Cyclist Doored, Killed by Truck in Midtown

A truck driver opened his door into the path of a 63-year-old cyclist this morning, sending him into traffic, where he was run over by another truck. Though the cyclist, who has yet to be identified, was conscious immediately following the collision, he was later pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital.

Here is the wire report:

FINAL UPDATE,RESP-4 REPORTS A CYCLIST TRAVELING NORTH BOUND 6 AVE BTWN 36 & 37 ST WERE A RED PICK UP TRUCK WAS PARKED BY THE HYDRANT WHEN THE PASSENGER OPENED THE DOOR AND STRUCK THE CYCLIST . THE CYCLIST WAS STRUCK BY A PASSING BOX TRUCK.THE CYCLIST WAS TAKEN TO BELLEVUE HOSPITAL {DOA} ..SIGNS & MARKING IN GOOD WORKING ORDER..PER OP-26

And here is how it was reported in the Daily News. Note the number of steps taken, and not taken, by the cyclist to put himself in mortal danger — starting with the headline.

Bicyclist killed after falling in front of truck

A 63-year-old man bicycling in midtown Manhattan Wednesday morning hit a car door and flipped into the street before he was run over and killed by a box truck, police said.

The man, whose identity wasn’t immediately released, was not wearing a helmet, a police source said.

It’s as if every action — hitting the door, flipping into the street — was initiated by the cyclist, who wasn’t even wearing a helmet. The drivers of the vehicles, meanwhile, are never mentioned in the story. In fact, the article makes it seem as if there were no drivers.

The Ace Hardware truck that hit the man stayed at the scene.

Of course this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this kind of victim-blaming, even in the News.

Here is the 1010 WINS account:

Police said Wednesday that the victim, a Manhattan resident whose name
was not immediately made public, was riding northbound on Sixth Avenue
near 36th Street when he encountered the open door of a parked vehicle.
The impact caused him to land on the street, where he was struck by a
passing truck.

In this version, the cyclist encountered the door of a parked vehicle, which he apparently decided to crash into. At least this article refers to him as a "victim."

And though it almost goes without saying:

There were no charges, cops said.

  • mike

    Sickening.

    Opening a door into a bike lane is illegal.

    And if a truck ran over you, I very much doubt a helmet is going to help.

    The driver who opened the door ought to be charged, but I doubt s/he will. That would require that NYPD to know the law.

  • Steve

    I wonder if the truck driver that doored him was parked in the 6th Ave. bike lane.

  • brent

    Alright, now I’m pissed. After the cars get their dedicated 8 lanes of high speed roadway, cyclists might get 2 feet to use (as long as it doesn’t interfere with auto capacity.) There is no good reason for dooring to be such a huge part of the risk in biking. The driver should be charged. That aside, SHAME on these media lowlifes who blame this clearly innocent victim. Daily News is a shit paper and MELISSA GRACE and TINA MOORE are shit reporters. Can you imagine if a cyclist accidentally killed someone? My thoughts go out to the victim’s family. Senseless. Outrageous. Sickening- I think I’m gonna puke.

  • Mark Fleischmann

    From the wire report: “TRUCK WAS PARKED BY THE HYDRANT.” So the truck driver broke a traffic law, then set in motion the killing of a pedestrian. No charges for this?!

  • Mark Fleischmann

    Oops, correction, the killing of a cyclist, not a pedestrian).

  • nick
  • Gwin

    Nick – I certainly hope so. This story really makes me angry.

  • Fascinated

    GAH.
    Bike lanes in this city kill. And 6th Ave. is the worst: cabs, limos, panel trucks, police cruisers. . . the bike lane is a convenient shoulder to them all. This is my daily commute. All I feel is inchoate rage. What can we do about this? A prayer to the rider’s family.

  • bike commuter

    I cannot even find words for my rage.
    I hope Janette is looking into this, and looking for a solution.

    I really like what she is doing, but feel like she should comment.

  • Lumi

    Not to mention the bias reflected in the Daily News headline: “Bicyclist killed after falling in front of truck”

    Like, oops, he “fell.”

  • Richard

    This is usually what happens. Here in Lincoln Ne a biker stopped for on comming traffic to make a left hand turn. He was hit and killed by a judge’s wife. No charges were filed. The case is in civil courts. I hope this one lands there too!!!!!

  • mf

    Clearly the driver of the pickup and his passenger are partly at fault, but the real killer here is the DOT and the city, which decided that we couldn’t remove a lane of car traffic to provide a dedicated and separated bike lane like the one they put in at 9th Avenue or the short distance of Tillary Street in Brooklyn.

