Hit by a Car While Biking? Don’t Waste the NYPD’s Time

A Streetsblog reader named Jessica sends along yet another story of the NYPD’s failure to treat bike commuters as full-fledged citizens of the City of New York: 

This evening around 8pm I was biking home down 2nd Avenue in the bike lane. I had a front light, back light, a bell, and was wearing a helmet. At St. Marks Place I came to a red light and stopped. When the light went green, I went straight, only to be struck by a minivan making a left hand turn, throwing me and my bicycle to the ground, and the minivan continuing to roll over my front wheel, then stop directly upon it — successfully crushing my fork and mutilating my front wheel.

They stopped, and after checking myself out to realize I was physically fine, I asked about being compensated for the damage. In their eyes there was no damage. Knowing its important to report such an accident so that its on official record and could possibly be used to better the infrastructure to prevent such accidents, I called the police. At that moment the minivan driver became completely uncooperative and felt as though i was wasting her time.

The cops came, said they could issue no tickets because they did not see it with their own eyes, and informed me they could only take a report. They then said, to receive a copy of the report, I have to go to the precinct and pay $10. The cops make it seem like I was wasting their time as well, and almost implying to the driver that she had nothing to worry about.

Jessica

  • WOW. I have been hit a few times and the cops are not always the most cooperative. This situation sounds extremely bad. I have gotten the “we didn’t see it” excuse many times before.

  • Erik

    The cops can not take sides, in most street accidents they just take both sides and let ins. adjusters figure it out. For this reason it is always annoying when drivers don’t move their car to the side after an accident thinking the cop will make claim based on where the car is located. I think you should follow up, get the report, and call in a claim to the drivers ins company. Be prepared to be stonewalled but the more you lawyer up the more they will try to work out a deal for the damages. Keep receipts of the repairs to your bike and go see a doctor about any pain you have. Keep records of everything and all conversations you have with all parties.

  • mike

    What gets me angry about this story is that Jessica could have been killed by this idiotic driver, and the cops don’t seem to really care.

    I can’t tell you how many times drivers have turned right in front of me without looking to see if they are cutting me off.

    Really, this driver should have been hit with several traffic tickets at the very least.

  • get an ambulance

    I think cops would react to physical injury versus property damage differently. Perhaps in the future, even if you think you are physically ok, demand an ambulance (assuming you have health insurance) and a physical examination.

  • lower Manhattan

    Would it have helped to ask someone to be a witness?

  • Ed Ravin

    Jessica – make sure you visit your doctor and get checked out, some injuries don’t show up right away.

    The apathetic NYPD response is alas, all too typical – not every cop acts that way, but many do. They are supposed to be neutral at the crash scene, but they need to take witness reports and treat everything seriously. They should have also offered to voucher
    your bike at the precinct if you weren’t able to get hme on your own.

    You will be able to claim the bike damages from the motorist’s insurance company or the NY State uninsured driver compensation fund, as well as any pain and suffering (another reason to go to the doctor, any injuries you have need to be documented). A lawyer’s action or advice will dramatically streamline the process. I doubt you’ll find anyone willing to take it on contigency, but Transportation Alternatives should be able to refer you to lawyers who can give you basic advice on how to proceed.

    I call this the “second victimization” effect – you are victimized once by a motorist who runs you down, and then again by the system that cheats bicyclists out of their rights or even blames the cyclist for getting injured.

  • Eric

    By this logic, when the cops arrive and find a body with a bullet hole, do they not pursue an investigation because they didn’t see the shooting with their own eyes? Go after the insurance company, and make this woman pay. That could have been you under the wheel, Jessica!

  • lower Manhattan

    At least feel good that you succeeded in delaying and upsetting the driver. Let’s hope it makes him more careful in the future.

  • nate

    i’m glad it wasn’t worse!

    in any case, whenever anyone is involved in a collision where they go down they should NEVER say they’re OK. like getanambulance said; demand a medic and both the police and motorist will take the situation more seriously. you don’t know you’re okay until a medic checks you out. (but don’t ride that ambulance unless you really have to!)

    a friend of mine was hit a while back and he thought he was okay, but later on found out that he ruptured a blood vessel and that caused health complications afterwards. scary stuff.

    everyone be safe on the streets. it seems like it’s worse than ever..

