Hit-and-Run Driver Murders Cyclist, So 90th Precinct Tickets People on Bikes

A hit-and-run driver killed a cyclist in Williamsburg this weekend. Though police believe the motorist ran over the victim on purpose, the 90th Precinct responded by ticketing cyclists and handing out bike safety fliers.

Matthew Von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist
Matthew von Ohlen. Photo via Gothamist

Matthew von Ohlen, 35, was riding his bike east on Grand Street between Manhattan Avenue and Graham Avenue at around 2:20 a.m. Saturday when the driver of a late model Camaro approached from behind. Police told WPIX the driver then slowed and edged into the bike lane.

The driver then hit Van Ohen’s [sic] rear tire and as the victim fell off his bike, the driver slammed into him again, running over him and dragging him about 20 to 30 feet.

The driver then sped off, heading east on Grand Street.

Video posted by Gothamist shows the motorist enter the painted bike lane and drive away, leaving the victim’s body in the street.

Von Ohlen was a co-founder of Bikestock, which operates bike repair vending machines in NYC and Massachusetts. The Daily News reported that he was on his way home from a bartending shift in Manhattan when he was killed.

WPIX posted footage of 90th Precinct officers ticketing cyclists at the scene of the crash. Gothamist said cops, shown blocking the bike lane in the WPIX story, were also handing out NYPD “Operation Safe Cycle” leaflets.

“When [cyclists] got to the intersection of Grand and Graham on their way, police officers were there to stop them and hand out pamphlets on cyclist safety,” Williamsburg resident Greg Fertel told Gothamist. “I found this to be pretty enraging — I don’t think that this was an issue of cyclist safety.”

Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX
Cops from the 90th Precinct, blocking the bike lane where Von Ohlen was killed by a homicide suspect, ticket cyclists and lecture them on bike safety. Image: WPIX

NYPD summons data show that enforcing laws intended to protect people who walk and bike is not a priority for the 90th Precinct. If you’d like to talk to commanding officer Captain William J. Gardner and other local brass about street safety, the precinct community council meets on the second Wednesday of the month. We could not immediately confirm if the council meets in July and August, but precinct contact info is here.

Matthew von Ohlen was killed in Brooklyn Community Board District 1, and in the City Council district represented by Antonio Reynoso.

Update: From a Transportation Alternatives statement issued today:

This is a particularly egregious example of the NYPD’s skewed priorities when it comes to traffic enforcement, and of the victim-blaming mentality that pervades the Department. Across the city, we see officers pulling over large numbers of cyclists for infractions that almost never lead to death or injury, while largely ignoring the violations that kill and maim the most New Yorkers, which are driver speeding and failure to yield. In this case, police should be using their time and resources to find the driver who killed Matthew von Ohlen, instead of lecturing cyclists on unrelated infractions.

Police Commissioner Bratton also needs to take immediate steps to improve the NYPD’s dismal record on investigating hit-and-run incidents. Only about 2.5% of all hit-and-run crashes in 2015 resulted in any kind of enforcement action.

  • LinuxGuy

    But you need correct engineering, proper enforcement, and devices that do not make errors. None of that is happening today. A few states have pockets where stuff is done right. If you cite someone 1-3 months later, how does that stop a bad driver right now? It does not. So you will have a picture of someone being mowed down? Why not stop it?

    We are having a circular discussion here, so unless something really cool is said, I will bow out now.

  • Mathew Smithburger

    I bowed out on this conversation long before you did.

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Reynoso Tells DOT: Grand Street Needs a Safer Bike Lane ASAP

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Council Member Antonio Reynoso today urged DOT to upgrade the bike lanes on the Grand Street in North Brooklyn. The existing painted lanes did not protect Matthew von Ohlen, who was struck and killed by a hit-and-run driver in July. In a letter sent this afternoon to DOT Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Keith Bray, Reynoso calls for “the immediate installation of safety mitigations […]