Parks Dept. Truck Seriously Injures Wheelchair User in 8th Ave Bike Lane


A Parks Department sanitation truck struck a 78-year-old woman using a motor-assisted wheelchair in the Eighth Avenue bike lane this morning shortly before 10 a.m., just north of Bleecker Street. The victim suffered head trauma and was taken to St. Vincent’s Hospital, where she is in serious condition, a police spokesman said. No further details on the collision are available at this time. NYPD said the investigation is ongoing.

The driver was heard repeating that he "didn’t see" the victim, according to Michelle Ernst of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign, who passed the scene of the crash this morning and sent in this picture.

Streetsblog has requests in with DOT and the Parks Department to determine if a policy is in place governing the use of protected bike paths by city vehicles. We’ll post more information as it becomes available.

  • Yes, please keep motorized Parks Department vehicles out of bike lanes, off of sidewalks and out of parks as much as possible.

    On very rare occasions they’re absolutely necessary, as in the case of heavy construction. Often they’re doing something that could be done with a dolly, a wheelbarrow or even a backpack. Many times it’s just lazy Parks employees who don’t want to walk a few extra yards.

    Sometimes the driver chooses to park on the sidewalk instead of blocking a car lane by double-parking, which shows some seriously messed-up priorities.

  • Glenn

    I walk my dog in Riverside park twice daily and there is almost always a pick-up truck, garbage truck or police vehicle going WAY too fast in what feels like a totally protected pedestrian area. The park does not generate that much trash even at the height of Summer. I think they use it as a way to avoid being on the street – like a drive in the park is more enjoyable to the employees, because they can be lords of the manor for a few minutes as walkers, joggers and cyclists scamper out of their way.

    Parks Dept needs to minimize all driving & truck driving in non-street areas as much as possible. And when absolutely necessary, go really slow – like 5 mph.

  • Eddie

    I don’t see a problem with Parks Department trucks driving slowly through a square or park, if it’s necessary – as it often is. SLOWLY. Making sure they are seen long before they get to people.

    Now the thing here is proportionate size. A van driving on a bike lane may be ok, a huge truck through Central park may be ok. But a huge truck on a bike lane? NO WONDER THE DRIVER DIDN’T SEE THE WHEELCHAIR.

    So, Parks Dep., if you must send a vehicle onto a restricted traffic area, mind the size of the vehicle in proportion to the size of us tiny little people down here, will ya?

  • If the driver “didn’t see” a wheelchair, the odds are good he wouldn’t have seen a bike either. In the bike lane. This is not good.

  • Paul

    How is this possible? Fired, loss of license permanently. End of story.

  • Paul

    By the way, as part of my just-now proposed overhaul of the driver’s license and education program, I say we start implementing rigorous driver education, with mandatory refresher classes so that as new laws, penalties and infrastructure come into play, drivers will have absolutely no excuse for breaking a law. If they break one moving violation (including obstruction of peds, bikes, traffic) – harsh fines follow. We have no excuse not to implement reasonably aggressive and thorough driver education in this country any more.

  • If Parks Department and other vehicles are going to use protected space they should be designed to have better visibility. Considering the size of that truck it’s not surprising that the driver might not be able to see someone in a wheelchair, a child on a bike, or a baby carriage directly in front of it.

    Is it unreasonable to say that any vehicle used in pedestrian/parks space should allow the driver to see a three year old on a tricycle two or three feet in front of that vehicle?

    If the City were to use vehicles with windshields more like those we see on busses these kinds of “accidents” might be avoided. Of course taking advantage of rear view cameras, object sensors and other modern technology would help improve safety as well.

  • Paul

    Yearly full-day driver’s classes! Sorry for the triple post, but I’m mad about my mostly separate 8-foot bike lane being blocked by large trucks every morning this week!

  • A similar truck has been blocking the new Allen Street bicycle lane the past two mornings. It’s bad enough that they force people out into auto traffic that they have specifically followed a bicycle route to avoid, but if parks employees are going to occasionally “not see” and run over us (and they will–everyone makes mistakes), it’s absolutely critical that their large vehicles not be operated in these otherwise-safe spaces at all.

  • Josh


  • cat

    I regularly see these things (not to mention police and other miscellaneous vehicles) going 30+ m.p.h. through Prospect Park during the afternoon.

