Every NYC Traffic Death Should Be Investigated Like the Central Park Crash

When the news broke last week that a cyclist had critically injured a pedestrian in Central Park, a number of things happened that you don’t normally see after a serious New York City traffic crash.

Like every fallen NYC pedestrian and cyclist, Jill Tarlov deserves justice. Photo via New York Post
Like every fallen NYC pedestrian and cyclist, Jill Tarlov deserves justice. Photo via New York Post

First, unlike most instances when a motorist strikes a pedestrian or cyclist, the crash received extensive and sustained coverage from just about every major media outlet in the city. Though traffic violence makes headlines all year long, thousands of pedestrian and cyclist injuries, and many deaths, go unreported. The vast majority of crashes that receive ink or airtime are forgotten with the next news cycle.

NYPD not only released the name of the victim, Jill Tarlov, but also the identity of the person accused of hitting her — Jason Marshall. NYPD normally gives out the names of deceased pedestrians and cyclists, but drivers’ identities are shielded unless summonses or charges are issued, which is extremely rare.

NYPD released no exculpatory statement in Marshall’s defense, nor did anonymous police sources blame Tarlov for the collision that eventually took her life. Police apparently did not issue the standard “no criminality suspected” line, which is usually the last word the public hears after a driver — a sober driver, at least — takes a life. On the contrary, police sources leaked details of the vehicle operator’s actions to the press.

Investigators interviewed witnesses and confiscated Marshall’s bike as evidence. When a driver kills someone, his account of the crash is often the only one police are interested in, and NYPD literally allows motorists to drive away from fatal crash scenes. In fact, while drivers injure and kill thousands of pedestrians and cyclists a year, only a handful of crashes are investigated by NYPD and city district attorneys.

The authorities should leave no stone unturned in investigating what happened to Jill Tarlov, and charges should be filed if warranted. In turn, law enforcers and the media should approach the next serious injury or death with the same tenacity displayed over the last four days.

  • LyleLanley

    The piece has four substantive paragraphs comparing this crash to the norm. Two of them praise the police for naming the alleged perpetrator and leaking details about the crash to the press. That is about broadcasting guilt in the press.

    The other two, concerning paying attention to the crash at all and gathering evidence diligently, I obviously agree with.

  • Joe R.

    Fair enough. The main issues keeping me from riding to Manhattan right now are the ongoing ticket blitz and the fact that I really don’t have any great route there from where I am. The best I can do is Jewel Avenue or Main Street to Queens Boulevard, then QB to the 59th Street bridge. I went on Queens Boulevard two years ago for the first time in over a decade. It’s no longer a relatively pleasant place to bike. They put parking on both sides of the service road. The pavement condition is terrible. And don’t get me started on the light timing. I recall going from my place to my friend’s taximeter shop in Long Island City in about 30 minutes back in the 1990s. I highly doubt that would be possible now.

    So yes, Manhattan in theory shouldn’t be off-limits given the distance but I don’t have a comfortable, fast, safe route to get there. At the risk of being repetitive, it’s a pity NYC won’t build at least a skeleton network of bike highways, at least in the outer boroughs. Heck, you already have the #7 viaduct for a good portion of Queens Boulevard which you can hang a bike highway off of. Or you can use underneath the viaduct for the same purpose if you blocked off the cross streets and got rid of the parking. In the latter case you would still have plenty of room left for nice things like pedestrian plazas, shops under the viaduct, etc. Certainly that would be a much better use of this space than parking.

    Anyway, I’m not saying I’ll never ride in Manhattan. Maybe when the ticket blitz is over I’ll come by some night. By then traffic levels should be low enough to suit me. I like Manhattan much better at night anyway. Especially during the holidays, that’s when it really comes into its own.

