Driver Kills Brooklyn Cyclist and NYPD Again Reflexively Blames the Victim in the Press

NYPD cited no evidence that the deceased victim caused the crash, but that didn't stop the department from telling the media he ran a red light.

Atlantic Avenue at Rochester Avenue. Photo: Google Maps
Atlantic Avenue at Rochester Avenue. Photo: Google Maps

A man killed by a motorist while riding a bike in Bedford-Stuyvesant yesterday was the fifth New York City cyclist fatality in the last four weeks. NYPD continued its practice of blaming the victim in the press while citing no evidence that the cyclist caused the crash.

According to NYPD, the cyclist, a 47-year-old man whose name had not been released as of late this morning, was riding north on Rochester Avenue at around 5:49 p.m. when he was hit by the driver of a Nissan SUV, who was westbound on Atlantic Avenue.

The victim was pronounced dead at Kings County Hospital.

NYPD withheld the name of the driver, who was identified by DNAinfo as a 19-year-old woman. Police did not charge or ticket her.

The account of the crash NYPD provided to Streetsblog said the investigation was ongoing and did not speculate on what caused the collision. Regardless, police told DNAinfo the cyclist “disobeyed a steady red light,” though they “didn’t specify how they knew that.”

When motorists killed cyclists Corbin Carr, in Manhattan, and Ronald Burke, in Brooklyn, on consecutive days in June, NYPD in each case told the media the victim ran a red. But in neither case could police point to evidence, such as witness statements or video of the crash, to substantiate those claims.

Recently, NYPD blamed cyclists Dan HanegbyKelly Hurley, and Lauren Davis for their own deaths before further investigation revealed that driver behavior was the cause. In many cases police seem to jump to conclusions or rely wholly on the driver’s version of events to shape their initial accounts to the press. Despite the lack of verifiable evidence about yesterday’s crash, the DNAinfo headline and lede paragraph run with the NYPD’s assertion of the victim’s culpability.

Atlantic Avenue consistently ranks as one of the city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes, but the section scheduled for safety improvements does not include the intersection with Rochester Avenue.

New York City motorists have killed 10 cyclists in 2017. Tuesday’s crash occurred in the 81st Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Robert Cornegy.

  • reasonableexplanation

    So looks like either the bicyclist or the 19 year old ran a red; both seem possible. I guess we’ll have to wait for the evidence.

    I have a question about the following: “Atlantic Avenue consistently ranks as one of the city’s most dangerous streets for traffic crashes”

    Is that just a total numbers metric or per volume metric? Meaning is it the most dangerous when accounting for the volume of people/cars/bikes, or is it about the same/safer/more dangerous per capita than streets with less volume?

  • Tooscrapps

    Pretty wide intersection for those traveling on Rochester. I can envision a situation where a cyclist was in the intersection before the light on Atlantic changed but had not yet cleared the intersection. The columns for the elevated reduce the sight-lines for cross traffic even further.

    It’s find it very unlikely that any cyclist (even reckless ones) would bomb a read on such a broad cross street.

  • Reader

    Kinda hard to get inside the NYPD’s head on this one. A 19-year-old in a giant SUV couldn’t possibly have been doing anything wrong like, say, texting or speeding on a wide road, but a 47-year-old on a bike must have been extremely reckless? It doesn’t pass the smell test.

  • walks bikes drives

    It’s possible neither ran the red. How many times have the police said a cyclist ran a red light and crossing the intersection when the reality was that they were both travelling the same direction?

  • sbauman

    This might be another case of the dangerous traffic signal guidelines killing another cyclist.

    The change from green in one direction to green in the perpendicular direction is 5 seconds for most NYC traffic signals. Atlantic Avenue is a wide street with an elevated railroad (LIRR) in the middle. The distance from entering Atlantic Ave northbound from Rochester Ave to westbound traffic lanes is between 88 and 110 feet (from the stop line on Rochester Ave to the westbound lanes). A bicycle traveling at 12 mph (18 ft/sec) will take between 4.9 and 6.1 seconds. This means that the traffic signal could have been green when the cyclist entered and been green for the westbound motorist, when the cyclist emerged from under the elevated structure. The elevated structure obscured the view for both the driver and cyclist.

    The problem is even worse because the cyclist sees no traffic signals, once he crosses the eastbound (near) lanes of Atlantic Ave. The only traffic signals facing northbound traffic on Rochester Ave are on the elevated structure on the far side of the eastbound lanes. These are 50 feet from the stop line. The cyclist is in no man’s land, insofar as visible traffic signals are for Atlantic Ave’s remaining 60 foot width. The cyclist might have had a sporting chance, had he been able to see a traffic signal change for green once he committed to crossing Atlantic Ave.

    The traffic signal timing criteria were developed in the 1920’s, before bicycles were required to obey them. The timing was developed for automobiles and have never been updated.

    The timing cycle goes from GR to YR to RR to RG. The YR part of the cycle is to give approaching traffic time to safely stop before entering the intersection. It’s based on: reaction time; approach speed and braking rate. It’s 3.0 seconds for most NYC signals. This is the minimum. The RR part of the cycle is to give traffic that entered the intersection before the change to yellow to clear the intersection. It’s based on street width, travel speed and vehicle length. The travel speed is nominally the 85th percentile speed, which would place it in the 25-30 mph range.

    NYC does not bother making such calculations. The YR cycle is 3 seconds and the RR (Red Clearance) cycle is 2 seconds. The crosswalk-to-crosswalk distance for Atlantic Ave is 120 feet and assuming a 15 foot long vehicle, the Red Clearance cycle would require a vehicle speed in excess of 45 mph to be effective. It would be inadequate for vehicles traveling at lower speeds.

    This situation bears study by DOT’s Team Vision Zero. It’s not limited to Atlantic Ave. Just about every wide street, e.g. arterial highways, exhibit similar problems.

    The safe procedure for a cyclist would be not to proceed, when a green signal is visible. The cyclist should wait until the instant when the signal changes from red to green. That’s the only way a cyclist knows he will have sufficient time to cross the intersection.

  • Joe R.

    Pedestrian count-down timers solve all of the issues you mention. I often use them to gauge whether or not it’s worth trying to make a light. For example, if I’m a block away and there’s 9 seconds or more on the timer, I can easily make it. 7 or 8 seconds I need to pick up the pace. Less than 7 is generally forget about it unless it’s a downgrade. 10 or 12 seconds might mean forget about it if it’s a significant upgrade.

    A cyclist can judge whether or not to proceed across the intersection based on how much time is left and their riding speed. I’m generally OK if I hit the crosswalk just as the timer goes to zero. That gives me about 4 or 5 seconds to cross the intersection before cross traffic gets the green. More than enough time except for streets like Queens Boulevard.

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  • reasonableexplanation

    I don’t know, several times? I have no data as to how accurate the initial police reporting is other than the anecdotal stuff I see here. Are they accurate 20% of the time? 60%? 90%?

    Either way, no point to assign blame until we know more.

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