NYPD: No Reason to Investigate Greenway Crash That Hospitalized Cyclist

A witness to the aftermath of a Hudson River Greenway crash that sent a cyclist to the hospital says NYPD officers, including personnel from the Collision Investigation Squad, said they did not intend to investigate the cause of the collision, explaining to bystanders that it was an “accident” while blaming the cyclist.

By declining to determine what caused a collision between a bus driver and a greenway cyclist, NYPD failed to take steps that could prevent future injuries. Photo: Hilda Cohen
By declining to determine what caused a collision between a bus driver and a greenway cyclist, NYPD failed to take steps that could prevent future injuries. Photo: Hilda Cohen

Just after 9:30 a.m. last Thursday, July 24, a NY Waterways bus driver and a cyclist collided at the greenway and W. 40th Street, in Hell’s Kitchen. Responders transported the cyclist to Bellevue Hospital in serious condition, FDNY said.

Reader Hilda Cohen, who alerted Streetsblog to the crash, asked officers at the scene if they would impound the bike as evidence. “Why would we investigate?” an officer said, according to Cohen. “This was clearly an accident.” Cohen told Streetsblog the officer who made those comments was with the Collision Investigation Squad.

While “accident” implies no one was at fault, Cohen said police also preemptively blamed the cyclist. In the comments on our post last week, Cohen wrote: “The attitude was nightmarish, with comments like: ‘A bus isn’t gonna yield to anyone,’ [and] ‘The only reason this happened is because that guy was going too fast on his bike.'” NYPD also told Cohen the cyclist “hit the bus” before he was “dragged under the front wheel.”

The dismissiveness on the part of NYPD in this case is alarming for many reasons. For one thing, had they conducted an investigation, officers might have spoken with cyclists about the conflict between greenway users and turning drivers at the intersection where the crash occurred.

Cohen told Streetsblog via email that she spoke with cyclists, as well as police, at the scene. “There was really a lot of talk about who was at fault, and sadly the majority figured the cyclist was at fault simply because it was a bus,” she said. “The fact is it is a bad design. Turning vehicles should yield to the path users — it is quite blatant — but the comments from the NYPD were excusing the driver, because it was a bus.”

There is a sign at 40th Street instructing turning drivers to yield to greenway cyclists and pedestrians, as shown in Cohen’s photos. Another reader posted video of the crash site to document conditions there. Wrote attorney and traffic law expert Steve Vaccaro last week: “This is a serious design defect present at several spots on the Greenway, with the green light for the southbound [motor vehicle] traffic turning right at the same time as the green light for north and southbound bike traffic. The only thing preventing disaster is a small sign telling drivers to yield to cyclists that isn’t even present at all of these conflict points.”

An NYPD tow truck driver who failed to yield killed Carl Nacht eight years ago as he rode on the greenway at 38th Street. By neglecting their responsibility to determine what caused last week’s crash — whether it was failure to yield, street design, or both — NYPD investigators forfeited an opportunity to prevent future collisions and additional injuries and deaths.

More broadly, NYPD’s willingness to assign culpability to the cyclist in the absence of an investigation betrays a bias against crash victims. It’s of a piece with the department’s habit of leaking crash details to the press that serve to blame cyclists and pedestrians for their own injuries and deaths, and it’s incompatible with the goals of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative. Finally, according to Vaccaro, NYPD’s failure to investigate serious traffic crashes is against state law.

A few weeks from now it will be a misdemeanor for drivers to strike cyclists or pedestrians who have the right of way. “The NYPD were somber, and respectful enough,” Cohen wrote last week, “but with this attitude, Intro 238 will never be enforced.”

  • Bobberooni

    The number one complaint against bikes — especially ebikes — is their silence. As required by NYC law, I have a bell on my bike. And I use it frequently. A car-type horn would be good too, but only for emergency situations.

  • Bobberooni

    Can we get better driver’s ed for bikers? Biking in NYC is harder than driving, and yet we let people do it with absolutely no training. Some people on out on the road on bikes can barely even balance and pedal! I see far too many accidents that could have been avoided.

  • Well, a bell or horn of some kind is a necessity. I use a horn with a squeezable ball, the kind that the piragua makers tend to have.

