Another Cyclist Killed at East Harlem Intersection, NYPD Again Blames Victim

E. 108th Street and Park Avenue, where two cyclists have been killed by motorists in the past year. Image: Google Maps

For the second time in less than a year, a cyclist has been killed by a motorist at the intersection of E. 108th Street and Park Avenue, in East Harlem.

On Sunday evening at around 7:40 p.m., 18-year-old Marvin Ramirez was riding east on E. 108th when he was hit by the driver of a Dodge sedan, who was traveling north on Park, according to DNAinfo and the Post.

Ramirez suffered head trauma and died at Harlem Hospital. The driver was not charged.

Park Avenue is divided by the viaduct, which limits visibility at intersections, from E. 102nd Street to points north. One cyclist and three pedestrians were killed on Park between E. 97th and E. 132nd between 2000 and 2008, according to Transportation Alternatives’ CrashStat.

Published reports included no mention of driver speed. The Post took care to report, however, that “Police said the cyclist sailed through a steady red light.” Unless a motorist who kills a cyclist or pedestrian is drunk or leaves the scene, NYPD normally leaks crash information to the media only when it serves to exculpate the motorist.

Case in point: The Post and the Associated Press reported last week that a cyclist riding a Citi Bike ran a light before she was hit by a livery driver. Fortunately, the victim lived to tell her side of the story. According to writer and occasional Streetsblog contributor Alex Marshall, the victim says she was proceeding through a yellow light when the driver “jumped the green” in an attempt to get in front of another motorist. Many times, the victim of a bike or pedestrian crash is unable to rebut the driver’s version of events.

A ghost bike was installed at E. 108th and Park last summer, following the death of Shaquille Cochrane, who was struck by the driver of a yellow cab on July 30, 2012. Like Ramirez, Cochrane was 18. The crash happened at 7:50 p.m., about the same time as the crash that killed Ramirez. NYPD’s own accounts of the crash varied, but police told Streetsblog Cochrane was riding the wrong way on E. 108th, which is one-way eastbound, and the cab driver was traveling south. No charges were reported filed against the driver.

This fatal crash occurred in the 23rd Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Eric Pagan, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 23rd Precinct council meetings happen at 6 p.m. on the third Thursday of the month at the precinct, 164 E. 102 Street. Call the precinct at 212-860-6430 for information.

The City Council district where Marvin Ramirez was killed is represented by Melissa Mark-Viverito. Mark-Viverito is one of the council’s strongest voices for street safety, but she should be alerted to dangerous conditions at this intersection. Mark-Viverito may be contacted at 212-828-9800, mviverito@council.nyc.gov and @MMViverito.

  • Eric McClure

    The streets around the viaduct are a death trap. The city should really remove all the parking on Park Avenue, and move the roadway away from the viaduct. You step out and you’re in the middle of traffic.

  • alex

    i live on 102 directly to the east of the viaduct and cross under to get to the park almost everyday and it makes me nervous every time. sometimes ill walk from 98 up Lexington just to avoid this. when i get to the end of that tunnel i peek out before taking a step forward but even then cars coming across 102 turning onto park cannot see you when you are crossing. this does incident does not surprise me and quite frankly i am surprised this is not a more common occurrence. i have almost found it safer to walk on the middle tunnel on the street just so that cars going west on 102 can see me! there is a problem when walking on the street is safer than walking on the sidewalk. i feel safer in the projects at 2AM than in the crosswalk anytime

  • Anonymous

    Once again, how in the world does the police know that the cyclist jumped the red light other than from the driver?

    I don’t understand why the NYPD reflexively acquits the driver. I don’t think NYPD cops hate bicyclists or pedestrians (as many seem to assume, but at least anecdotally, that hasn’t been my experience at all).

    Is it just too much trouble for the cops to investigate something like this, so they figure that they’d might as well let the driver go?

