Anonymous NYPD Sources Blame Another Victim of Motorist Violence

Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps
Area of Roosevelt Avenue where a speeding driver killed a cyclist Tuesday afternoon. Image: Google Maps

A motorist killed a cyclist near Citi Field Tuesday afternoon. The driver was ticketed for speeding, but true to form, anonymous police sources and the media blamed the victim for his own death.

The crash happened on Roosevelt Avenue near 126th Street, under the elevated 7 train on the perimeter of the stadium, at around 12:48 p.m. According to NYPD and published reports, the driver of a Mercury minivan hit the cyclist from behind.

Photos and video of the scene show that the frame of the victim’s bike was snapped into pieces, with the minivan perpendicular to the sidewalk, its windshield shattered. The victim, whose name had not been released by police as of this morning, died at the scene.

The Post and DNAinfo reported that, according to unnamed police sources, the cyclist “cut in front” or “swerved into the path” of the driver. The NYPD spokesperson we spoke to had no such information. The spokesperson said police summonsed the driver for speeding — a crucial detail that was not reported in the press. So once again, unnamed NYPD personnel selectively leaked information that served to blame the victim, and reporters repeated it without question.

At this point the speeding ticket is the sole charge against the driver. The investigation into the crash is ongoing, NYPD told Streetsblog.

New York City motorists have killed at least eight cyclists this year, two more than the number of bike fatalities at the same time in 2013, according to crash data compiled by Streetsblog. Last Saturday a hit-and-run driver killed cyclist Wayne White in another overtake crash, also in Queens. Yesterday, Xochil Zack Fortune was struck by two motorists in succession in Bushwick, and Gothamist reports that he died from those injuries.

The fatal crash on Roosevelt occurred in the 110th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Deputy Inspector Ronald D. Leyson, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 110th Precinct council meetings happen at 7:00 p.m. on the third Monday of the month at Flanders Field VFW Post #150, 51-11 108th Street. Call 718-476-9311 for information.

The City Council district where this cyclist was killed is represented by Julissa Ferreras. To encourage Ferreras to take action to improve street safety in her district and citywide, contact her at 212-788-6862, jferreras@council.nyc.gov, or @JulissaFerreras.

  • BBnet3000

    Look at that street. Damn. My fear of being hit from behind is fairly low (its among the least-common crash types but inexperienced cyclists fear it the most) but thats the sort of street where it would happen.

  • Least common crash type, yet most likely cause of a fatal bike accident.

  • BBnet3000

    Really? I actually hadnt heard that. Im thinking this may be due to the speeds on the roads where these type of crashes happen (see image of Roosevelt Raceway above).

  • qrt145

    Sometimes I wonder if these anonymous NYPD sources actually exist. I mean, how high is the “fence” between journalistic incompetence and outright fabrication?

  • qrt145

    My impression is that rear-end crashes are the most common fatal bike crash on rural roads (which may make a substantial contribution to national figures), but not on city streets. On city streets the most common fatal crashes seem to involve turns (i.e., left- and right hooks). (Sorry, I’m too lazy to look up a source right now, so take it with a grain of salt.)

  • From a very recent report issued by the League of American Bicyclists. Rear end collisions accounted for 40% of fatal crashes they counted, almost four time more than the next most common fatal crash type.
    http://bikeleague.org/sites/default/files/EBC_report_final.pdf

  • Tyler

    So…. Speeding + Dead Person = We’re all done here… clearly the speeding didn’t cause any harm.

    Uggh.

    It turns out the neanderthal drivers that say “tickets aren’t for anything but generating revenue” might actually be right. Well, at least with the NYPD in charge. The speeding ticket in this case is clearly and fully divorced from the potential/actual harm of the traffic infraction.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    That report doesn’t say who is read-ending whom.

  • Jesse

    It’s obvious that the NYPD doesn’t want to be bothered by this kind of tragedy. If they would focus more effort on enforcing traffic laws they could help reform the culture of the streets and, if Vision Zero is ever actually achieved, this type of “inconvenience” will go away. At this point that actually seems more feasible than their previous strategy of trying to police bikes out of existence.

  • Matthias

    Wow, that’s just awful. I biked that stretch once, and even as a fairly experienced rider it was terrifying. Drivers were just screaming down the hill. I kept one eye on my rearview the whole way until I could turn onto a side street.

  • My current organizing theory of this mess is that the police are following the lead of top officials who berate everybody to share the road, show personal responsibility and so on. By dispersing the blame for crashes away from motorists, who cause most of them, they let motorists off the hook: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/06/an-uptown-ride-hudson-incident-and-why.html

  • I’m a daily newspaper reporter. I’d say two things. First of all, it does go severely against the grain actually to make stuff up. It just doesn’t feel, I think, to most reporters like the thing to do. Secondly, the comments do generally have some relevance to what happened and draw on information that the reporter got from somewhere. So there’s someone – probably some “helpful” person in the press office or some such – that tells the reporters this nonsense. It’s just that that person has terrible, terrible judgement and doesn’t seem to understand the true nature of road crashes.

  • qrt145

    First, sorry if what I wrote was offensive to your profession. I was just too frustrated when I wrote it. Still, I’d like to hope for a more skeptical view of statements from anonymous sources by some reporters.

  • Jesse

    My theory is a kind of kitchen sink theory. It’s a combination of (1) the windshield perspective that cops acquire from living in the suburbs (or at least Staten Island) and being able to park their police cars wherever they want, including the sidewalk, and part traffic with their sirens, (2) the fact that traffic enforcement, despite the fact that the stakes are life and death, is the least sexy aspect of the job and (3) the police know that an investigation is pointless because the prosecutor won’t prosecute because the prosecutor knows that a conviction is highly unlikely. And contrary to most people who read Streetsblog, I don’t think police really enjoy harrassing cyclists so much as they like the convenience of being able to set up a trap in a park to meet their ticket quotas ( that they most certainly do not have).

  • I had a run-in (which I’ve mentioned before on here) the Friday before last with an off-duty cop parked in the Kent Avenue bike lane. If I hadn’t agreed with all the points about suburbia, the windshield perspective and so on before that, I certainly do now: http://invisiblevisibleman.blogspot.com/2014/05/an-angry-off-duty-police-man-rainy.html

  • Sometimes reporters make things up, sure. I just don’t think anyone thinks it worth that risk for a routine traffic story. They’re also getting details – albeit misrepresented – of the crash’s circumstances from somewhere. Also, the anonymous quotes seem to tally with the NYPD’s actual stance towards most investigations. So I don’t think one has to be naive to believe they’re getting them from someone at the NYPD. I certainly think they should be far more skeptical about the way the NYPD describes these crashes and show far more reporting ambition.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Once a year I bike 13 miles to and from Citifield. This is the only scary part. It’s basically an expressway. Not good to cross on foot, either. There is a pedestrian bridge for LIRR riders.

    Bicycles should be allowed on, and directed to, the sidewalk there.

  • KillMoto

    I’m going to guess this rider was among the “strong and fearless”, was riding straight with the flow of traffic and had good lane position. Probably in shape, going ~20mph.

    If so the driver had to be doing 60mph minimum, a 40mph speed delta at impact for the kill. Likely higher. I wish black boxes were routinely read and released to the press, just like ‘helmet status’ often is so we’d know.

    People should not have to be in mortal danger to get from place to place just so other people can speed and not pay attention while driving.

  • BBnet3000

    Yep. Speeding even with a death given a ticket. Pay it and youre done.

    In this case, the speeding is quite likely to have made the difference between life and death.

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