Cyclist Emma Blumstein Killed by Truck Driver in Brooklyn, No Charges Filed

Photo: CrownHeights.info

The cyclist killed Tuesday by a truck driver on Bedford Avenue has been identified by NYPD as Emma Blumstein, 24.

Based on NYPD’s description of the crash, Blumstein was the victim of a left cross. According to police, Blumstein was traveling south on Bedford, while the driver was northbound on Bedford and turning left onto Empire Boulevard. Bedford Avenue has bike lanes in both directions at this location.

The crash occurred at approximately 11:27 yesterday morning. From CrownHeights.info:

The driver, who was visibly shaken, told CrownHeights.info that “she was just coming so fast and I was already into the turn; I just could not stop”.

The victim was run over by both the front and rear tires of the truck, and was pronounced dead at the scene by Hatzolah.

Photos from CrownHeights.info show NYPD crash investigators at the scene. “No criminality is suspected,” according to NYPD.

This fatal crash occurred in the 71st Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector John Lewis, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 71st Precinct council meetings happen at 7:30 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at M.S. 61, 400 Empire Boulevard. Call the precinct at 718-735-0527 for information.

The City Council district where Emma Blumstein was killed is represented by Mathieu Eugene. To encourage Eugene to take action to improve street safety in his district and citywide, contact him at 212-788-7352, mathieu.eugene@council.nyc.gov or @MathieuEugene.

Photo: CrownHeights.info
  • Larry Littlefield

    The details make the driver seem far more culpable.  This isn’t a case where the driver and cyclist were traveling in the same direction.  The driver just thought he could beat the bicycle if he hit the gas.

  • Jesse Greene

    We all know what happened here because it’s happened to anyone who’s ever ridden a bike on a two-way street.  The driver underestimated the speed of the cyclist and thought she could beat her to the turn.  No one in a car should have to wait 2 whole friggin seconds for a bike after all!  We’re only human.  So she accelerated into the turn and … “oops! I didn’t realize you were going so fast! Try not being so small, vulnerable, fast, and in-the-way next time.”

    Does it matter at all that the bike absolutely had the right of way?

  • I’m still not sure I exactly understand how this was even possible unless the driver of the truck was recklessly speeding into a left turn. 

    If he accidentally cut her off because she was zooming past him on the left, perhaps the “criminality” is less clear, or at least in partial doubt. In that case, he could have done everything required to make the turn safely – slowed down, signaled, checked all directions, yielded, and proceeded – and she might have behaved in a manner to put herself in harm’s way – riding too fast to control the bicycle, switching lanes unpredictably, ignoring a turn signal by the truck, and perhaps even outright speeding. 

    But the truck ran her over from the front. With two tires.

    Seems clear to me that the truck was going full speed through the turn, collided with the cyclist near the front side, knocked her over, gruesomely ran her down, and then couldn’t stop before the vehicle fully traveled over her. 

    It should also be clear that she had the right of way and was in a separate lane, which the truck crossed directly over without yielding the right of way. 

    On what planet is this not an egregious traffic violation? Had that been a car lane with a vehicle passing and a passenger died, the truck driver would have been charged with vehicular manslaughter. But a cyclist? Just another totally fair risk of being on the road, I suppose.

  • Anonymous

    Wow, how can there be no criminality suspected?

    If you’re turning left you have to wait for oncoming traffic.   And if you’re too inpatient to wait and hit the biker, then you should go to jail for at least 20 years.  

    And Ray Kelly is lauded by Newsweek.  Who the fuck are these people.  

  • Eric McClure

    “She was just coming so fast?”  Like maybe 15 mph?  Once again NYPD turns a blind eye to lethal driving.  Sickening.

    Condolences to Emma Blumstein’s family and friends.

  • Alen Teplitsky

    driver’s fault. i drive and this is a dangerous type of turn and i almost hit someone at night because i didn’t see them. i was trying to make sure that i had no oncoming traffic.

    and in my experience the drivers who drive every day for work are the worst ones. they are always doing stupid and dangerous sh1t just to save a few seconds here and there

  • Anonymous

    The cyclist was going too fast?!! This is craziness!! Add that to the list of excuses drivers can give along with the ubiquitous, “I didn’t see him/her”. I know there is a hill there but I would highly doubt that she was going over the 30mph speed limit, not that it even matters in this case.

    I guess its all relative. A cyclist going 10mph was probably going “too fast” for the motorist who turned in front of them and ran them over. Keep suing the NYPD until they get it!!

  • Joe R.