  • Anonymous

    If you watch The Wire, that great documentary about police work, 🙂 you’ll see how the main purpose of a police department’s homicide division is not to prosecute murderers, but to close case files by whatever means necessary, including but not limited to ruling cases as suicides given the flimsiest excuse or dumping them on a different jurisdiction whenever possible.

  • Anonymous

    There is
    ZERO margin for error at this intersection.
    People are not robots; motorists and bikers alike are going to run the occasional
    red. Should the penalty for that mistake
    be death?
    Just as all urban areas must adopt 20 mph speed limits, so should every intersection have open sight lines

  • The police’s attitude to this incident and the Citibike crash (for the update on which I’m very grateful) illustrate how desperately the incentives for NYPD traffic cops need to be revised. At present, I get the strong impression the emphasis is on volume of tickets issued, rather than anything else. Crashes of this kind – where both parties might have shared some of the blame or it might prove difficult to prove what happened – just seem to be too much trouble. It’s easier just to send a couple of cops out to bust cyclists for, say, riding on the northern part of the Hudson Greenway after 1am.

    I wrote about the problem yesterday – and suggested it was time to switch to outcomes-based targets. Imagine the 23rd precinct commander’s pay depended in part on achieving a reduction in the numbers of deaths and serious injuries on his roads. I suggest his interest in the speed of northbound traffic on that section of Park Avenue would increase pretty quickly: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2013/06/citibikes-drivers-and-science-of-moral.html

  • Ed

    Well the Daily News tell us that bike safety improvements uptown would only be for the benefit of hipster “white boys on bikes” so I’m sure that there’s no safety improvements that could’ve prevented this tragic accident.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/05/29/daily-news-tries-race-baiting-to-gin-up-controversy-over-safer-streets/

  • Ian Turner

    Paul,

    What do you suggest to do about this one?

  • Whytheywork

    “Imagine the 23rd precinct commander’s pay depended in part on achieving a reduction in the numbers of deaths and serious injuries on his roads.”

    I don’t think this will work. People who are good at jobs like that one are not motivated by money and money can’t motivate the lazy to care.

    In fact, I think it’s a horrible idea.

  • nononono

    Mirrors are a start.

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    It’s hard to blame a driver or a cyclist for their behavior when they are put in such a terribly designed intersection.This intersection needs a chicane.

    It would cost a few hundred dollars worth of bollards or cones and some new roadway paint and would save a handful of lives a year. Seems easy though politically I am sure it wouldn’t be.

  • I continue to be amazed that leaking blame-the-victim details about supposedly confidential crash investigations continues to be the routine policy of a police department that operates a far-flung multi-billion dollar anti-terrorist investigation program. What would Ray Kelly do if his anti-terror investigators leaked details about the cases they were working on? Why doesn’t PD understand the harm these leaks do to grieving families (let alone to the success of the supposed investigation) and make its officers stop?

  • Anonymous

    just about anything other than a blind intersection with a stoplight would be an improvement short of changing geo, stop sign with a big setback, for starters plus some physical calming

  • Anxiously Awaiting Bikeshare

    Chicane, speed bump, rumble strips, and a warning sign: Poorly Designed Unsafe Intersection Ahead, Use Caution

  • Joe R.

    The lane next to the viaduct should be a no-traffic buffer zone. As things stand now you have zero visibility crossing under the viaduct. You should be able to pull out 5 or 10 feet to see cross traffic. Any situation where people are literally dependent upon a traffic signal for their safety is a recipe for disaster. Speed limits should be reduced to 15 or 20 mph on both roads through self-enforcing road changes. And the traffic signals at intersections should either be removed, or made failsafe (i.e. when the light is red a bar drops down, similar to what happens at railroad crossings).

  • JK

    Park Avenue should be channeled into one narrower lane with a much wider painted buffer between the wall of the viaduct and the traffic lane. I ride this street with my kids on the way to basketball games and agree this spot is very scary. Also, there is big police parking lot on the east side of Park here. Do the cops have to park on the sidewalk with ESU trucks and their private cars? Google Streetview shows the sidewalk parking. This is not courteous or professional or respectful and sends the message that pedestrians come last.