    Here’s a case of a cyclist following the rules, but he is killed because of poor road design, and a recent design as well. Although it sounds as if the driver was parked illegaly and should have been aware of the bike lane, the real problem here is that the bike lanes run alongside the street and the parked cars, squeezing the bikers between two dangerous situations. I haven’t seen the lane, but I’m willing to bet there’s no buffer either.

    If anything, the city should be sued for not putting in adequate safeguards for cyclists.

  • Geoff

    Let’s get going DOT! Get some more protected bike lanes (a la 9th Ave) on more avenues! I commute on 6th Ave between 9th St. and 26th St. daily and it needs one! Stop forcing bicyclists into dangerous situations!

  • amanda

    while it’s important to draw attention to the importance of helmets (he died of a head wound), it’s equally important to draw attention to what created such a deadly situation in the first place.

    these articles need to not only mention whether a cyclist was wearing a helmet (it seems to me that it’s mentioned far more often when the cyclist didn’t wear one; it’s just as important when s/he did), but what actually caused the accident. yes, cyclists should be reminded of how important a helmt is. but also, drivers and passengers need to be made aware of how dangerous their doors can me, and how dangerous it is to follow too close to a cyclist.

  • mfs

    This is so sad. Condolences to Smith’s family and friends.

    metro got it right

    Do shooting victims “hit a traveling bullet”?

  • trek970

    This is so sad. This biker was doing everything right–the fact that he was not wearing a helmet has nothing whatsoever to do with him getting doored and thrown out into traffic (whether he would have survived being run over by a truck if he’s been wearing his helmet is a separate issue). I ride on 6th ave. alot and it is true that the bike lane can become a death trap. I’m glad people are pointing out the euphemistic language used to describe what happened. My heart and prayers go out to David Smith’s partner and son.

  • Randy

    bicycle accidents resulting in death or injury should be handled by bicycle police in jurisdictions where police departments include a bicycle-riding patrol.

  • Spud Spudly

    Amazing that so few news outlets had the whole story — about how the driver of the vehicle was issued summonses for both blocking a bike lane and for parking in front of a hydrant, and the passenger was ticketed for creating a dangerous situation by opening the door improperly.

  • ddartley

    This is horrifying, especially the Daily News account; I’m really sad for his loved ones, but here I go, maybe a little rashly:

    By 1) providing this kind of bike lane, and having laws that say cyclists are supposed to stay in them when practicable, and 2) worse, police who simply say/think cyclists have to stay in the lanes, period, the city is at least partially to blame.

    I don’t want to hear that “there’s never been a fatality in a bike lane” thing. Doesn’t matter. These bike lanes, as designed and laid out in NYC, have been asking to kill someone for their entire history. We’ve just been lucky.

    I am glad to finally hear others call them “death traps.”

    Another rash statement, maybe, but any cyclist who gets ticketed for not staying in an obstructed bike lane should consider ways to sue the city.

    The combination of those laws, the lanes, and the anti-cyclist-prejudiced enforcement is a deadly and unjust one.

  • Polygraf

    Sad. Last week a cyclist was ticketed for not riding in the bike lane(which is not illegal). I prefer not to ride in a bike lane because w out a buffer your are obviously very vulnerable. Its great to have a bike lane but if motorist and pedestrians disregard that lane then its the worst place to be.
    I often tell my wife that should something happen to me while riding to pursue suing the city.
    Recently took a spill on a street where the entire length of bike lane was obstructed by squad cars and official vehicles, i was pinned between traffic and these parked cars. If i had a fatal crash then, wouldnt the city in essence be at fault?
    Are people really shocked that our news once again display obvious bias and irresponsible coverage?

  • alright, Im going to get rash as well.

    These truck drivers dont give a shit about bike lane, to them bike lanes are a joke. Dont even say anything to them they will laugh in your face.

    People us the lanes to hail cabs, cabbies use them to pick up and drop off passengers.

    I think all the people who own bikes should lay there bikes and boddies down up 6th avenue during rush hour.

    till someone from city hall does something about the attitudes towards bikes in this city. Why should we be 2nd class citizens.?

  • another thought.

    I think until drivers are arrested for the intentional or accidental death of a cyclist nothing is going to change. Even in this dooring incident the person responsible should have to serve some time in jail for his irresponsible action.

    This is the only way attitudes will change on the street.

  • Stacy

    The Sixth Avenue bike lane is probably one of the oldest, and certainly the most dangerous bike lane in the City. Not only is the lane constantly blocked by double parked trucks and construction trailers, but the narrow lane place cyclists directly in the door zone. To make matters worse, NYPD has gone so far as to tickets cyclists who ride outside the bike lane so any cyclist using this route has limited choices. Obviously something needs to be done to create a safer cycling environment on Sixth Avenue.

