Cement Truck Driver Kills Cyclist Near Greenway in Hell’s Kitchen

A cement truck driver fatally struck a cyclist at W. 55th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan. The red arrow represents the approximate path of the driver and the white arrow indicates the approximate path of the victim, according to NYPD. Image: Google Maps
A cement truck driver fatally struck a cyclist at W. 55th Street and 12th Avenue in Manhattan. The red arrow represents the approximate path of the driver and the white arrow indicates the approximate path of the victim, according to NYPD. Image: Google Maps

A cement truck driver killed a woman riding a bike near the Hudson River Greenway in Hell’s Kitchen this morning.

The 65-year-old victim was westbound on W. 55th Street, riding toward the greenway, at around 6:45 a.m. when the driver, also westbound, struck her while attempting to turn right onto 12th Avenue, according to NYPD.

A police spokesperson told Streetsblog the victim was riding in the crosswalk when she was struck. There is a painted bike lane on the south side of W. 55th Street, but the transition to the greenway entails biking in a crosswalk from the northern side of the street.

The victim, whose identity had not been released as of late this morning, pending family notification, sustained injuries to her head and body and died at the scene. Media reports said the victim was a man, but NYPD told us that information was incorrect.

NYPD withheld the driver’s name, identifying him only as a 56-year-old man. The department’s description of the crash strongly suggests the victim had the right of way, but NYPD’s public information office did not provide a determination of who was at fault and said the Collision Investigation Squad was still working the crash.

The victim of today’s crash was the second person killed by a truck driver in Hell’s Kitchen in the past week. Maria Munez-Carna, a tourist from Spain, was struck last Friday in a crosswalk at W. 39th Street and 10th Avenue.

This fatal crash occurred in the 18th Precinct, where officers ticket around one motorist a day for failing to yield, and in the City Council district represented by Helen Rosenthal, where truck drivers have killed two cyclists in the last four weeks.

  • Elizabeth F

    You can find out by pushing the bike AHEAD of you while crossing, and see how many cars run over your bike.

    But this was different. It wasn’t a car, and it wasn’t a particularly congested time to be driving.

  • Joe R.

    Another possible scenario is she actually was in the bike lane next to or slightly in front of the truck, then the truck swung wide to make a right turn, and hit her, dragging her body into the crosswalk as it turned, and dragging the bike along until it stopped. She would have been in the truck’s blind spot if this was the case.

    With trucks, the only safe place is behind the truck — or in front of the truck, if you KNOW the driver has seen you.

    If you’re a reasonably strong rider, being in front is probably safe regardless of whether or not the driver sees you. It’s not all that hard to outaccelerate most trucks, especially cement trucks. Being next to trucks on either side is about the most dangerous thing a cyclist can do, particularly if they have no out.

  • Jonathan R

    Great points. When I come from 8th Ave in midtown toward the Greenway, I always head west on 53d St, right on 11th, then left (west) on 54th St, which is two-way and has a more manageable intersection with 12th Ave.

  • walks bikes drives

    So, in your humble opinion, you can assume timing- that they were both waiting for the light. However, that is pure assumption. The known facts are the structure of the intersection and the direction they were each going. You don’t even know where in the crosswalk she was struck. Just as likely, or possibly even more likely, is she proceeded through the intersection when it was totally clear and the truck driver, attempting to make the light before it turned red, swung quickly through the turn without properly assessing the intersection and struck the woman.

    I am an extremely experienced urban cyclist with thousands of miles under my belt in Manhattan, and I am extremely careful around trucks. But numerous times I have been overtaken by trucks and buses in an unsafe manner. As a rule, you tend to always blame the victim in bike/truck encounters, but your claims are baseless. It is definitely possible that your idea of the events is what transpired. But it is equally possible that it was the complete opposite. So don’t assign blame and fault where you do not have the facts to back it up. Keep an open mind until you get all the facts. Once you have them all, then make your conclusion.

  • Elizabeth F

    > you can assume timing- that they were both waiting for the light. However, that is pure assumption.

    That light is red 90% of the time. In the off-chase that you come upon it when it’s green, chances of coming at it at the same time as a cement truck at 6:45AM are low. By far the most likely scenario is they were both stopped at the light when it turned green.

    > As a rule, you tend to always blame the victim in bike/truck encounters, but your claims are baseless.

    No, I only blame the victim in the minority of cases.

    Some deaths are simply not the bicycle’s fault at all — for example, the July 4 murder in Williamsburg. Many are not legally the bicycle’s fault but could have been prevented through defensive driving by the biker. But this case is egregious, in that all evidence so far (reported by Streetsblog) point to it being the bicycle’s fault.

