Brooklyn Cyclist Struck and Killed by SUV

shamoon.JPGOn Tuesday, August 5, at approximately 1:28 a.m., cyclist Rasha Shamoon was struck by a Range Rover SUV at the intersection of Delancey St. and the Bowery in Manhattan. According to friends, she was not breathing when paramedics arrived at the scene. Shamoon was revived and taken to New York Downtown hospital in critical condition. She was transferred to New York Presbyterian, where she was declared brain dead. She was removed from life support on Monday, August 11.

Shamoon, 31, was on her way home to Greenpoint when she was hit. The driver remained at the scene and was not charged. According to reports, police say Shamoon was crossing against the light.

Shamoon worked as a college instructor. She was a member of Transportation Alternatives and Time’s Up, and a supporter of the New York City Streets Renaissance. She was also a musician, playing in several local bands.

A funeral mass will be hold for Shamoon tomorrow, followed by a New Orleans-style Jazz Parade and wake celebration. Details are available here.

  • jamesmallon

    Another damn waste. Let me guess from that police report: no witness other than the driver, or other drivers. The odds of a bright, sober cyclist crossing in front of an FUV against the light on purpose are pretty low.

  • somebody

    and on the following weekend there is a rally in the Olinville section of the Bronx to call for a speed bump to protect children playing in front of the Allterton Branch NYPL where Michael Needham was killed riding his bicycle back in June:

  • This is a horrible tragedy. Absolutely terrible. Especially sad because she was such an advocate of smart streets and alternative transportation… Let me say, however, that there is a danger in posting this here with the headline “Killed by SUV” as if to suggest that this awful event is a symptom of the gas guzzling culture. Let’s be fair, or we can’t be right. Rasha was apparently crossing against the light. Of course she doesn’t deserve to die for that–this is the tragic thing about accidents. But running a red light, she could just as easily have collided with a hybrid bus, or a Prius, or another bicyclist, or a blind pedestrian.

    There’s too much driving in the world and too many painful accidents. But not every car is inherently evil or wrong (the ambulance that carried beautiful Rasha to the hospital was bigger than that SUV) and we have to be careful what we make advocacy of. My hope is that this post, rather than a misplaced demonizing of SUVs, is meant as a tribute to Rasha and a reminder to all of us that no matter what mode of transportation we choose, safety is our shared responsibility.

  • Gwin

    This is a terrible tragedy. I live right near there, and would NEVER try to cross against the light on my bike (or any other 2-way street, for that matter). I see people doing this all the time, and just have to shake my head in wonder.

    My condolences to her family.

  • Brooklyn

    I ride through that intersection every day — I’d be interested to know the angles and trajectories of the incident. Even at night I think the sightlines are excellent from any direction — but the traffic lights are often not respected and drivers love to speed through, beating the yellow.

  • jamesmallon

    “there is a danger in posting this here with the headline “Killed by SUV” as if to suggest that this awful event is a symptom of the gas guzzling culture” She was hit by a gas guzzler, wasn’t she…

    “the ambulance that carried beautiful Rasha to the hospital was bigger than that SUV” There’s far less justification for wasting carbon fuels in a personal bus than a life saving bus! No comparison.

    I’m not going to believe it is her fault until I hear it from a witness who is at least a sometime cyclist. In our autoheaded culture all collisions are presumed to be the fault of the cyclist, just as all altercations are presumed to be the fault of the darker person: human nature doesn’t like individuality.

  • ZeldaB

    The asshole in the Landrover is not going to admit he ran into Rasha, but anyone who knew her, knows she was a safe biker. She always wore a helmet, she had reflectors, and she obeyed traffic laws. The person who hit her had two friends in the car, I am sure he was distracted when he hit her. It really pisses me off to read that “police say Shamoon was crossing against the light” based on the iformation given by the driver of the Hummer, no other witenesses gave statments and Rasha can’t tell her side of the story.