  • SheRidesABike

    Yes, it’s my opinion that it’s common sense to expect that all types of users (with the exception perhaps of young families) will be using it most of the time. I’ve see joggers and dogwalkers on that path at some pretty early and late hours. Sure, you can speed up for a few short stretches where the width of the path and visibility are good, but my larger point is that in general it really isn’t appropriate for faster speeds the vast majority of the time and if that’s the experience a cyclist wants there are other more appropriate places to look for it. My opinion. I’m not advocating for a blanket rule, I’m advocating for the speedier folks out there to police themselves and choose more appropriate settings for fast riding. I saw three near misses this morning on my way to work because speedy people couldn’t be bothered to brake earlier.

  • Brad Aaron

    There is no praise.

    What I did was point out the ways in which this crash was treated differently than thousands of other crashes, and call for police and the media to give all crashes and victims the attention they are due.

    You’re conflating the two.

  • LyleLanley

    The headline is “Every NYC Traffic Crash Should Be Investigated Like The Central Park Fatality.”

  • ROZA

    I don’t think Brad was praising the police for naming the cyclist (who has not been accused of a crime), but pointing out how drivers of automobiles are receiving preferential treatment.

    He was giving you the information to decide for yourself instead of telling you what to think. Well done Brad.

  • Brad Aaron

    Yes, “Investigated Like,” not “Treated Like.”

    There is a distinction, and it’s one we were careful to make.

  • ROZA

    So, you as a motorist are going to take the lashes for 136 pedestrians killed by automobile drivers in 2013?

    Thought not.

  • SheRidesABike

    Good point. Riverside is good for faster riders, and while motorist behavior varies, quite often they give wide berth — probably because the two wide lanes in each direction for much of the road up north make than pretty easy for them to do.

  • NYFM

    which is also why bikes are dangerous. Nobody can hear you coming up from behind.

  • Joe R.

    Nor would they need to if the bike is operated in a competent manner. Any cyclist who depends upon people hearing or seeing them to avoid collisions won’t live very long. “Ride as if you’re invisible” is what I frequently tell novice riders. It isn’t far from the truth, either.

  • david

    I don’t agree w your assessment at all. Sure there are times one must slow down or use good judgement and days when it truly is too crowded, but during weekdays and earlier hours it’s fairly open for riding fast. Not too fast.

  • murphstahoe

    why are we setting a 20 MPH speed limit for cyclists and not for motorists?

  • murphstahoe

    Dogs need exercise. People need exercise. Cars do not need exercise.

  • murphstahoe

    So much for my new Tesla, dammit!

  • Better ban the Prius and any future electric car. Go faster, are bigger, and are pretty quiet.

    I suppose we could put playing cards in the spokes like we did as kids. 😉

  • Good point. The “ride like you are invisible” works both ways as in drivers or peds may miss you, so you neither want to hit or be hit!

  • 20 mph on park roads for everyone?

  • Bobberooni

    Did I say the 20mph speed limit would be just for bikes? Really, I suggest the following rules:

    *) Before 8AM: 25mph, no cars. (This is based on the agreement that NYCC has worked out with NYPD on responsible use of the park for athletic cyclists.)
    *) Other car-free hours: 20mph, no cars
    *) Car-full hours: 20mph, with cars

  • walks bikes drives

    I think you both missed the sarcasm statement at the end of his post.

  • walks bikes drives

    I can typically have an average cruising speed of 20+ mph on the path north of about 93rd. There are a few fairly predictable places where you need to slow down, such as the couple block stretch at 125, near the lot on 145, and along the tennis courts just south of the lighthouse. The hills also require slowing, but it is natural there – hills. The rest of it has such great sight lines that you can confidently travel at speed and not have to worry about a dog walker or jogger coming out of no where, giving plenty of space to slow if needed. As long as you are paying attention. And let me add, I consider myself an extremely safe and courteous rider.

    The only issue is the northbound joggers that insist on jogging on the east side of the path rather than in the pedestrian lane on the west side. On any given weekend day, 33-75% of northbound joggers are on the wrong side. But they arguably are not as dangerous as the joggers in the southern section where the pedestrian and bicycle/skating path are separated. On any given weekend day, 80-100+ joggers will use the bike path, counted in a one way ride from the Intrepid to Chambers. This southern section is about 4.2 miles of what should be jogger free bike path.