    As bikers, we need to take responsiblity for our own safety. And

    True, I don’t know what actually happened. But I DO know what Streetsblog said about it, which is dangerous. Streetsblog claimed right up at the top of this article that bikes are supposed to use the crosswalk. This contracts everything we know about safe biking practice, in terms of staying where you are visible, avoiding right-hooks, following bike lanes, etc. It also contradicts everything I can find about bicycle law in NYC. And the presumption that bikes have ROW while RIDING in a crosswalk is absolutely false. If the victim was doing what Streetsblog claims she was doing, then it was her fault.

  • Elizabeth F

    Joe, I think that is possible. But less likely. Like others have pointed out, she was probably scared of the bike lane and choose to cross at the crosswalk instead.

    But if your scenario is true, I would still blame the victim here. Your second paragraph points out the folly in getting close to trucks.

  • Greg Keller

    How’d bike get under his front left wheel if he right hooked her? https://nypost.com/2016/12/15/cement-truck-fatally-plows-over-man-riding-his-bike/

  • Elizabeth F

    That photo is taken on 12th Ave at 56th St, a full block away from where the crash happened.

    > How’d bike get under his front left wheel if he right hooked her?

    Think about a rectangle moving around a corner. A point that’s under the right side of the rectangle at the beginning of the turn will be under the left side of the triangle at the end of the turn. As the truck was moving over the bike, the bike eventually caught on something on the underside left of the truck; and there it stuck, as the truck dragged the bike another block.

  • Elizabeth F

    Would the Dutch build a bike overpass/underpass every Manhattan block? I don’t suppose anyone really wants the old elevated West Side Highway back. But that did give a lot more opportunities for bike underpasses.

  • Greg Keller
  • Elizabeth F

    > State law says it’s a driver’s responsibility to avoid running people over.

    Only in certain cases. For example, I read about drivers killing pedestrians crossing freeways from time to time. I never read about drivers being held accountable for it. Everyone has a responsibility to work for the safety of all, and that even includes pedestrians and bicycles. Drivers cannot be held 100% responsible for pedestrian and biker deaths where victim negligence is a contributing factor.

    > Your victim-blaming helps no one.

    My vain hope is that bikers in this city will someday take a more pro-active role in our own safety, and learn how to bike safely through some process other than individual trial-and-error. I didn’t have that, and instead got nearly run over half a dozen times as a teenager doing things that experienced bikers know are risky.

    There are so many things about bike safety that art intuitively “true” but actually false. Riding against traffic is more dangerous than riding with traffic. Riding on the sidewalk is more dangerous than riding in the streets. And so on. And yet, people keep making these novice mistakes — and sometimes paying the ultimate price. The majority of bikers don’t even have the basics, like lights and a bell. I’m against FORCING driver’s ed for bikers; but it sure might help.

  • Joe R.

    Really no way of knowing exactly what they might do in this situation. Remember there is really no analogue to Manhattan in the Netherlands. I do know that they’re building a lot more underpasses or overpasses at problematic intersections during the last few years. As much as many here loathe the concept of grade separation, sometimes it’s the only way to achieve what you want when space is limited. If it were up to me, we would have non-stop bike highways on about a one mile square grid in all of NYC. If there needed to be lots of overpasses, or even viaducts miles long, to make this feasible so be it.

  • Elizabeth F

    This crash is not about cyclists “following the rules.” And I would never advocate for bikers getting tickets for doing what this lady did (although I’m afraid this crash WILL lead to a West Side ticket blitz). It IS about cyclists making poor choices and unfortunately paying the ultimate price. Cyclists, especially novice or occasional cyclists, need to be smarter about this stuff; but who is there to teach them? I’m all for improving street design. But I don’t believe it is possible to engineer away every hazard to the point that cycling in NYC is an intuitive activity that requires little or no skill or experience. Somebody, somewhere, sometime should have warned this lady of the danger of being right-hooked.

  • Elizabeth F

    In that picture, I would put myself behind the yellow, and proceed through the intersection behind it.

  • Elizabeth F

    > But is every cyclist who is not an experienced, road-savvy cyclist, who makes a perhaps faulty judgment as to how best to protect themselves in a dangerous and confusing traffic situation, properly “at fault?”

    Is every teenage driver who does something stupid and causes a crash properly “at fault?” Or is it the fault of the other drivers on the road who failed to recognize that this kid doesn’t know what he’s doing?

    > The issue with intersections and Greenway connections like this is not that they’re impossible to navigate with the right degree of familiarity and awareness of how drivers behave.

    Well… the default assumption if you’re using the streets (no matter what vehicle you are using) is that you understand they are dangerous and are acting with a degree of skill. Especially if you are not a child. Even children, we teach them basic skills of how to cross a street before letting them loose. Don’t you teach your child to check for right-turning traffic before blithely crossing on a “walk” signal?

