City Bus Hits and Kills Cyclist on Crotona Avenue in the Bronx

crotona_ave.jpgGoogle Street View of Crotona Avenue near the reported crash location.

The Daily News and NY1 are reporting that a 57-year-old cyclist was killed by a city bus this morning after riding to avoid an open car door. The NY1 report describes the collision by saying that the cyclist "struck" the bus:

According to the New York City Police Department, the woman was
traveling southbound on Crotona Avenue near East Tremont Avenue when
she swerved into the traffic lane and struck a bus.

Information about the crash is still emerging, but you’ve got to question the choice of words here. Does it accurately convey the risks of large vehicles and the responsibilities of their drivers to other people on the road?

"To say that a cyclist ‘struck’ a city bus, when buses weigh somewhere around 25,000 pounds, seems to skew perceptions," said Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives. "That language implies blame."

Update: Here’s the NY1 headline.

ny1_hed.jpg

  • Larry Littlefield

    Headline: “Bronx bicyclist who swerved to miss car door is hit, killed by city bus.” First line “a 57-year-old Bronx bicyclist who careened after hitting an opening car door was struck and killed by a city bus Wednesday.”

    I think the article puts the blame in the right place — with the person who opened the car door.

  • If the cyclist had to careen to avoid an opening door, then the cyclist should have been riding further to the left.

  • Cops issued the unidentified driver of the Camry a summons, though it was not immediately clear why, police said.

    link

  • molly

    “If the cyclist had to careen to avoid an opening door, then the cyclist should have been riding further to the left.”

    Unless something like, you know, a city bus made it difficult to ride further away from parked cars.

  • mike

    The driver should be charged with reckless endangerment at the very least

  • Doug

    I don’t know. In the suburbs, accidents involving out of control cars and trees often use language that says the car “struck” the tree. What’s the difference here? If the bus driver did something irresponsible, then fine, criticize the the wording in the article, but if the bus was simply in its lane, an unavoidable obstacle on the street, then I’m not sure there’s a problem here. Buses are a fact of city life, much as trees are a fact of suburban life. I

    What’s obscured in focusing on the bus, both in the article and this post, is that the driver who opened his/her door without checking bears responsibility for this tragedy, as Jonathan’s link points out.

  • Jeffrey Hymen

    “Does it accurately convey the risks of large vehicles and the responsibilities of their drivers to other people on the road?”

    No; (based on the information currently before us) it conveys the cause and effect of an accident resulting in the tragic death of a cyclist. That is the subject of the article, not some broader issue.

    Granted, I am peevish about streetblog’s apparent belief that all motorized vehicle travel should be made illegal, but I find the way you (and TA, in this case) cover this incident shameless, self-serving and tasteless.

  • Ian Turner

    “I saw her head strike my knee” – NYPD Office Smolka

  • Larry Littlefield

    I looked at the Daily News article. There certainly seems to be a difference in the tone.

  • Peter Meitzler

    This is the NY1 website wording, which should substantially change the course of this discussion — if true — away from the bus driver and directly onto the motorist. The image on NY1 shows a very narrow street and the motorist’s door still open, and from the position of the bus, that the bus driver made an attempt to swerve away from the cyclist:

    “According to the New York City Police Department, the woman was traveling southbound on Crotona Avenue near East Tremont Avenue at around 8:30 a.m. when the occupant of a parked vehicle opened the door, striking the woman.”

    -pm

  • Ken Coughlin

    Good one, Ian. We tend to prioritize ‘what strikes what’ according to which object is moving and which object is larger and/or inflicts the damage. Here we have not a tree but a moving bus. If someone got in the way of a bullet at a shooting range, we wouldn’t say ‘they struck the bullet.’

    The larger issue is that how we phrase it implies where we think responsibility should lie and what solutions are possible. The ultimate responsibility for this tragedy is with a system that in almost all cases continues to blithely mix highly vulnerable road users with other users who can end a cyclists’ life in an instant.

  • Very sad. A 57 year old woman woke up today, saw that the weather was going to be great and decided to get some exercise by riding her bike. And now she’s dead. That makes me very sad. A blood stained sunny day.

  • Steve Faust

    “Cops issued the unidentified driver of the Camry a summons, though it was not immediately clear why, police said.” Daily News.

    One hopes that the summons was issued for opening the door without looking.
    Both the NY State Motor Vehicle Code and the NY City Traffic Laws make opening a car door into traffic without first looking a violation. The fact that a cyclist or a car hits the door is proof that the driver didn’t look.