    She was an amazing person and will be deeply missed.

  • squeakywheel

    Wait, the only credible witness is someone who is “at least a sometime cyclist”? (That “at least” is priceless.) Reading the comment above, you would more likely reach the opposite conclusion. No wonder bicycle advocacy faces such an uphill battle.

    What a horrific accident and a terrible loss of an admirable-sounding person. This incident should be investigated further, but let’s not turn it into a morality play with a predetermined outcome. And let’s not demonize the driver, who may genuinely not have been at fault–and almost certainly feels awful.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I’m going to assume that Shamoon’s bike had all the appropriate lights. Someone with her credentials (at least from what I’ve read here) would never ride a bike at night without lights. I know I NEVER do with very few exceptions. Unfortunately I see WAY too many people (like 98%!!) riding bikes at night without lights.

    BTW, SUVs by the nature of their design, tend to tend to throw pedestrians and cyclists to the ground and then run over them which is often fatal. Cars on the other hand with their lower hoods tend to throw bikes/ped onto the hood or into the air which is not as deadly.

    Also I read a review of a study said that SUV drivers tend to be more egotistical and aggressive and that they buy SUVs since these types of vehicles reflect their “get out of my way or I’ll run you down” attitudes. I’m not saying that was the case here but it wouldn’t surprise me.

    And finally, how many people have said on this blog that it is OK for cyclists to go through red lights?? I’m guilty of doing it too, particularly when I’m in the cities (NYC & Philly) but I always feel guilty and only do it where there is a real safety advantage. Again I personally see WAY too many cyclists (and pedestrians) ignoring the basic rules of the road in my day to day and professional observations that I’m not too quick to blame the car drivers anymore.

    May Shamoon rest in peace and I hope that this was truely and nothing more than just a very tragic accident.

  • anonymouse

    Delancey and Bowery… “against the light” could really be anything there. I think the most likely scenario is her heading eastbound and the SUV making a left turn south onto Bowery. Could be that the cyclist was going against the light with the SUV having a left turn arrow, or just as likely, the SUV driver *thought* they had a left turn arrow, and didn’t see the cyclist going straight through the intersection. I wonder if she had lights on her bike, and for that matter, why they’re not mandatory to sell on bikes from the get-go.

  • Andy B from Jersey


    I fear my first assumption may have been wrong. Reflectors alone do not meet the night time running requirements for riding a bike at night in New York or most other states.

    Everyone! Please keep it legal out there!

  • For what it’s worth, the report’s wording doesn’t exclude the possibility that both parties to the collision were crossing against the light. There is really no point in making a judgment unless you know who was going where, how fast, and at exactly where in the cycle the light was. But then that is exactly what we do when we read the news, form opinions based on scant information of dubious quality. In some cases at least the internet is helping bring out details; this crash being so late on a Monday, that isn’t as likely to happen. Eventually I hope we get to the point where every serious crash is fully reported on, considered, debated, and certainly mourned—all by citizens themselves, not their unreliable proxies—because that is what it will take to reduce them in the future. We need to stop moving on to the “acceptance” stage of grief so swiftly and mechanically, and consciously weigh all the deep-rooted causes against the loss. Do we want to go down in history as the (third?) American generation that put lifestyle ahead of life itself?

    The left-turning vehicle scenario seems probable. I try to never to cross against a red (on foot or on bike) unless I have the intersection timings and order wired. It can be hard though, when it seems like no one has the light and you’re just waiting (and exposed to rain, cold, heat, whatever) for no reason. Sometimes cars too will run lights, especially late at night. When in doubt, wait it out.

  • Ben

    This my worst fear I abide by all the laws and get shafted like a two bit cyclist. Not saying this is happening to her.

    When will they put EDRs in autos do I have to wait till 2012 give me a break?

    May she rest in peace.

