NYPD: Contrary to the Tabs, Fallen Cyclist Nicolas Djandji Didn’t Run a Red

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.

If you want to know what happened here, the city tabloids won't help you. Photo: ##http://gothamist.com/2011/09/03/cyclist_struck_and_killed_by_suv_in.php##Gothamist##

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.

  • I. Saffron

    Thank you for following up on this, Brad. I had thought there was something fishy about the mainstream media narrative. It is disappointing to see that cyclists and pedestrians must battle both the NYPD and the media to get justice.

    No criminality is police brutality when it comes to traffic enforcement.

  • The only thing I disagree with is the “impossible to know” part. We should figure out how reporters/editors got the impression that a dead victim broke the law if the NYPD’s report fails to include that detail. That’s the kind of victim shaming that we don’t tolerate in other kinds of incidents, so we shouldn’t tolerate it here.

  • Anonymous

    Is the NYPD investigating this crash?

  • Driver

    If he did not go through the red light, then it seem likely (if the rest of the story is  correct) that he turned into an oncoming vehicle.  Sorry, but if that is what happened, that kind of makes it his fault.  It still sucks that he was killed.

    I saw a comment somewhere that I can’t find now, that the intersection has a delayed red signal going eastbound.  Is anyone familiar with this intersection that can verify that this is the case or not?

  • Bobo

    Where did this website get its information? Where is its proof that the cyclist did stop and did have front and back lights on his bike at the time of the crash.

    With ““As that intersection has no left turn signals she [the driver] must
    also have been passing through it after the light had turned red.” it just indicates both the driver and rider might have run a red.

  • Driver

    Found it.  From Tacotownyo posted on gothamist:
    “No, there is a delayed green from the direction the cyclist was coming,
    it’s possible for the eastbound lane to have a red and the westbound
    lane to have a green at the same time. I’m the only cyclist that ever
    stops at this light when I’m on this street. Most people blow through it
    without looking which is insane because cars come down Rodney at 50
    mph. The fact that there’s a delayed green for the eastbound lane
    doesn’t really make any sense at all though. ”
    Can anyone confirm or deny this?

  • Anonymous

    @SB_Driver:disqus You quoted from Gothamist, “…cars come down Rodney at 50mph.”

    The problem is that cars are not obeying the speed limit.  The risk of someone being killed when hit by a car going 50mph is very high.  Under 30mph, the risk is much lower.

    So let’s say the cyclist turned to make the left on a green light, and was hit by a driver also with a green light.  If the cyclist is timing his turn based on a presumption of the car driving at or under the 30mph speed limit, isn’t the speeding driver at fault?

  • moocow

    I am going to go look. Give me 20 minutes.

  • Driver

    If the driver was speeding, which is not alleged or reported, the driver would be partially at fault, but the cyclist still has a responsibility to assess and ride according to the situation for their own safety.  No one should be presuming anything like the speed of a car.  It is a real time observation.  We should all be able to tell the difference between a car coming at 30 mph or 50 mph.  Of course you don’t know the exact speed, but judgment should tell you that one car is coming waay to fast.

    If the light is timed with a delay, one possibility is that Nicolas passed the red light assuming that the light would be red on the other side and the oncoming car would stop.  Whether this happened here or not, this would be a dangerous and poor assumption for anyone to make.

  • @SB_Driver:disqus Humans are exceptionally poor at judging any speed above 20 miles per hour.  Especially if a car is quiet at 50 MPH and is apparently under control it is very difficult to distinguish between 30 and 50 MPH.  

  • moocow

    Driver,
    It appears that your Tacotown quote was right. There is an east bound Delayed green. (to let the cars coming out of S2nd St have a chance at clearing the intersection.)
    While the east bound cars wait for approx 20 sec the westbound cars pass through. There is still a long green in both directions though.
    4p on a Thursday this intersection is host to a ton of selfish, impatient driving. Wonder what Friday at 8:30p looks like.
    It always spooks me to be at a crash site… If he did make a mistake, and above all this armchair quarterbacking, I say he certainly shouldn’t have had to pay for it with his life.