    Praise the Lord, etc, if the cops who reported to this crash knew that law. In most dooring cases in the past, the cops were totally clueless about the door law. There may be hope that bicycle and pedestrian specific details of traffic law are finally trickling down to the cops on the beat (Smolka excepted of course.) Will that information reach the drivers too?

  • Doug

    The analogy doesn’t fit, Ken. If you’re at a firing range and someone pushes you or causes you to fall into the path of a bullet at the range, the shooter is not responsible, the person who caused you to be in the bullet’s path is.

    Same here. If the bus was just going down the street and not doing anything reckless, it’s not the salient part of the story. We all ride and know that if we fall due to an open door or a pothole, even the most well-meaning, responsible driver may not be able to avoid hitting us.

    I agree that a better road system would prevent this, but so would a simple swivel of the head. Had the door opener looked first, none of this would have happened.

  • The question of responsibility is separate from the question of who struck whom. The establishment media and traffic investigators will often describe killed pedestrians and cyclists as having “struck” much larger and faster moving vehicles, and their word choice is no semantic accident. It’s one of the many ways that blame is shifted to victims and away from surviving parties who don’t much like being associated with death. The point is that if you fall into the path of a shooter, you don’t don’t “strike” the bullet regardless of who is responsible for your death. No one would describe it that way.

    But we can all recollect being passed much too closely by a bus, being cut off by a bus in a crosswalk, or barely stepping back in time for one that flies through a recently expired traffic signal. That kind of driving may not immediately kill anyone, but it ensures that any other unlucky event will result in someone’s death. That’s why reckless driving is illegal, but when it comes time to hold someone to account for it (or even investigate) our society shows no backbone at all. We’ve watched as tens of thousands of lives have been ended each year, still waiting for that fateful “swivel of the head”.

    It ought to be clear after 50 years of killing ourselves off: 100% compliance in head swiveling, safe passing, and the rest is not going to happen on its own. Perfection is not in our nature, and discipline does not come without consequences. We have very few consequences for careless driving in the US. These days we hardly bat an eyelash when an someone crashes a car without a driving license. What do we expect the end result to be? Of course 57 year-old ladies will be run over, the victim of the compounded carelessness of those operating multi-ton vehicles around her. If we keep wistfully hoping for people to drive carefully of their own accord, such deaths will most certainly continue to happen.

  • The Yeshiva World is reporting the woman has been identified as 58-year-old Mrs. Megan Charlop a cousin to Rabbi Zevulun Charlop of Young Israel of Mosholu Parkway.

  • BicyclesOnly

    It’s terrible when a cyclist is killed like this, but what’s worse is the cycling community sniping online at each other over how to interpret the contradictory crumbs of information that filter through the misguided mainstream media from the Kremlin-like grip of the NYPD. It’s months after Solange Raulston and other cyclists were killed on NYC streets and their unidentified assailants proclaimed blameless, and NYPD is still stonewalling valid Freedom of Information Law requests for the details of the crashes. If the past is any guide, the information will become available months from now, if at all, after the broader public no longer cares and/or other have been potentially endangered by road conditions that gave rise to the deaths at issue. The bottom line is this death is a matter of tremndous public interest but NYPD has stifled that debate as surely as if it had censored it by witholding information without valid reason.

  • Ken Coughlin

    Protesters in Thailand recently pooled their blood and then poured it onto the ground in front of the prime minister’s residence. Will this be what it takes to persuade the NYPD to give timely information on crashes? I stand ready to donate my share.

  • some girl

    Megan was a staunch advocate for livable streets and active transportation in the Bronx and she will be deeply missed.

  • Oh, I forgot to mention in my comment above: : when a cyclist allegedly hits a pedestrian and Ray Kelly is on hand to exploit the photo op, we get a press release from the NYPD laying out all the details of the incident, including the name of the cyclist. The names of the Toyota driver who doored Charlop, and the bus driver who subsequently struck her, are not disclosed in any of the press I’ve seen on the Charlop incident. This is blatant manipulation of public information by the NYPD and they’ve got to be called on it. The media should be demand an explanation from DCPI Browne right now as to why there is a different policy concerning release of public information on crashes depending upon the identify of the victim.

  • Later in the afternoon, NY1 apparently became aware of the inherent slant of their reporting and revised it to more properly reflect reality. Currently the headline reads:

    Cyclist Dies After Colliding With City Bus In The Bronx

    …and the text says: “The cyclist then swerved into a traffic lane and was hit by a city bus.”

    Phew! When I first read the headline, I felt sorry for that poor city bus, having been ruthlessly attacked by a falling bicyclist.

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