  • Zeldab

    She had lights on her bike as well (I checked) and I can’t believe that everyone assumes Rasha ran a light!!! For fucks sake the only statement was from the DRIVER!!!! By now possibly his two friends made a report, but according to the last official thing i heard, only the driver made a statement (what do you think his friends are going to say?). WE DO NOT KNOW THAT SHE WAS RUNNING A LIGHT!

    There is no good reason for a Hummer to be in NYC! Where is the rough terrain? They are huge, gas guzzling, polluting, tanks! There has been many attempts to get them outlawed from the city in lieu of 9/11. To clarify I only mean they should be banned from Manhattan. The other boroughs are larger and less crowded, even though I still think they are ridiculous in all of NYC, but at least they are less dangerous in the outer boroughs.

    Rasha has been biking in NYC for 10 years she knew what she was doing. This guy was in his twenties driving his father’s monster car! Please out of respect to the many, many people who love Rasha don’t say she ran the light until it is proven either way.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    I’m glad to hear that Shamoon knew what she was doing and had lights on her bike.

    I also understand your anger ZeldaB. I’ve told all my close friends to not believe a report that puts me at fault if I get hit and killed by a car. I screw up from time to time but very, very rarely. If I die under the wheels of a car and I’m said to be a fault, I’ve told all of them to raise holy hell in my defense!

  • Max Rockatansky

    Tragic story, I always take a moment when I see ghost bikes, sorry there’s going to be another one. Rasha sounded like a wonderful person. My heart goes out to her family, friends, and loved ones.

    Too many people die on our streets in ways that are completely preventable and blindly accepted by society.

  • Mike Pumphrey

    She was my next-door neighbor. I live in Apt 2L, she lived in Apt 2R.

    …what can I possibly say here?

  • Shamoon Family

    As Rasha’s family, we want to set the record straight. The police report was alarmingly sparse in detail. There was no mention of anyone running a light. The ONLY witnesses questioned were the driver and two friends who were riding in the SUV. My sister will never have the opportunity to give HER side of the story.

    Rasha was intelligent, gifted, witty, beautiful and caring. We also knew her to be incredibly safety-conscious. She was an experienced cyclist who would NOT have taken foolish risks with her bike.

    Yes, she had lights and reflectors on her bike. Yes she had a helmet and ALWAYS wore it. It was covered with reflector tape, as was her bike… all over.

    Could it be that these accidents happen so frequently in this city that they are not taken seriously anymore? The bicyclist is presumed guilty until proven otherwise? In so many ways, this is just tragic.

    We miss her terribly.

  • To the Shamoon family, do not let your selves feel down about the people who seem to blame Rasha. I think the most glaring piece of evidence is the 10 year cyclist vs. young SUV driver. In 10 years of riding you gain a lot of experience. Even with such knowledge you are not going to prevent such things caused by an apathetic driver unafraid of ghastly consequences.

  • younghickory, if you really are confused with the difference between a paramedic driven truck packed with life-saving equipment, and an obnoxiously oversized car that is only a style choice, you might need to crawl away from the computer and experience some of the world out there.

  • My deepest condolences to Rasha family and friends . Again we have a horrible and unnecessary death from automobile. Another wonderful life snuffed, labeled as unavoidable auto accident , but as a bicyclist i doubt it was as the media reports.
    That intersection is way too dangerous for a 10 year safe cyclist like Rasha to run a light. Please lets get some more investigation into this for Rasha spirit.
    Speeding is too common and accepted on the Bowery, There are already too many ghost bikes memorials on the Bowery. Left turn green arrow for a vehicle still requires the vehicle to yield to thru traffic.. There are good sight lines here. Something is missing here, we need justice for Rasha memory.

  • Lee Watkins

    A terrible loss. What can we do in her memory?
    What changes would she have fought for?

    This is exactly why we need more people on bikes, and in particular more drivers who also ride bikes themselves. I’ll explain.