    > The issue is that you shouldn’t have to have that kind of skill to access one of this city’s most notable cycling facilities.

    That makes sense. So let me point out that there is an underpass at 58th St. and an overpass at the Intrepid (42nd St). There are also plenty of entrances (south of 55th St) that require pedestrians cross only 2 carriageways instead of 3. Also, fully half of the crossings are one way AWAY from the West Side Highway, which eliminates any chance of getting right- or left-hooked. All she would have had to do to access one of these crossings is walk her bike one block south or north.

    This victim was 55. That is old enough to (1) understand that roads can be dangerous, (2) evaluate the risks, and (3) seek alternate routes if you don’t feel up to the the risks of one route.

  • Tyson White

    Or truck sideguards!

  • Tyson White

    Getting from the streets to the Greenway is always a gnarly f$%#ing task.

  • Joe R.

    Obviously my scenario seems less likely. As for blaming the victim, the only thing I might place the blame on here is failure to better educate cyclists. I’ll agree with your stated position that it isn’t possible to engineer away every possible hazard such that cycling in NYC is an intuitive activity (although we can come pretty close to that if the political will were there). The issue here is who teaches new cyclists the skills you and I developed over many years of riding? Some sort of formalized instruction starting in late grade school, on through high school, wouldn’t be a horrible idea BUT it’s not going to help inexperienced adults who decide to start riding. To some extent as cyclists we can give advice when we see somebody doing something obviously dangerous or stupid but this still ends up being a pretty haphazard way to educate cyclists. You could have experienced cyclists giving courses but what percentage of new cyclists would really bother to attend such courses?

    This is all why I generally tend to avoid victim blaming, even in obvious cases where they may have made the wrong choice. I used to do it quite often. I realized at some point I was looking at things from the bubble of a highly experienced, virtually fearless, cyclist. Heck, I bomb across three lanes of traffic to make left turns (obviously I look first but I doubt more than 1% of cyclists are comfortable with maneuvers like that). I also realized despite my experience there are times riding in NYC where you just have information overload. I may well know exactly how to avoid a given predicament, but perhaps my mind is too focused on other potential hazards to even notice. A great example might be approaching an intersection on a street full of cars changing lanes, parking, unparking, etc. I’ll be busy looking at what the cars are doing because that’s what is most likely to hurt me. I might fail to notice a pedestrian who crosses midblock right into my path until it’s too late to stop or go around them. Granted, the person is doing something illegal but it’s still in my self-interest to avoid hitting them.

    I tend to find the rule of twos usually applies when mishaps occur. Somebody does something illegal and stupid at the same time someone else is, or perhaps when that someone else just isn’t paying attention.

    If things happened as you say, is this cyclist partially to blame her? Certainly, although perhaps her attention was focused on avoiding pedestrians in the crosswalk, or maybe she was just having a bad day. Going with the “rule of twos”, if the truck driver had been paying more attention while turning, the incident might still have been avoided. I’ve avoided quite a few potential collisions by looking for cross traffic at green lights. The traffic code says I shouldn’t have because I have the legal right-of-way. I do it anyway because I realize people make mistakes. Sometimes I have to compensate for those mistakes to stay alive (or to avoid killing someone were I driving a motor vehicle).

  • rogue

    Let’s say the cyclist proceeded into the crosswalk on her bike. She is in the crosswalk before the truck driver reaches and begins their turn.

    Unless the driver is aggressively or negligently turning into the crosswalk, they are not going to hit the cyclist. They are going to yield because the cyclist is directly in front of their vehicle.

    In this case, the truck driver did not yield. The vehicle ran over the cyclist. So was it, the truck driver turned too aggressively to stop in time? Or was it they were not paying attention? And in either case, how EXACTLY is the cyclist at fault here??

  • rogue

    So as you are run over by a truck, you would think to yourself, “Darn it, if only I had listened to Elizabeth F, my life would not be the victim of someone else’s negligence. My bad”

  • Elizabeth F

    > She is in the crosswalk before the truck driver reaches and begins their turn.

    No, she is ENTERING the crosswalk as the truck is BEGINNING the turn. She is now adjacent to the front-right corner of the truck, which is a blind spot.

    > And in either case, how EXACTLY is the cyclist at fault here??

    Because if she is riding her bike, then traffic law considers her a vehicle. Vehicles entering the roadway must yield to vehicles already in the roadway. She was entering the roadway from the sidewalk; therefore, she was required to yield the ROW to the truck.

    If she was walking her bike, then she is a pedestrian. In that case, she had the ROW and was not at fault.