  • Driver

    Thanks for checking that out moocow.  Yes, it sucks that he was killed. 

  • Jeremy

    “egregiously sloppy coverage of the crash ”  hmmmm.  Lookin’ at you, L Magazine.

  • Jeremy

    “egregiously sloppy coverage of the crash ”  hmmmm.  Lookin’ at you, L Magazine.

  • Jeremy

    “egregiously sloppy coverage of the crash ”  hmmmm.  Lookin’ at you, L Magazine.

  • Jeremy

    “egregiously sloppy coverage of the crash ”  hmmmm.  Lookin’ at you, L Magazine.

  • Chris

    This intersection is awful, for cars, pedestrians and cyclist. Borinquen splits into two right before Rodney, there is a delayed green on Borinquen, and Rodney is a raceway. Throw in the noise from the BQE. 

    Of course that did not stop the blogs and media from jumping to all sorts of conclusions. 

    The cyclist made a left turn into oncoming traffic, a failure to yield. Given that its hard to see how the driver will be charged with fault. 

    Sadly the price for that mistake when Cycling in this city (where cars drive far faster than need be) is often death. 

    Until the city completes the move to slower cars and registering bikes (with lights and reflectors) this sort of crap will continue to happen. 

  • moocow

    Don’t leave out registering cars too! They should also have to use lights and reflectors!

  • > Of course that did not stop the blogs and media from jumping to all sorts of conclusions.

    > The cyclist made a left turn into oncoming traffic, a failure to yield. Given that its hard to see how the driver will be charged with fault.

    Which is just another sort of conclusion to jump to. The civilized thing to do after an unnatural death is to apply a judicial process for establishing facts (what is “given”) and then render judgment consistently, according to law and without prejudice. This is the only way for the public to know their government is fair.

    The distance between what we are doing and a civilized judicial process for determining fault is staggering. We are at the far end of the spectrum from the ideal of blind justice, and we know it. As far as traffic deaths are concerned, I’d say we may as well be in the third world but I’m sure there are some third world countries that put us to shame.

    And light, reflectors, registration—seriously? Lots of people killed on bicycles have the first two plus a drivers license, none of which stops two tons of speeding metal from ending their lives. The broader problem with these creeping requirements for bicycle baubles is that far more pedestrians than cyclists are killed by autos. Those pedestrian deaths are no more acceptable than cyclists deaths; when are we going to start asking pedestrians to wear blinking lights? To “register” themselves to use the streets? I hope never, but you start to hear inklings of that in places outside New York that have zero respect for pedestrians, that people walking should be wearing bright clothing and even waving dayglo flags. (It’s funny how having respect for people tends to ward off legal requirements that they must look ridiculous.)

  • It was initially reported that both vehicles (bicycle and motor) were making left turns when the wreck happened. Wouldn’t that imply that both failed to yield?

  • It was initially reported that both vehicles (bicycle and motor) were making left turns when the wreck happened. Wouldn’t that imply that both failed to yield?

  • Anonymous

    Weird, I’m being quoted here? Anyway, HamTech87, neither the bike or the car were on Rodney Street. It’s irrelevant in this case that cars speed down Rodney. I was only stating that it’s insane to me that bikes run the red light at this intersection because Borinquen intersects with Rodney here. Rodney is, essentially, a service road for the BQE that cars travel down at excessive speeds and would have no time to stop for a cyclist running a light and might not even see them because of the trees in the park at the street corner. Everybody that I see running the light here doesn’t even so much as glance to their right to see if there is a car coming.

    That does not mean that the car in this case was speeding however, although it’s also entirely possible being that cars on Grand and Borinquen also speed well over the limit as well.

    Interesting that whether or not the light was red wasn’t in the police report. It seems like the police didn’t do much of anything in the way of investigating though with how little information they claim to have. Either way, please DON’T run the red here, or anywhere, but especially not here! I never say this about anything on a bike pretty much, but seriously, it’s a death wish.

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