    As the percentage of trips made by bike increases in a region, the total number of bike accidents quickly levels off at a certain (rather low) threshold, while the total number of trips can continue to increase past that with no significant increase in accidents. Accidents chart as a Natural Log as bike mode-share increases. This means that there is a massive and perpetual increase in the safety of the individual cyclist past that threashold. The threashold itself is lowered by increasing quality bicycle infrastructure, driver training, and reducing the number of cars, improving the design of the cars, etc. This is confirmed by several dutch, danish, german studies, etc.

    Many efforts to make cyclists feel safer, such as helmets and reflectors, have actually been shown to increase risk-taking behavior – particularly those cyclists who think they need them. This is called risk compensation. Similarly, drivers are more agressive when their cars are equiped with ABS, seat belts, etc. In the case of cyclists, the promotion of these devices dramatically reduced the number of cyclists. In all these cases, the cyclist looses, because the technologies added to cars do increase safety to the driver about as much as expected (overall accidents are the same due to risk compensation), while the helmets and reflectors used by cyclists are much less effective than people think (resulting in a higher level of accidents than otherwise). In the end it is the car that kills the cyclist, especially when both driver and cyclist risk-compensate.

    The most effective way to increase the true safety of cyclists it to increase their numbers, without resorting to gimics. Drivers learn how to share the road with cyclists by becoming cyclists themselves as well. The tried and true way to make this happen is to get real bicycle infrastructure in place by redistributing the distribution of space, money, and time, as you will find in Copenhagen, Holland, Japan, etc. This will only happenn when bicycle planning must becomes an integrated aspect of all transportation planning – not an afterthought. There will also need to be de facto support from small buissiness, who it has been shown vastly under-estimate the profits they stand to gain from pedestrianization and integrated bicycle policies.

    My condolences. Now let’s make it happen!

  • anonymous

    To the Shamoon family, my thoughts are with you. My family went through something similar, and also, I bike NYC’s streets every day, so I’m familiar with motorists’ and the authorities’ ignorance towards cyclists–so I am with you in both your sadness and your anger. I’m very sorry for your terrible loss. Peace be with Rasha.

  • Gio

    I live above Rasha. I’m Apt 3L. I always used to see Rasha come in with her bike at nights. She always wore a helmet and had bike relectors. She was an expert biker. I can’t believe the story that she ran the red light. She was always careful with things. My condolences.

  • nate

    this is heartrending. my thoughts and feelings go out to her family and friends. everyone take care and tell everyone you know to do the same. these streets still aren’t safe yet..

  • L.

    RE: “The police report was alarmingly sparse in detail.”

    Is there no way to initiate further investigation? I can’t believe there were no other witnesses. What about security camera footage?

    And it’s a conflict of interest that the ONLY people questioned for the police report were the ones who might have committed a crime. The driver may not be at fault, but I imagine if you’d just struck someone with your car, and it looked as if the person may not survive, you wouldn’t necessarily volunteer the information that you were responsible. I’m not so sure either that the driver necessarily feels awful. I’ve talked to bicyclists and pedestrians who’ve been hit by cars that then fled the scene.

  • david

    Very sorry to hear of this horrible event. We as bikers take great risks when we bike in this city. Riding at night and on that street is extra dangerous due to amount of bars and nightclubbing people in that area. I don’t feel safe crossing that street on foot in the daytime. My prayers to the family and friends.

  • Joe Jackson

    I am a reporter at Columbia University, writing for a Brooklyn news site: I am writing a story about Rasha’s tragic death and would appreciate talking to anyone who knew her. My email address is Many thanks and condolences.

  • Filiz Yilmaz

    Professor Shamoon was my professor, and she passed away on the final day of school. My classmates and I were very shocked. She was such a nice person, kind and caring. She always had a smile on her face. She was so warm, all of my classmates and I loved her very much. It’s such a shame that she was taken away at such a young age. May she rest in peace.
    -Filiz Yilmaz


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