  • ahwr

    You could have experienced cyclists giving courses but what percentage of new cyclists would really bother to attend such courses?

    Instruction is already available for those who want it.

    http://www.bike.nyc/education/classes/learn-to-ride-adults/

    http://bikeleague.org/bfa/search/list?bfaq=10001#education

    Going with the “rule of twos”, if the truck driver had been paying more attention while turning, the incident might still have been avoided.

    The oft-criticized approach of some in response to crashes like this is to blame the victim. If only the cyclist had done ____ the crash wouldn’t have happened.

    I also realized despite my experience there are times riding in NYC where you just have information overload. I may well know exactly how to avoid a given predicament, but perhaps my mind is too focused on other potential hazards to even notice. A great example might be approaching an intersection on a street full of cars changing lanes, parking, unparking, etc. I’ll be busy looking at what the cars are doing because that’s what is most likely to hurt me. I might fail to notice a pedestrian who crosses midblock right into my path until it’s too late to stop or go around them. Granted, the person is doing something illegal but it’s still in my self-interest to avoid hitting them.

    You seem to understand there are limits to what you can ask of people riding bikes. The same is true of people driving cars and trucks.

  • Andrew

    Only in certain cases.

    Wrong. http://law.justia.com/codes/new-york/2015/vat/title-7/article-26/1146

    Perhaps you are thinking of the requirement to yield the right of way to pedestrians and cyclists, which (a) applies only in certain cases and (b) places a much more stringent burden on the motorist when and where it does apply.

  • Andrew

    Yes, if she had been walking, she would have had the ROW. She might also have avoided stepping in front of a cement truck.

    The walk phase here is quite short. A pedestrian who waits for drivers to go first is a pedestrian who never crosses the street.

    Drivers are required by law to yield to pedestrians crossing on the walk signal. It’s the driver’s responsibility to be absolutely certain that no pedestrian is approaching his or her desired path of travel before proceeding, regardless of the sort of vehicle or whether it has a blind spot – if you don’t know whether or not a pedestrian is in your blind spot, you can’t just go ahead and assume not.

  • Andrew

    I don’t ride a bike, but this layout strongly implies to me that cyclists are specifically supposed to use the crosswalk – the only path into the Greenway lines up directly with the crosswalk.

  • Andrew

    Between 6 and 7 AM, that block of West 55th Street carries an average of 178 vehicles (I’m not sure if that includes bikes). Between 7 and 8, it carries 312. http://ftp.dot.ny.gov/tdv/YR2011/R11/04_New%20York/04_6052.pdf

  • Andrew

    All she would have had to do to access one of these crossings is walk her bike one block south or north.

    Do we ever design our infrastructure to be blatantly unsafe for motorists, and then, after one is killed as a result of the unsafe design, blame the motorist for not having walked her car one block south or north?

  • Elizabeth F

    The region is full of infrastructure that is unsafe for motorists. Road designers try to warn motorists of the safest way to navigate these situations (speed limit signs, curve warning signs, blinking lights, etc). And motorists regularly ignore those warnings, resulting in crashes in predictable locations on a regular basis. And when cars to crash, they are held at fault by the law. Pulaski Skyway, Merritt Parkway, Hutchinson Parkway, Bronx River Parkway, and just about any NJ state road to name a few.

    In this case, the safest way through the intersection would have been to follow the painted bike lanes. What more are you looking for? Signs that say “watch out for turning trucks” as you enter the crosswalk? Or signs that say “Do not bike on the sidewalk?” Or explicit bike routes heading 1 block north or south on the sidewalk? Or are you looking for a dedicated walk signal? (This intersection might already have that; we don’t know if she pushed the button). Or do you want 12th Ave redesigned; and if so, how? Or an overpass / underpass?

    And is this a safety treatment you can apply every block? Or do you prefer to build this stuff at a few intersections, try to funnel bikes to those crossings, and then prohibit bicycle and pedestrian crossings elsewhere?

  • MatthewEH

    Well said.

    I occasionally go this way, and since I’m proceeding south on the greenway from there I occupy the right-side turning lane, turn into the southbound service lane, then pick up the greenway where it crosses the access drive to the piers. Even then I find drivers can pull unexpected moves.

  • MatthewEH

    The access from Battery Park isn’t so bad. 😉

    Or you could hike your bike up the pedestrian overcrossings at 47th Street or Chambers. (An even less serious suggestion.)

  • MatthewEH

    On December 15 it is still dark at 6:45 AM, streetlights notwithstanding. Did the cyclist have active lighting on her bike? If not, this may help explain why the cement truck driver didn’t see her. Even so still seems like failure to exercise due care.

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