you to those riders who created his memorial. I have read all of the posts in this thread and can only add that I refuse to ride my bike in NYC because it is so dangerous. I will unfortunately probably need to leave NYC before I begin to ride my bike the way that I did when I lived in Boston. I rode through many dangerous situations in Boston, but they pale when compared to the automobile madness in NYC.

  • ddartley

    David, I’m sorry that you’ve lost someone you knew, and we’re all sorry about Mr. Smith’s death.

    But the way to get NYC streets safer for cyclists is TO RIDE, and the way to tame automobile madness is for cyclists to overcome their fear of mere honking and assertively take up space, where motorists can very clearly see them. They’ll honk, but they’ll slow down, and that’s safer for us, them, and everyone else.

    Plenty of people here will disagree with me on this, but I’m afraid one of the reasons the cycling community lost Mr. Smith is the fact that the space set aside for cyclists where Mr. Smith was killed is pushed off to the side, and usually visually obstructed.

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