  • JK

    Park Avenue should be channeled into one narrower lane with a much wider painted buffer between the wall of the viaduct and the traffic lane. I ride this street with my kids on the way to basketball games and agree this spot is very scary. Also, there is big police parking lot on the east side of Park here. Do the cops have to park on the sidewalk with ESU trucks and their private cars? Google Streetview shows the sidewalk parking. This is not courteous or professional or respectful and sends the message that pedestrians come last.

  • Anonymous

    Check out the comments on a THEE RANT thread on the earlier Citibike-related crash:

    http://theerant.yuku.com/topic/59398/Man-Hit-by-SUV-While-Riding-NYC-Bike-Share-Bike#.Ua0T-Ulj2PI

    The rank and file in the NYPD need to be reminded just who it is they work for.

  • Anonymous

    Some cops are assholes, sure. We all know. But I don’t think we should interpret a handful of comments as being representative of them all.

  • NYFM

    Mirrors. Unless someone wants to pay the millions to tear down/rebuild the viaduct.

  • Anonymous

    I would totally buy that the livery SUV which crashed into the Citi Bike jumped the light when it was still red in his/her direction. Stereotyping broadly, livery drivers are the worst in the whole damned city.

    Not that I mistake this for having been an actual witness or anything. 😮

  • Motivating the lazy to care, or simply work, is exactly what money is for. If it had no effect there would be no such thing as commissions. Or money.

    I think it’s an interesting idea. My idea has been to progressively cut the general budget of the nypd until they stop treating the taxpaying public like lesser animals. But Robert’s targeted approach is better.

  • Ian Turner

    This approach is more likely to result in fudging the metrics than in changing the approach. Metrics are a useful tool in management, but if you tie them too closely to compensation then the result is that it’s easier to game the system than to actually improve the numbers.

  • Anonymous

    The issue isn’t asshole versus non-asshole. It’s whether they see it as their job to keep people safe from reckless drivers, and the comments make it very clear the NYPD rank and file does not regard it as part of their job.

  • Brent

    Why can’t the parking lane be moved to the left side of the street, and 2 or three parking spaces prior to the intersection be replaced with a sidewalk “bump-out”? This should be done for the entire length of Park Avenue that abuts the viaduct.

  • Choosen_fuse

    OK this accident was told completely wrong i was actually there when this happen the driver was not going north bound on park ave we was going east bound on 108 st and made a left of park ave which gave the cyclist the green light to go across so he did so was in the right of way so the sedan wasn’t and that turn is actually a blind spot and alot of people still take the turn like its nothing ive seen it happen so many times that people almost get hit because stupid people go and ake the turn forgetting that people also cross so this was an preventable death but like i said alot of poeple are stupid and dont know how to remember that there are people crossing

  • NYFM

    Agree. This could be a good solution.

  • Punctuation is your friend when it comes to other people being able to understand your writing.

  • Anonymous

    Start reporting responsibly, then. It is your fault for blaming the victim, for reporting rumors before the investigation is complete.

  • Choosen_fuse

    Not everyone is a career blogger. I was just trying to explain the incident not looking for an English teacher thank you… 🙂

  • Alex

    Every time i cross here get nervous that a driver turning on park is going to hit me. the pedestrian tunnel makes it so that you cannot see if there a pedestrian crossing and when cars don’t see anyone they just go. I found it safer to hug the wall on the car lane because there they can see that i am there and crossing the street. Also cars turning into the tunnel generally don’t drive that close the the wall for fear of scraping up against it while turning. I realize that if i were to get hit i would be at fault but i also realize that walking on the auto lane is WAY safer then going under the pedestrian tunnel. several times have i started to cross and had to jump back to avoid a turning car forgetting that there is even a crosswalk there.

  • Choosrn_fuse

    Sooooo tru

  • bsbe

    our friend killed when she was hit by a taxi and then run over by a livery cab @ 125th and Park Ave, Thur. night. The cab driver said she had her headphones on and that seems to be the end of it!!!! what is going on???