  • WoodyinNYC

    They’re demonizing him as an uppity ni**er, not as a rich yuppie. He’s perfect as the Post’s hate-filled stereotype: dangerous black man kills innocent white woman.

    From the accounts, it seems like Jason Marshall may have been speeding and in the wrong. Of course, almost every driver who kills a pedestrian, or a cyclist, is speeding. In this one case, the Post is ready to incite the mob.

  • walks bikes drives

    By what accounts was he speeding other than by witnesses saying he was speeding? Without a speed gun, or access to his GPS cycle computer, there is no way to say whether he was speeding or not. It is possible that he was doing nothing illegal while she was. If he was at 25mph or less, and he had the light, it is conceivable that he could have thought that he could have gotten safely around one pack of jaywalkers, and with his barked warning, avoided other jaywalkers in the process. Thus, meeting the reasonable standard. To be criminally negligent homicide, I believe the standard is a gross violation of what a reasonable person would do.

    Not saying he wasn’t wrong. Just saying there is the possibility. Not trying to blame the victim. Truly, not trying to blame anyone without facts.

  • fpp

    At least in the older prius models, the gas engine doesn’t turn off if you are going more than 38 mph.

  • Yep. I blew it on that one.

  • various

    I’m sure every 1%’ers traffic death will be investigated like this.

  • Andres Dee

    …and we don’t really care when pededestrians get seriously hurt or killed…unless a bicycler does it. What exactly did the police & courts do with the guy who cut off Sian Green’s leg? Killed Cooper Stock? How hard did the Police work to find the killer of Matthieu Lefevre?

  • Andres Dee

    Dead pededestrians is the necessary and acceptable price we pay as a society for the progress and freedom that automobiles bring. If pededestrians were to use common sense, press the “beg buttons”, watch where they’re going, not text, not use phones, not carry coffee, wear bright clothing, wait until there are no cars, wave “crosswalk flags”, call the County and have the van pick them up, move to a senior home…, there would be fewer of them dead.
    (/sarcasm…but based on actual quotes)

  • The double standard is indeed profound.

  • People are reading stuff into your story that is not there. What I got out of it was a forceful reminder of the double standard that cyclists are subjected to when we cause a fatal crash, while motorists drive home anonymously to call their lawyers. Indeed, the cops should be more diligent in all roadway fatals. Good article, Brad.

  • Guest

    This post is disgusting.

  • Andres Dee

    I agree 100%.

  • Christopher Everspark

    It’s interesting how the particulars of this case were carried and if this is how the NYPD will approach similar cases going forward.


ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Speed Kills, But NYPD Won’t Open the Data

|
On the surface, the crashes that killed Jill Tarlov and Michael Williams last month could hardly have been more different. Williams, a 25-year-old rookie cop, was riding in an NYPD van on the Bruckner Expressway shortly after dawn en route to police the Peoples Climate March, when the driver of the van crashed into a […]

Cyclist Strikes Woman in Central Park — Victim on Life Support

|
A cyclist in Central Park struck a woman yesterday afternoon, inflicting life-threatening injuries. The victim, 59-year-old Jill Tarlov of Fairfield, is on life support, according to the Daily News. The Post reports that she has been declared brain-dead. The collision happened on the West Drive of the park at around 4:30 p.m. Tarlov was in a […]

NYPD Ticketing Cyclists in Prospect Park and Central Park

|
As dangerous drivers continue to injure and kill with impunity, NYPD is targeting cyclists in parks. Joanna Oltman Smith tweeted the above photo this afternoon. Police were ticketing cyclists on the loop of Prospect Park, Smith wrote, “mere feet” from the raging torrent of speeding traffic that is Flatbush Avenue. Motorists have killed at least […]