    But it’s possible to have a horn that’s *too* loud. And the horn that Walks Bikes Drives mentions is certainly one of those. So Woody’s admonishment about noise pollution is legitimate.

  • Bobberooni

    115dB is the same as a car horn — something that cars are legally required to have even in NYC, and allowed to use in certain situations. Why should it be any different for a bike?

  • Because such sound coming from a bike serves to startle, rather than simply alert, the people who hear it. There is no reason to go to such excesses. A squeezable-ball horn is sufficient.

    My squeezable horn is heard just fine by people — even by drivers in cars with their windows rolled up. Air horns that make a terrible racket are bad for the same reason that other bicyclist misbehaviour is bad: because it presents us all in a bad light.

  • Can you squeeze the horn without taking your fingers off the handlebar?

  • Joe R.

    What’s weird here is I put a small bell on my bike a few years ago because I heard the police were ticketing riders for not having one but I have yet to use it. Seriously, I haven’t yet encountered a situation where I felt it was necessary to give someone advance warning that I was coming. In fact, based on what I’ve seen, when you do that, more often than not the person gets startled, and jumps in your path. I’d rather just pass people with a wide berth. By the time they’re even aware of me, I’m past them.

  • qrt145

    I’d rather startle than be ignored altogether, which is what happens when I use a conventional bike bell or squeezable-ball horn (I’ve tried both).

    I’ve been tempted to get one of those nasty air horns. In the meantime, yelling is the only thing that sort of works.

  • All the research suggests that between two-thirds and 80 per cent of crashes between cars and vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists) are the driver’s fault. Drivers’ mistakes also account for nearly 100 per cent of motor vehicle-on-motor vehicle fatalities. So it’s hard to see how training for cyclists could improve safety compared with, say, enforcing the speed limit for cars.
    Also, rather obviously, most adult cyclists will have a driver’s license and consequently have some formal training in road use.

  • Obviously, I have to operate it with my hand. It’s an inch away from the left-side brake. This presents no problem.

  • You just needed a better squeezable horn. As I mentioned, people hear my horn even when they are ensconced in their cars with the windows rolled up, even on a bumpy road with a lot of trucks such as Johnson Ave. in Brooklyn.

    But there’s nothing wrong with supplementing this by some yelling, as well.

  • I often use the horn to alert not only pedestrians who are walking with their heads down looking at their phones, but also drivers who are turning through an intersection without looking both ways. My horn is indispensable; I’d be afraid to ride without it.

  • Joe R.

    I forgot about the people with their heads buried in their phones. Thankfully, the times and places I ride I never encounter that but it’s a good reason to use a horn or bell.

  • walks bikes drives

    I agree with you on the licensing, especially for the faster, more powerful ones. Personally, I like the idea of electric assist more than an outright electric drive, but as I said, I have not been judgmental at all in any of my posts, because I personally don’t care what you ride. But the delivery riders do drive me insane because of the safety issue. Bit that was just addressing what you had said about them not having any political power.

  • walks bikes drives

    I have had all types of noisy devices on my handle bars, but the airzound is the only thing that has actually worked. Sorry if I startle a pedestrian once in a while, but that’s better than crashing into them. And it is only because they are doing something stupid, like about to step into a bike lane while I am at speed and can’t possibly slow down in time. If I was about to do something stupid that would get me unavoidably hit by a bike at 15-20 mph, I’d rather get startled than hit. Otherwise, why not put ding ding bike bells in cars instead of horns?

  • John

    Because it’s way too loud for cars as well. The requirements that cars have horns is insane. Horns have some very slight safety value vastly ourweighed by the harm they do as a function of the way people actually use them.

    I use a bell on my bike. When driving, I mutter, curse, and occasionally yell at my passengers, to the same effect on traffic flow as honking a horn.

  • walks bikes drives

    I have never heard a bicycle rider honk his bulb horn, press her air horn, ring their bell, or anything of the like because there was traffic in front of them.

    All of the above are for SAFETY issues.

  • StepUpAndSaySomething

    We need more cyclists with cameras. Record the crash and record the NYPD.

  • Umar Rehman

    I know right I use one too. Blast!!!!!!! The cars and even buses and trucks could take notice of cyclists.

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