  • Jeffrey Hyman

    Actually, I believe (from experience) that the police treated this incident the same as if it were two motor vehicles, at least as far as issuing tickets and even the blase attitude. And you always have to pay $10 for an accident report. When cops arrive and find a body with a bullet hole, they do indeed pursue an investigation, which is what the taking of the report constituted. I just deleted my responses to the more over-heated rhetoric….

  • Clover

    I got the same response from the NYPD when my husband and I witnessed a bicycle-pedestrian collision. I should first say that I am a bicycling advocate, and I was on my bicycle when this accident occurred.

    We witnessed a bicyclist blatantly run a red light and violently hit 2 female pedestrians. Both women were thrown about 10-15 feet. One of the pedestrians needed an ambulance and emergency surgery to repair her broken femur – a costly operation (even with insurance) and a very long recovery.

    Even though there were 2 witnesses and the at-fault bicyclist remained at the scene, the cops said there was nothing they could do because they didn’t see it. It begs the question how anything is prosecuted since the NYPD can’t have eyes everywhere.

    The woman hired a lawyer to recover some of her expenses, but it seems that will be fruitless as well as the bicyclist had no insurance. Pretty sad outcome. At least the victim thinks that not all cyclists are bad since we were the only 2 to help her out of the hundred or so people who saw the wreck.

  • Justin C.

    Who cares about bikers?

    How about you get the fuck out of the way of cars (Who are bigger, badder and own the street) and ride through parks on the weekends instead of using a freaking bike as a form of transportation like a bunch of little losers.

    I love scaring away those stupid bikers whilst driving my enormous Range Rover through the streets speeding up when they get in my way!

    Hahaha.

  • upstate manhattan

    #10: That the police treat collisions with pedestrians and cyclists the same as motor vehicle collisions is exactly the problem! The risk to a cyclist or pedestrian getting hit is far greater than to someone surrounded by a multi-ton safety cage. That increased risk warrants a heightened response when collisions do occur.

  • ddartley

    I just want to point out that DOT NARROWED THE BUFFER on that stretch of 2nd Ave. after they re-paved the ave.

    The width of the buffer used to be about 100% the width of the lane itself, and that was great, because if someone was double parked in the lane, you could still ride safely in the buffer.

    Now the buffer is about 50% the width of the lane, and so if someone double parks in the actual bike lane part of it, a cyclist now has to move into the car lane just like with a regular old death-trap Class II un-buffered lane.

    I’ll send in some pics one of these days. Damn I wish I had pictures of the OLD lane. Anyone else?

  • ,do you smell bacon?

    Police? Who needs them?

    Thank you for telling your story Jessica; it exposes what I regard to be the critical weakness in many of the well meaning efforts to change policy to encourage cycling in the city: nonexistent, or incompetent enforcement of existing traffic law. I ride nearly 10,000 miles a year in the city and have been hit by inattentive drivers numerous times, actively threatened and run off the road twice, kicked by a cab driver once in a case of road rage, and had a police officer intentionally and forcefully slam his cruiser door into me while asking for his badge number when he unintentionally turned into me without looking. I’ve had 3 bikes totaled after being hit by cars, and numerous bent or broken parts, wheels, frames and forks. I don’t know what the police either individually or institutionally think they do to enforce the traffic laws in regard to cyclists but I’d say its not much. After more than 20 years riding in the city I’ve never once experienced or heard of an officer offering anything after a car-bicycle accident or assault more meaningful than a sympathetic ear, a ticket (good thing you had a bell) for the cyclist or the filing of a report after an incident involving physical injury. ‘get an ambulance’ is right, the police need evidence of damage on the car and your body before they think they need to do anything. If your accident was gory enough to make the 11 o’clock news the police might go so far as to issue a summons to the driver. But I’d suggest spending your time and money on finding a new bike, riding it, getting others to ride and telling your story rather than trying to get the police to do anything. The more of us out there, the less we need them. However much we or they’d like to think New York’s finest serve and protect, they’re mostly impotent.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (I think cops would react to physical injury versus property damage differently.)

    What if there were witnesses. everything was accurately described, and the person who hit you got a ticket?

    In Upstate New York, not NYC, my brother in law was riding a bicycle and was struck by a woman in an SUV who made a left turn at speed and plowed right into him head on. Despite the safety glass, he was thrown right through the windshield and would have died had he not been wearing a helmet, and might be crippled had he not been an athlete.