    This looks to me like a clear case of the driver underestimating the cyclist’s speed. The same thing happens to me quite a bit. For example, I might be going straight and several cars going the opposite direction are turning left. I’ll actually see them yield to cars the same distance from the intersection as me, but once the car(s) pass, they start turning, then slam on the brakes mid-turn once they see me get to the intersection nearly as fast the cars did. A downhill as in the first picture above could complicate things even more since I might be moving as fast as car traffic (or occasionally even faster). Pedestrians tend to underestimate my speed even more than drivers. I do leave myself an out in case a left-turning motorist doesn’t stop for me. In general, that might mean swerving into the crosswalk, or if the vehicle is already well into the left turn, just going around their rear. If there’s no room for an “out”, I slow down a bit so I can stop should a left-turning motorist not give me right-of-way.

    Bottom line-driver training on interacting with cyclists should include not assuming all cyclists travel 10 mph or less. Many experienced cyclists are often going in the 20 to 30 mph range. Some far exceed that on downgrades. In this case, it appears the driver also made the mistake of entering the turn too fast. Suppose there had been pedestrians in the crosswalk of the street the driver was turning into? Would she have been able to stop in time? Probably not since she completely ran over a cyclist who was riding in the bike lane-a mere 10 feet or so from the crosswalk. I’m amazed the driver wasn’t charged with something here. The cyclist had the right-of-way, period. 

  • If the NYPD won’t charge a driver for murdering a cyclist who had the green and was traveling straight through an intersection with bike lanes, they won’t charge anyone.

  • J

    Driver #1 turns and hits driver #2, who has the right of way. It’s a clear cut case. Driver #1 is found culpable every single time. That is, unless driver #2 is on a bicycle, in which case it is surely the cyclist fault. ~sarcasm

  • Joe R.

    @EricMcClure:disqus Not that matters at this point, but on a hill like that even freewheeling you’ll be going well above 15 mph. I usually get into the 30 to 35 mph range on similar hills with not too much effort. Regardless, it’s highly unlikely Emma was exceeding the 30 mph speed limit here, so her speed was immaterial. How the police are buying that excuse is beyond me. Then again, a lot of people have the mentality that a bike going over 10 mph is “speeding”, even though the same speed limit applies to both bikes and motor vehicles.

  • Anonymous

    It may well be that the driver saw the cyclist and tried to beat her through the intersection even though she had the right of way.  If so, there should be a criminal charge.  It may also that the driver was inattentive/had poor eyesight, was looking for big things in oncoming traffic, like motor vehicles, not smaller things like cyclists.  That would make it a closer case as to whether he had the requisite awareness of the risk to charge him criminally.  The best way to determine this is with statements from disinterested eyewitnesses, the black box from the truck, measurements at the scene and if available, video footage from establishments near the scene.  If NYPD has not already gathered and preserved that evidence, the driver’s story that it was the cyclists’ fault will probably provide the only basis for determining whether there will be criminal charges.

  • J

    Basically, what NYPD is saying is that when you set foot on a bicycle, you waive your rights, all of them. The laws no longer apply to you and you’re on your own. I think about that every time I get on my bike.

  • Joe R.

    @Uptowner13:disqus Actually, the reality seems to be that when you’re on a bicycle, the laws which protect you no longer apply, but the laws which work against you still do. After all, the NYPD has plenty of resources to ticket cyclists slow-rolling through red lights, but can’t be bothered keeping bike lanes clear, or ticketing turning motorists who fail to yield to cyclists or pedestrians.

  • cyclist going straight in one direction, car from the other direction turning left. cyclist has right of way. This is exactly how I was hit a few years back and everytime I told someone the story they all agreed… there’s no way the driver wouldn’t have seen me, unless he/she simply wasn’t looking. 

  • Anonymous

    The driver had a full left turn pocket from Bedford Ave to Empire.  There should have been no pressure on the driver to clear the turn lane for straight through traffic behind before looking for oncoming traffic. 

    Google Map of Site clearly showing motor turn lanes and bike lanes:
    http://maps.google.com/?ll=40.663391,-73.95715&spn=0.001064,0.002205&hnear=Brooklyn,+Kings,+New+York&t=h&z=19&layer=c&cbll=40.663509,-73.957161&panoid=ToGC0cM4ylum6c0AT_RZ6Q&cbp=12,269.98858396702815,,0,0

    Turning traffic shall yield to all straight through traffic.  What part of NY Vehicle and Traffic Law doesn’t Ray Kelly and the NYPD understand?  Better question; what part DO they understand?

    I used to live at the top of that hill in the 1950s.  It is about 20, maybe 25 MPH freefall down Bedford, certainly not over 30 MPH.  The ride home was always a schlep up after a long day.  

  • J

    @Doug_Gordon:disqus It’s not murder, unless there’s intent. As crappy and dangerous as many drivers are in this city, pretty much zero of them are trying to kill people.

    That said, driving in a manner that has been shown to cause death and injury is criminal. As cyclists we often get chastised and ticketed for not following the rules of the road. Yet when we are injured and killed by others not following the rules of the road, all of a sudden those rules no longer apply.