  • Eric

    There is no need to see if there is a policy about city vehicles driving in bike lanes, they can’t. They are subject to the same laws as everyone else who drives a car or truck, no exceptions.

  • As a practical matter, its just too inefficient to collect garbage on foot, because receptacles are spread out and the amount collected quickly becomes more than can be easily moved by human power. In the Parks, it is the green-coveralled and white-trucked DSNY personnel that do the lion’s share of the garbage collection. Having those guys do collection without their trucks means adjusting contracts, extra pay, increasing the workforce, etc.–it’s just impractical. What is feasible is:

    (1) no garbage trucks on bike paths like this–they take up 90% of the room and if someone is trying to pass and the truck starts up, it is almost impossible not to have a collision. Make them use the nearest traffic lane. These guys know how to move the cans by rolling them along on the bottom rim; moving the cans that extra 14 feet is not a hardship.

    (2) in the parks, garbage trucks should be equipped these trucks with devices that make beepers sound for 5 seconds before the truck is about to move after it has been stopped for more than 30 seconds–whether the truck is moving forward and backwards.

    As for non-garbage activities, Parks should phase out the golf carts and replace them with custom pedicabs with cargo room enough for tools and waste removal. Official vehicles in the parks aren’t support to go mroe than 15 MPH anyway, that’s within the range of a pedicab.

  • drewo

    The “did not see” excuse is just as popular as:

    “did not hear anything”
    “the brakes did not work”
    “the accelerator got stuck”

    If the driver did “not see”, he should not be operating a motor vehicle.

  • Renee

    So heartbreaking and so infuriating.
    Are we going to have to start lobbying for bollards that stop vehicles from entering protected bike lanes? I hope not.

  • Damon

    I saw this the whole thing happen. It definately was not intnetional. It was very sad and scary though.

  • Emily Litella

    The class 3 on-street bike lanes are intended for non-motorized vechicles. They were made just wide enough for exisiting city snow plows to traverse. No other vehicles, save emergency vehicles are authorized, end of story. The DPR driver took his chances and now must face the consequences, which we can reasonably assume will be insufficient to prevent a repeat of his risky behavior.

  • Gwin

    The truck obviously shouldn’t have been on the bike lane, but let’s be honest — the wheelchair shouldn’t have been there either. I’m not blaming the victim, mind you — but it astounds me how many people think their motorized wheelchairs are streetworthy. They, too, can be a danger to cyclists (and to pedestrians who aren’t paying attention).

  • Joe

    Thank you Gwin! I see wheelchairs buzzing around the street (usually NOT in a bike lane) all the time and think it’s crazy. Does anyone know the law regarding this? Are they allowed to be in the street?

  • Sarah Goodyear

    Joe and Gwin,

    Wheelchair users face innumerable obstacles when navigating sidewalks. I’m sure that many times the choice is between being in the street and not going anywhere.

  • Joanna

    According to NY1, the wheelchair tried to cross in front of the truck, thinking it was parked. The driver did not see the wheelchair and hit her.–injures-wheelchair-bound-woman/

    Not sure how trash is supposed to be collected if the truck can’t pull up next to the curb.

  • > Not sure how trash is supposed to be collected if the truck can’t pull up next to the curb.

    Are you serious, how do you they think they do it when there’s parked cars between the trash and the street? Tractor beams?

    The dudes get out and walk eight feet. It’s easy you should try it some time.

  • The same way trash collectors deal with placarded vehicles left parked during trash pickup hours – they throw the bags of trash into the truck from the curb.

  • Paul

    The proper way to move trash can be seen here with this trash bike:


  • Gwin

    Sarah – while that is definitely true in some parts of the city (i.e. sidewalks lacking the cutouts necessary for a wheelchair to get up on them), Hudson Street/8th Avenue is certainly not an area inhospitable to wheelchairs — I used to live down there.

  • ED

    I’ve got no problem sharing that space with wheelchairs as long as they recognize it’s a bike lane and stay respectively off to the side which they generally do. People walking in the bike lane is way more annoying to me.
    But WTF right does a truck that big have in a bike lane????

  • These are mobility scooters, not race cars.They help those that have trouble walking. They are not meant to be a mode of long distance transportation. Five MPH would be pretty fast if you bumped into someone while shopping at the mall.


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