    As it is he was badly hurt, hospitalized for a long time, unable to work for a longer time, used up his vacation time, sick time, etc. He had health insurance, but lots of co-payments. And his glasses and his bicycle were destroyed.

    The woman got a ticket.

    Since he had health insurance, the woman’s insurance company refused to pay medical bill. Under no fault, the insurance company paid for his bike and glasses, but not replacement cost — the value after an accelerated depreciation schedule. I think he might have received $20 in compensation.

    So, how old is your wheel and fork, and how fast to bicycles depreciate?

  • Eric

    Jeffrey, my comment about the bullet hole was to dramatize a point, not to be “overheated.”

    There’s a difference between car-on-car collisions and car-on-bike collisions (or bike-on-pedestrian, as Clover pointed out). The way insurance works in NYS, when two cars collide (assuming both are actually insured — that’s another story), the insurance companies hash it out, and the accident report comes into play. But there’s no second insurance company in the car-on-bike crash, so of course the cyclist — Jessica, in this instance — is going to get screwed.

    Which is why the police have to do better than “we didn’t see it so we can’t do anything.” Witnesses, anyone?

  • NYPDdad

    What would you have the police do ? Arrest the driver ? That is a very busy precinct, and there are only three radio cars out at any given time to cover the entire precinct and respond to crimes and other REAL emergencies. Apart from taking a reoprt there’s nothing the officers could have done.
    No crime was apparently committed, and they know that the drivers insurance company will likely compensate you.

  • lee

    um, how about a ticket or two?

    it is still illegal to hit someone with your car, isn’t it?

  • NYPDdad

    It’s not ILLEGAL to hit someone with a car unless done recklessly, with criminal negligence or under the influence. A police officer may not issue a summons for a traffic offense not committed in his or her presence.
    Maybe the law should be different, but it isn’t. Sounds like the officers acted in accord with their responsibilities.

  • Stu

    I just want to clarify that when the cops are saying that they can’t give a ticket because they didn’t see the accident, what they mean is that they can’t give a ticket for running the red light or whatever the driver did.

    And, of course, it’s not illegal to get into an accident due to a misjudgment on the behalf of the driver or cyclist.

    That’s the legal issue at stake here, and that’s why enforcement is such a difficult thing to do–they can’t give tickets based on peoples’ notoriously unreliable and self-serving memory.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I think NYPDad’s points need to be taken seriously.

    (That is a very busy precinct, and there are only three radio cars out at any given time to cover the entire precinct and respond to crimes and other REAL emergencies.)

    And, I remind you, that is with NYC having 2 1/2 times the police officers relative to population as the national average, and the number of officers is going down. So I conclude one cannot count on the police to solve these problems. The fixes have to be designed in to the street system.

    Let’s get back to how Jennifer was injured.

    As I ride down the street on a bicycle, a routinely catch up to motor vehicles that have slowed (as it turns out) to make a turn, who then turn in front of me. Two or three times every day I ride to work, with or without a bike lane.

    They wouldn’t make a turn from a center lane in front of motor vehicle, but they do it to a bike, because they do not perceive a “lane” to their right or left, in the direction they are going.

    Sometimes they signal, sometimes not. Depending on the circumstances, I may have been in their blind spot before the turn. And the driver is looking ahead for pedestrians (or should be).

    I could see myself, as a driver, pulling up to an intesection, slowing, looking forward right for motor vehicles, looking forward left for pedestrians, and easing left around a corner –right in front of an overtaking bicycle I never saw.

    I haven’t been hit because, as a middle-aged guy, I ride slow enough to hit the breaks. But I think there is an issue requiring a solution here.

  • ddartley

    Larry (and all), you’re right, and one such solution for places like Manhattan’s avenues is the bike lane design (two variations) on my http://www.flickr.com page (ddartley).

    Sorry, I’d provide the URL, but my office has decided to block flickr.

    Yeah, the design has been discussed here before, but despite the criticisms, I still think it’s a good one.

  • Eric

    NYPDdad, thanks for the explanation. And I agree with you that perhaps the law ought to be different.

  • Jessica

    Thanks everyone for their comments!
    As a bicycle commuter in this city for the past 7 years – this is my first time to be hit by a car.

    I understand Streetsblog aspect of focusing upon the NYPD in this situation, but I initially contacted Streetsblog to ask if they knew of any precedence about Vehicle on Bicycle Insurance matters, and if it would be absolutely useless to try to be compensated through a drivers insurance – if in fact there were no summons issued/fault given.