  • Anonymous

    Streetsblog:  I know like we all do that the “no criminality” is like, an automatic statement at the scene, but does that statement at the scene or within the first few hours always indicate that there won’t be any charges forthcoming?  Or have you seen cases where that rote statement is made at or soon after the scene, but then charges do come up?

  • guest

    I know that intersection, and you can pick up some speed coming down Bedford on a bike.  I doubt she was going 30, but 20 is certainly possible.  Maybe she was trying to beat the light at the same time as the driver. 

    Clearly the driver has a responsibility to yield and the cyclist has the right of way, but the reality is that there are a lot of bad drivers in NYC.  I feel that as a cyclist you always have to ride as if drivers aren’t going to see you or yield to you, especially crossing a big intersection like that. Drivers often take left turns like that too quickly because they are either trying to beat a light or beat oncoming traffic, so their attention is on the light or on the traffic and not on the oncoming cyclist. 

  • Keith

    What would the charges be had Ms. Blumstein been a pedestrian or a passenger in a car? Why does the NYPD treat this situation any differently?

  • @ddartley:disqus All it means is that the driver was sober and stayed at the scene. In NYPD’s view, those are the only two possible indicators of criminality, and they just repeat this rote phrase when it wasn’t a DWI or hit-and-run. 
    It’s possible that the DA might decide to press criminal charges later. In my experience that is very rare.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Speeding it wasn’t.  But it is possible given the hill that the cyclist was going too fast to defend herself against a reckless driver.  That’s why I don’t go more than 15 mph except, sometimes, on the downhill side of the Manhattan Bridge bike path.

    Taking the lane might have protected her against a right hook, but not against this.

    Aggressive drivers will often violate the right of way of other drivers to force them to stop and yield.  You see it all the time.  I taught my kids that when one lane is blocked, as by a double parker or left turner, to expect vehicles in that lane to cut them off, and be prepared to jam on the brakes.  And just today while I was on a bicycle, a taxi in the left lane approaching a vehicle waiting to make a left turn swerved into the right lane, and the taxi in the right lane moved right, almost into me.  But I anticipated it.

    Consider riding northbound on Lafayette at Delancey.  The southbound motor vehicles have a left turn arrow.  Then the arrow ends and the northbound lane gets a green light.  But if a bicycle does not wait until there are some northbound motor vehicles as a screen, they risk getting run over by a southbound vehicle turning onto Delancey and trying to beat the northbound traffic.

    The driver won’t say so, but perhaps he figured if he got out ahead of her she would have to stop and wait for him. 

  • My condolences to Emma Blumstein’s family and friends. 

  • There’s always that moment when you’re heading through an intersection on a two-way street, and you see a vehicle paused to turn left across your path.  Some drivers inch forward as you approach, even though they see you.  Do you slow down for these people?  Stop unless you’ve actually made eye contact?  Until this kinds of “mistakes” are treated as seriously as they should be, cyclists will never be able to travel through an intersection with confidence that their rights–and lives–will be respected.

  • Brad Aaron

    @ddartley:disqus In about half of fatality cases, drivers may eventually be given a traffic citation under VTL 1146. As Ben said, we rarely see an instance where criminal charges are brought after a case has disappeared from the media cycle. When they are, the motorist is almost always accused of driving drunk.

    When we did the feature on Cy Vance’s first two years as DA, we gave his people a list of every known Manhattan pedestrian and cyclist victim since January 2010 in which no criminal charges were immediately filed, and asked if charges were later issued in any of those cases. Their response was that they had no way to know without the drivers’ names, which of course are rarely produced by NYPD without a (successful) FOIL filing.

  • I find any talk about how fast she was going or how fast “you” might go through an intersection to be very off-putting.  What’s the sweet spot for speed to ensure one doesn’t get mowed down by a lumber truck that fails to yield?  15 mph?  10 mph?  8.3 mph?  Do tell.  Because apparently even walking your bike in a crosswalk could result in your death and the eventual exoneration of the driver based on his claim that he just didn’t see you.

  • Ben Kintisch

    First off, condolences to the family.
    Second, shame on the NYPD for ending the investigation before it began. Ben Fried: do we know if AIS was even on the scene? Were there eyewitnesses? Video? Black box? Anything?
    I was hurt in a very similar accident on Bedford Avenue, when I was “going fast” (maybe 20 mph) and a car turned left into my path. She claimed she didn’t see me. I thank God I wasn’t maimed or killed.
    If the NYPD won’t step up their enforcement, I think we all need to call the politician listed in the article to show there’s community pressure and outrage.