    We need safe routes that go to real places.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It took two people to kill this bicyclist.

    If the truck wasn’t in the bike lane, the bike rider could have ridden on the outside of the bike lane, away from the doors.

    But swerving into traffic, it is understandable that the bike rider would have stayed as close to the parked truck as possible. That wouldn’t have made a difference if the truck passenger looked before opening the door.

    Anyone could be killed in this way, helmet or no, conscious of being hit by a door or no.

  • Benjamin Shute

    I wrote a letter to the editor of the NY Post calling them out on their skewed coverage of this tragedy (they call it a “freak mishap”) . . . also wrote to the NY Sun, whose coverage was much better, thanking them for being more straightforward (they write about the car door striking the cyclist, not the other way around). Perhaps others should write as well.

    My letter to the Post:

    Shame on the Post for its skewed coverage of David Smith’s tragic death in a cycling accident (“FREAK MISHAP KILLS CYCLIST, 65”, 12/6/07). The article paints a picture of a chance accident in which an unlucky cyclist ran into a car door. On the contrary, Mr. Smith was obeying every traffic law and riding in a bike lane when a car passenger knocked him off of his bike and into the path of a truck, by illegally opening the car door without looking, while parked illegally in a bike lane. Far from a “freak mishap”, the dangers of reckless drivers and inadequate bicycle infrastructure are the norm for cyclists in the city. It is high time for major improvements on both fronts, and it is time for the Post to report these circumstances more accurately.

  • Steve

    Larry’s right. This likely would have happened even if there wasn’t a bike lane. That’s why its foolish to call for the elimination of bike lanes becfause of this killing.

  • Gwin

    Larry: It’s not clear that the truck was driving in the bike lane. It sounds like the force of the door pushed the cyclist out into traffic.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (Larry: It’s not clear that the truck was driving in the bike lane. It sounds like the force of the door pushed the cyclist out into traffic.)

    The articles in the post above indicate that the truck was parked in a way that obstructed the bike lane. Had it not, given that the articles indicated that the bike rider was concerned about being hit by a door, the rider could have stayed on the outside of the lane and avoided being hit by the door. Or so the information presented makes it seem.

  • Mark Fleischmann

    Let’s accept the premise that bad design is part of the problem. Let me throw out a proposal. What if the parked cars and bike lanes reversed positions? In other words, would bike lanes be safer if bikers rode between parked cars and the sidewalk? Parked cars would protect them from moving cars. They could still get doored, but they’d end up on the sidewalk. As a refinement, add bollards. Comment?

  • polygraf

    I beleive it is with intent that the nypd tickets and harasses riders on certain routes as a tactic to discourage riders from taking these routes alltogether rather than deal with the daunting task of securing and maintaining space for cyclist.
    I’m still curious at holding the city/dot liable for lack of viability and enforcement of safe lanes in time like these.
    I’d like to see this driver get involuntary manslaughter.

  • Gwin

    Larry: I was referring to the truck that actually hit him, not the one that did the dooring.

  • trek970

    I’ve been thinking about this all day. Some kind of direct action is needed in response to this. It’s unacceptable that the police sanction people for not using a bike lane that they are unwilling to keep unobstructed by delivery trucks, taxis, and their own squad cars. I kind of like the idea of laying our bodies and bikes up and down sixth ave to call attention to this.

  • trek970

    actually, i *really* like randy’s idea: police attitudes towards bikes and biking in nyc will not change until they themselves are patrolling the city on bicycles. why not call for the establishment of a bicycle patrol who’s main responsibility is to keep bike lanes open and respond to bike/car accidents?

  • amy

    trek970 and the other person who called for a protest on 6th ave… are we serious about this? can we organize something?

  • Hilary

    Separated bike lanes not only protect bikers. They protect pedestrians. Now that it gets dark early, I am constantly being surprised by bikes suddenly appearing in the darkness and near collisions. We pedestrians step out from the curb, cross on the red if there are not cars, but don’t anticipate the relatively infrequent bike.

    BTW, it is counterproductive to share a letter you’ve written to a paper on a blog. They won’t print it if it’s already been “published” elsewhere, and that includes blogs.

  • ddartley

    Amy, trek970, I’d be in.

    Someone got a day/time in mind? Maybe get T.A. on board? Heck I’ll write them now.

  • ddartley

    trek, I just e-mailed T.A. with a link to your comment. Maybe drop them a line, if you want to do this.

  • TrevorSpoke

    You can’t put a moving traffic lane between two parking lanes. If 6th ave has so many people pulling over, put the bike lane to the left of all that.

    I would amend the statement “the cyclist was doing everything right”. Instead I would say he was doing everything cycling-naive traffic engineers and police unwisely instructed him to do.