    They were so kind to respond very quickly with helpful info of people to contact.

    Reading through the comments, i feel the need to call out a couple things.
    To quote the DOTs city of NYC traffic rules, (downloadable here – http://home2.nyc.gov/html/dot/html/motorist/traffic_rules.shtml):

    Section 4-12
    (h)”Accidents involving motor vehicles must be reported as required by the Vehicle and Traffic Law.”

    (p) Bicycles
    (2) Driving on or across bicycle lanes are prohibited….”Notwithstanding any other rule, no person shall drive a vehicle on or across a designated bicycle lane in such a manner as to interfere with the safety and passage of persons operating bicycles thereon.”

    As we were both stopped at the same red light together, side by side- me in the bike lane and the driver in the left vehicle traffic lane, I find the negligence to rest upon the driver for not even acknowledging the fact that there was an additional lane of traffic to their left. And in effect – operating a motor vehicle in a densely populated region without looking.

    Through the attitudes I experienced, its obvious drivers wont acknowledge bike lanes as traffic until “laws” are enforced, better bike lanes developed & implemented, and proper educational campaigns associated with new infrastructure are in place.

    As my accident proved…. the “new” bike lanes the city is creating is the equivalent of beating a dead horse when drivers are not required to even acknowledge them as traffic lanes.

    On the NYPD end, I called to receive my accident report number today and the 9th precinct told me to call back in a week.

    I agree with you Ed Ravin,”second victimization” effect.

  • Jonathan

    Jessica, my auto insurance policy covers me (and everyone in my household) for motor vehicle accidents, whether we were driving or not. It might be worth looking into a touring policy; that’s the kind for people who don’t own a car of their own but want coverage.

    do you smell bacon, you seem to get in an awful lot of accidents, by the way. Maybe it’s time to take a cue from Larry L. and ride less aggressively, friend.

  • Tim

    That 2nd ave bike lane is extremely dangerous – I usually find it safer just to ride in the vehicle lane. Cars are continuously double parking or using it as a left turn lane, making the traffic pattern unpredictable to cyclists. Until Bloomberg decides to enforce bicycle lanes against drivers, they are almost useless.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Hmmmm….

    In New Jersey a citizen can issue a summons to the driver of another vehicle particularly when involved in an accident. I’ve done it myself but ended up dropping the charge after the driver did not show up to the first court appearance.

    This practice of issue tickets to the other driver involved in an accident is often done to protect one’s self from being accused of being at fault. In my case I clearly wasn’t at fault since the other driver went through a stop sign. I had no stop sign and had the ROW. Unfortunately I could not avoid hitting her car with my own.

    If you don’t issue the other driver a ticket even when the accident was clearly not your fault there is always a possibility that the other driver will issue you a ticket as a way to pass the blame. In may case the other driver could have said that I was speeding or driving without my headlights on in the rain (that’s why I wasn’t riding my bike); all of which were not true but it becomes a matter of “he said, she said.”

    This happened to a friend of mine who was involved in an accident that was not her fault. The accident report clearly indicated so but the other driver issued her a summons on the 29th day after the accident. The statute of limitations to issue a summons is 30 days in New Jersey. By the time my friend got the ticket she could not rebut it with a summons of her own against the other driver since it was then beyond the 30 days since the accident.

    When I issued the other driver the summons in my case I did the same and issued it on the 29th day. But again I did it to cover my butt, not so much as to punish her further. After not showing up for the first court appearance it was no longer worth my time to pursue the charge so I dropped it.

    I would imagine that things are somewhat the same in NY so I would suggest trying it. Also get a lawyer or at least have one review the case. The other driver’s car insurance has tons of them if you pursue this and you’ll need at least someone on your side.

    I REALLY hate to sound so litigious but if criminal justice system won’t protect bicyclists and pedestrians then we have no choice but to pursue justice in the civil courts.

    Just my 2 cents.

    Good Luck!

  • Something like this happened to me.

    The good news is that once I went to the precinct to get the $10 report, it contained the motorist’s insurance info, and the insurance company bent over backwards to help me. They fully reimbursed me for bike repair, time lost from work, and all medical treatment.

    You should definitely pursue this with the insurance company, even if the cops at the scene sucked.