  • Ben Kintisch

    I just called the Councilman listed in the above article and left a message. I encourage all fellow Streetsblog readers to do the same. It takes about a minute, and is a useful outlet for the anger and sadness so many of us feel right now.

  • Driver

    The driver saw her coming, yet look how far from the crosswalk the truck stopped. He must have been flying through that turn.  Not technically speeding, but definitely reckless. 

  • carma

    i bike down that section quite frequently and yes, you can easily go 30 from that long 5 block downhill.  so it is very possible the driver doesnt know that a bike can go that fast just like a car.

  • Anonymous

    She was coming so fast and I was already into the turn???

    I’ll bet if “she” was a car, he’d have found a way to stop in time.

  • Anonymous

    A professional driver should never be so sloppy as to not even look.

  • IsaacB

    I suggest someone download the pictures from the CrownHeightsInfo page. They may not stay around forever and may yield helpful clues.

    Condolences to Emma’s friends and family.

  • Anonymous

    The answer to the whole “cyclist going too fast” question is simple: from the point of view of motorists, if you impede their speeding, you are going too slow. But if you impede their improper turns, you are going to fast.

  • sad friend

    Emma was a wonderful, spirited woman with a fabulous life in front of her.. she was also an experienced bicyclist.     This is a tragedy beyond comprehension

  • Anonymous

    “she was just coming so fast and I was already into the turn; I just could not stop”.

    Meaning, I bet, that the driver thought that if he stopped, he might get get his truck mussed. Better that a woman should die than anything happen to his truck.

    Such a horrible, horrible thing.

     

  • jooltman

    Poor young person, life cut short by the ineptitude or impatience of one driver.  I also suggest we hold the company accountable.  I am so tired of businesses putting pressure on employees to make rush deliveries and throwing us all in harm’s way.  The main number for Dyke’s Lumber corporate HQ is:  (201) 867-0391

  • IsaacB

    The white bike in the picture looks like it was not seriously damaged (bent front wheel). Could it be that Emma tried to stop and was thrown?

  • Laura

    This is a tragic loss to Emma’s family. Please take down the picture before her dear parents see their daughter covered with a tarp. She will be mourned by all who knew her and her family.

  • IsaacB

    Well intentioned, Laura, but Emma’s family will unfortunately likely not be browsing either Streetsblog or CrownHeightsInfo today. They likely have seen Emma “as is” in person.

  • TES

    Please take down that photo. I’ll bet her parents will indeed find this site – like me, most people who knew Emma will google her name and find this site. That photo is unnecessary and terrifying to anyone who knew Emma. I can’t imagine the effect on her close family and friends. 

  • Steve Li

    NYPD is NOT going to prevent the accident. I tried record one and made a complaint to them. They said that they won’t handle it unless there is a crash. In my point of view, cyclist should be ride with cameras and report to police if there are any reckless driving. It make drivers realize that they can’t do that

  • Charlotte

    please take down that picture. as a friend of Emma’s it has been disturbing a lot of us. when you google her this is the first thing to appear.

  • Lk

    emma was wonderful. this is outrageous. i don’t get how the driver is getting away with this.

  • Joe P

    just sent the councilman an email … will let you know if I hear anything back besides an auto-response. what a tragedy! (how close have we all come to being killed on the bike? I’ve been hit by cars four times, I think, and I missed the Olympic Trials in 2000 after being the victim of a car vs. bike hit-and-run…) 
    There but for the grace of god, go I…

  • The photo is horrible and I regret any distress that it is causing Emma’s friends and family. As repulsive as the image may be, however, we have to confront the violence that unfolds on our streets and be forthright about the consequences of that violence. The photo is difficult to look at, but I believe it would be a disservice to hide it.

  • AM

    i just want to say that you are all serious dumb shits for judging the driver without even hearing anything concrete against him. just because she was experienced doesn’t mean that she wasn’t a part of her own demise. and also, i think it’s really sad that all of you see this article and take the opportunity to talk badly about the police, drivers, and anyone but the deceased. just because she’s passed doesn’t mean she had nothing to do with it.  

  • gonzopete

    I was lucky to survive a very similar accident here in Baltimore. Like Emma, I had the right of way, was not at fault, but was still blamed by the police. This driver’s excuse is bullshit, and shame on the police who “investigated.” Condolences to the family, RIP. Be careful out there, people. You have to expect the hook (right or left) every time you go thru an intersection.

  • Bob O’Brien

    Hi Ben — I do not know if you are in charge of editing abilities on this website. Still, if you can take down the picture, I think the people who know and love Emma would really appreciate it. 

    I do not believe that you would be so morally inclined to show that picture on this, site if the person under the blue tarp was someone whom you knew and loved. 

    PLEASE TAKE DOWN THE PICTURE NOW.

  • gonzopete,Where in the story are you reading who, or who did not, have the right of way?

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