While it’s common for the media to find a fallen New York cyclist responsible for his own death, the egregiously sloppy coverage of the crash that killed Nicolas Djandji makes plain just how eager reporters and editors are to blame the victim.
The prevailing narrative has it that last Friday, September 2, at approximately 8:30 p.m., Djandji was riding behind a friend eastbound on Borinquen Place in Brooklyn when he ran a red light at Rodney Street, turning left into the path of a driver headed west on Borinquen.
Read the Post: “A Brooklyn biker was fatally struck and dragged by a car after he ran a red light last night, witnesses and cops said.”
The News: “A Brooklyn bicyclist was struck and killed on Friday night when he ran a red light in South Williamsburg, police said.”
Also from the News: “A Brooklyn artist became the 10th person in the city killed while riding a bicycle this year when he ran a red light and was struck by an SUV in Williamsburg.”
And the Brooklyn Paper: “Police determined that the cyclist ran a red light at Rodney Street.”
Of all the reports we could find, only Benjamin Sutton at L Magazine pointed out the obvious:
“As that intersection has no left turn signals she [the driver] must also have been passing through it after the light had turned red.”
With such a gaping hole left unaddressed by media reports, we called NYPD for clarification. A spokesperson told us there was no mention in the incident report of Djandji running a red light. When we told the officer what the papers were saying, he was dismissive, indicating that this detail did not come from NYPD.
It’s impossible to know where the media’s version of the collision that killed Nicolas Djandji originated — perhaps from a witness, or an offhand remark by an officer at the scene. Nor do we know details like how fast the motorist was traveling, and based on the solid information available it’s impossible to say who was culpable. But we do know two things. One is that in cases where dead cyclists and pedestrians can’t speak for themselves, the city press corps is willing to forgo due diligence and repeat unsubstantiated claims. The second is that when it comes to traffic crashes in New York City, you can’t trust anything you read.
Update: A reader reports that eastbound Borinquen has a delayed green signal at Rodney, meaning that contrary to the L Magazine excerpt, it’s possible for someone traveling westbound at that intersection to have a green light while someone traveling eastbound has a red.