  • Daphna

    Eric McClure, Brent, NYFM, JK and Joe R all have the right idea to fix this stretch of road: remove the parking lane by the curb. Have the driving lane become curbside. Replace the travel lane by the median with a wide painted buffer. This would provide visibility. Without a street re-design such as this, those crossing Park Avenue can not see who is coming until they already walk/bike/drive out onto Park Avenue, and by then it is too late.

  • Daphna

    Thank you for providing this eye witness account. The driver making the left from eastbound 108th Street to northbound Park Avenue had the obligation to yield to pedestrians crossing and to yield to vehicles (bikes or cars) going straight across 108th Street. I hope you can get in touch with the family and provide your eye witness testimony to their lawyer. Drivers making this turn should realize that they have no visibility and should take any left turn onto Park Avenue along this stretch at an extremely slow pace so they can stop if needed when they see someone.

  • Daphna

    I am so sorry for your loss. This website (the reporters, the editors, the readers, the commentators) do their best to raise awareness of the street injustice that occurs on a regular basis throughout NYC. They do their best to put pressure on those in power (other media, politicians, NYPD, District Attorney) to hold drivers accountable and do true investigations and administer justice. It is depressing how little attention is paid to deaths caused by motorists outside of websites like streetsblog and a few others. I am sorry for your friend. You are right: there should be a full investigation of how fast each driver was going, if either ran a red light, if either was turning and failed to yield, if either was on a cell phone (illegal to be on a cell phone in NYC in a motor vehicle when it is in motion – even hands free cell phones are illegal if the car is in motion in NYC), if either was tired/distracted, if either was drunk/impaired, etc. Whether the cyclists was using earphones to listen to something is one tiny, tiny piece of the equation – not one of the main factors that need to be investigated. Write a letter to the head of the NYPD. Call your City council representative, call your public advocate, call the mayors’ office, call your NY State assembly and senate representatives in Albany, call your federal bouse and senate representatives in D.C. Do your best to get someone to pay attention to this injustice.

  • Anonymous

    Don’t all the cops live in Staten Island or on Long Island? Don’t they ALL drive to work? Isn’t their practice of routinely favoring drivers over pedestrians and cyclists a simple matter of solidarity with people like themselves?

  • Anonymous

    Keep It Simple Stupid. But hard to fudge dead bodies. It’s too easy to fudge the metrics for something like what amount of loss makes a case a mere misdemeanor rather than a felony.

    But if the performance-based reward/penalty applied to every dead body — murders, accidents, vehicular mayhem, suicides, overdoses, whatever — then we’d have a powerful official interested in road safety, suicide prevention, addiction treatment, and lots of other good things.

  • Anonymous

    Do we need Park Avenue traffic at all?

    Do like Broadway between Times Square and Herald Square, making all the traffic turn every 8 or 10 blocks, so NO thru traffic, and calmed traffic all along this stretch.

  • Anonymous

    agreed and could also add Leading Pedestrian Intervals so that pedestrians and by extension bicyclists could enter out in to the intersection before turn cars could.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

DOT: No Plans for Park Avenue Bike Infrastructure After Recent Deaths

|
DOT will consider design changes at the Park Avenue intersection in East Harlem where drivers have recently killed three cyclists, but there are no plans for new bike infrastructure along the Park Avenue viaduct. Livery cab driver Nojeem Odunfa hit cyclist Jerrison Garcia at Park Avenue and E. 108th Street Monday morning, reportedly dragging Garcia […]

The Weekly Carnage

|
The Weekly Carnage is a Friday round-up of motor vehicle violence across the five boroughs. For more on the origins and purpose of this column, please read About the Weekly Carnage. Fatal Crashes (5 Killed Since Aug. 15; 127 This Year*) Midwood: 62-Year-Old Man Struck by SUV Driver While Crossing Avenue P (DNA) East Harlem: Jerrison […]