    If something is to be done, it is this: start riding in the traffic lane where all moving traffic belongs.

    Drive your human-powered narrow car safely.

  • John Hunka

    This accident is more evidence that vehicular cycling is safer than bike lanes. The choice is clear — risk being doored and dying in the bike lane, or take a lane and risk getting a ticket from a cop. It’s a no brainer.

  • John Hunka

    As I was riding uptown on Eighth Avenue last night, I noticed that the bike lane disappears for a couple of blocks in the vicinity of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. At that point, cyclists have no choice but to take the lane and apply vehicular cycling principles. It’s a tacit admission by DOT that a bike lane would be worthless at that location, and that vehicular cycling is the only practical solution for that location.

  • ddartley

    Take the much-maligned approach called “vehicular cycling.”

    Remove the part about staying as fast as the cars.

    Presto, you have the safest way to ride a bike in most parts of NYC (including, yes, avenues with “bike” lanes).

    Take a lane, and get honked at. (Doesn’t actually happen much). I swear, the [biggest] thing we have to fear in that situation is fear itself.

    The above is glibly expressed, yes, but I’ll defend it with more detail to anyone who wants me to.

    TrevorSpoke is RIGHT ON:
    “I would amend the statement ‘the cyclist was doing everything right.’ Instead I would say he was doing everything cycling-naive traffic engineers and police unwisely instructed him to do.”

  • for those who wish to practice vehicular cycling, go ahead. what most of us want (including all the new yorkers who would like to ride but won’t consider it under current conditions) is a separated, safe bike lane where we don’t have to negotiate issues like space and speed with vehicles that can kill us. the type of lanes that result in 30% of the population riding bikes every day in copenhagen.

    the vehicular cycling approach will never ever result in any significant numbers of cyclists in this city. most of us listened when our mothers told us not to play in traffic.

  • bike@transalt.org

    there is a chance that Street Memorials is planning a memorial ride for this coming Wednesday. i will be sure to get the details posted to streetsblog if it happens.

  • Luke

    As a biker I take my life into my hands every day.
    One has to ride slowly.
    I believe in hollering at people standing in the street wating for the light to change “watch the bike”
    I also holler at cars in the bike lane.
    As far as I am concerned all cars are the enemy.

  • ddartley

    Anne, I forgot to emphasize that I was talking about most CURRENT nyc conditions when I said that BIKE-SPEED vehicular cycling is “the safest way to ride a bike in most parts of NYC. . . .”

    I did NOT say there should be no bike lanes; I didn’t call for an end to building and improving new bike lanes; I don’t even think that this awful lane should be removed (unless replaced with something safer).

    IF it’s true that bike lanes get more people riding, then I agree, they’re good, and they’ll probably get even better. But until all that is visibly happening, I stand by my opinion that bike-speed “vehicular cycling” is the safest method in most CURRENT nyc environments. Heck, you slow cars down that way, all by yourself! And finally, my recommendation to ride that way can’t make anyone do it!

    Yes, drive safe, all.

  • ddartley

    bike@transalt, if Street Memorials does organize a memorial ride, I urge it strongly to incorporate trek970’s idea of a “die-in” in the bike lane.

  • Chris Jensen

    The bike lane issue seems to me to be huge, even here where I live in Brooklyn. For awhile I took to photographing every car on my routes of Bedford Ave. and Berry, but after awhile there were so many violations to document that I just gave up.

    Every time cars park in the bike lane, we have to put our lives at risk. When will the police start enforcing the law?

  • Hilary

    As a practical matter, parking in bike lanes – or any double parking – is not enforceable because the driver simply moves when an officer appears. There is not minimum speed limit so a car’s crawl can just approach zero. Enforcement is not the answer to this problem.

  • Steve

    Hilary, parking (and driving slowly or quickly) int he bike lane is easily enforceable. All we need to do is equip the TEA with cameras. They can photograph the violation first, and if the driver attempts to evade the ticket by refusing to wait until the summons can be issued a second ticekt should beissued for the noncooperation. Evidence iof the ease with which bike lane violators can be captured by camera is found here: http://nyc.mybikelane.com/

    And yes, NYC needs authorization from Albany to mount automated phtographic traffic enforcement devices, but no authorization is needed to equip TEA agents with cameras.

  • Larry Littlefield

    In New York there is the de facto rule, and the de jure rule. The de facto enforcement for parking in a mixed traffic lane is an enraged driver honking, cursing and who knows what else, immediately. Since there are, at the moment, fewer bikes, the double parking is in the bike lane.

    Perhaps the solution is barrier-guarded bike lanes for new cyclists, and riding in traffic for those who feel comfortable. We need more of the former.

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