  • Jim

    NYS law dictates an officer must see a violation in order to write a summons except in the case of leaving the scene of an accident. the case is diffrent in florida where an officer MUST issue a summons at all accidents weather he sees it or not. the officers made a wise choice not to purger themselves as it is a misdemenor to do so. the bottom of a traffic summons states that and an officer does sign it.

  • ben

    I live in pa and got hit by a car on the 23 of march. my arm and leg were broken. I’m now imoblized for 6 weeks. it was a state road and the state cop took 40 min. to get there and didn’t really care. the man who hit me didn’t brake and he wanted to make sure i paid for his damages.

  • galvo

    some incorrect information posted here in this thread concerning no fault in NYS. First you do not need to worry about having private medical insurance if you are hit by a vehicle .
    The medical bills are paid for by no fault in new york state. As a bicyclist or pedestrian you are covered by no fault, that is why even with a hit and run, report it immediately and get witnesses, there is a fund for your medical under no fault in hit and runs.
    nys no fault has nothing to do with damage to the car or bicycle, that is a totally a different insurance matter. No fault is basic medical and lost wages.
    if you have private medical insurance ,when they find out it was an auto crash they will ask for their money back for all expenses paid. Another reason why you have to pursue the no fault medical matter.
    this may not be 100 percent correct, but i heard that you have a much better chance of getting no fault treatment such as mri and cat scans right after the crash, if you are brought to the ER.
    I believe if you wait and see your own doc and they send you for a mri, they are now concerned if they are going to get paid and will ask for the insurance company approval first. In the ER they know how to handle and bill for car crashes. Motorcyclist are not covered by no fault in NYS, but i believe a ped or bicyclist is, if they are hit.That would have to be clarified with a lawyer.
    a suggestion and this is pure hind site. If you are able to take a picture of your bike under the car or have someone else do so, maybe that would help. everybody has a cellphone camera.
    i dont know for sure but a picture of the crushed bike under the wheels and bike lane in the background background, may enhance a diagram, and strengthen any claim .
    if i came across any ped injury or bike injury i would take a lot of pictures.

  • Are you all street lawyers?

    hey you liberals…it’s not an excuse. you’ve all read and are proficient with the VTL i assume? since you all have so much to say i take it that you know what the VTL even stands for? traffic infractions, even in regard to accidents, MUST BE WITNESSED!! they are INFRACTIONS. the police cannot go to traffic court and testify that an infraction occurred (justifying summonses issued) that they DID NOT SEE! hey, criminal justice 101. EVEN I KNOW THAT. no wonder the police are irritated with you. don’t tell them what their job is. and the cops don’t charge $10 for the report. THANK YOUR MAYOR. “IT IS BETTER TO REMAIN SILENT AND BE THOUGHT A FOOL, THAN TO OPEN YOUR MOUTH AND REMOVE ALL DOUBT.” do your homework before you bash the police. everyone has something to say… go take the test and see if you can do a better job. i pity the NYPD. they exhibit TREMENDOUS self-control and restraint. you talk garbage… you have NO IDEA about being a police officer. you apparently can’t even ride a bike.

  • P

    Getting hit by a car is a liberal thing to do?

  • grinner

    No no, getting hit by a car is not a liberal thing to do. Not blaming the victim, though: now THAT is a totally liberal act.

    It’s ok, P. I’m sure that Are You All Street Lawyers will take stick to her/his position when it is her/his nephew/son/niece/daughter strapped to “the board” for the ride to the ER, or looking at her/his mangled fork. As such a strong supporter of the way things are, i’m sure that a personal experience won’t shake her/his faith at all.

  • nycbikecommuter

    Some clarification is needed here: If you are a pedestrian or bike rider hit by a motor vehicle of any kind, then your medical bills for treatments related to the accident are paid for (or supposed to be paid for) by the motorist’s No-Fault portion of the Auto Insurance Policy that the motorist is supposed to have. If the motorist does not have auto insurance, then your policy will pay and if you don’t have a policy or live in household with someone who has an auto policy, then you can apply to the NYS MVAIC fund for payment. How do you find out the motorist’s auto policy: wait for a cop to show up and insist that an accident report get written. That will have the insurance code on it. If the driver is nice, then you can get it directly from his insurance card (company name, policy number, etc) You must file a No-Fault claim within 30 days of the accident.

  • you know who

    get the report and then sue the driver, thats what i am currently in the midst of right now.

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