Off-Route Semi Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Park Slope [Updated]

Update: Times reporter Andy Newman tweeted a DCPI notice concerning this crash. NYPD identified the victim as 33-year-old James Gregg. Police say the truck driver and Gregg were traveling the same direction on Sixth Avenue when Gregg “collided into the rear tire of the tractor trailer.”

Update: Andy Newman tweeted a quote from police indicating the truck driver passed the cyclist, causing the collision. Also, I contacted National Retail Transportation, which operates the truck. When I explained why I was calling, the person who answered the phone said “I don’t know anything about that,” and transferred me to a customer service employee’s voicemail.

A truck driver killed a cyclist in Park Slope this morning.

The victim, a 33-year-old man, was riding on Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place when he was hit at around 8 a.m., according to the Daily News. Police had not released the victim’s name as of early this afternoon.

The truck was an 18-wheeler. Sixth Avenue at Sterling Place is a narrow neighborhood street. It’s not a truck route, but big rig drivers are a problem there.

Trucks longer than 55 feet are allowed on New York City streets with a permit, but only if the load is “non-divisible,” such as construction beams. A trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo, like the one involved in this crash, would not be permitted on surface streets if the total truck length exceeds 55 feet.

Park Slope resident Rob Underwood says locals have tried for years to get the 78th Precinct to enforce truck route violations. As of March, the precinct had issued no truck route tickets in 2016, according to NYPD data. Precinct officers issued just five truck route citations last year.

Photo: Eric McClure
Photo: Eric McClure

Streetsblog founding editor Aaron Naparstek and reader Eric McClure were at the scene and spoke with police and witnesses. Naparstek said precinct cops were telling passersby that the victim was purposefully holding the side of the truck, as if to hitch a ride. But that also describes what a cyclist might do when passed by a large truck on a narrow street and is desperately trying to avoid being run over.

Cop chatter usually shapes the media narrative after a serious crash, and is often proven to be inaccurate.

Multiple sources have said the truck driver was wearing earbuds or a Bluetooth earpiece.

The NYPD spokesperson we talked with had little information on the crash. Police are still investigating, he said, and “no criminality” is suspected “at this time.” NYPD’s public information office did not have further details on the collision.

The victim of this crash was at least the fourth cyclist killed by a New York City driver in 2016, and the second killed in the last week. Three of the four deaths were in Brooklyn.

This morning’s crash occurred in the City Council district represented by Brad Lander.

  • reasonableexplanation

    http://www.shaundejager.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/Blindspots1.jpg

    Just a reminder. Big trucks can’t see you. I stay far clear from them, whether on bike or motorcycle.

  • djx

    Uggh. You nailed it.

  • gneiss

    Nice bit of victim blaming there.

  • reasonableexplanation

    …seriously?

    I think we’re all pretty unanimous that the truck was in the wrong here.

    Trying to remind people how dangerous tractor trailers are is not victim blaming. Some portion of the people looking at these comments probably have not seen this image before, and aren’t aware of just how big the ‘no-zones’ for a big rig really are. Motorcyclists know these zones well, a lot of bikers are unfortunately not as tuned to the danger.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    own the lane

  • Andrew

    Correct. Since trucks are not sentient beings and don’t even have eyes, trucks can’t see you or me or anybody else.

    Trucks, however, have drivers, who are enjoined with the basic responsibility to be aware of their surroundings. A truck driver who assumes that his blind spot is vacant is making a groundless assumption, and a truck driver who acts based on that assumption is acting with negligence.

    A blind spot is not an excuse. Let’s stop treating it as one.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    please go after the killer, please Steve apply your legal skills to this one

  • reasonableexplanation

    I’m going to quote my own comment further down, since it’s relevant:

    I think we’re all pretty unanimous that the truck was in the wrong here.

    Trying to remind people how dangerous tractor trailers are is not victim blaming. Some portion of the people looking at these comments probably have not seen this image before, and aren’t aware of just how big the ‘no-zones’ for a big rig really are. Motorcyclists know these zones well, a lot of bikers are unfortunately not as tuned to the danger.

  • Jethro

    Most cyclists know this well. But sometimes it’s unavoidable. I’ve was in a terrifying situation like this through no fault of my own. Nothing happened. But if the driver had drifted another foot to his right, I would’ve ended up just like this man. There are cameras everywhere nowadays.

  • SteveVaccaro

    The new story about the truck creating a wind force that sucked in the cyclist is rubbish. No way the truck could have been moving fast enough on 6th Ave. to create such an effect. But if the truck was passing the cyclist, that is enough to attribute substantially all of the fault to the driver. There is no excuse for passing a cyclist on 6th Avenue in a truck that size. Unjustifiably dangerous.

  • Maggie

    And that is why trucks are not allowed on this fucking street. So they don’t kill citizens who have no escape.

  • J

    As long as the police reflexively say “No criminality suspected” we’ll know that the city is not serious about reducing traffic deaths. They don’t need to say anything, other than “we’re investigating the crash”. That’s it. Nothing more.

    Instead, the NYPD continues to go out of its way to clear drivers in the media way before any investigation has occurred. It’s anti-justice, it’s outside of their jurisdiction (they aren’t the ones who determine guilt), it’s anti-safety, and it’s anti-Vision Zero. It needs to stop.

  • Joe R.

    How about we also acknowledge that some types of designs for these trucks are inherently dangerous? I mentioned in comments below about NYC requiring cabovers on local streets. That eliminates the big blind spot in front of the vehicle, and most of the blind spots to the left and right. You can take care of the rear blind spot by requiring rear view cameras. I totally agree it’s negligent for a truck driver to assume their blind spots are vacant but the fact is human beings aren’t perfect. Sooner or later when you’re operating inherently dangerous equipment you’ll fail to follow proper procedure. If you’re lucky nobody will get hurt but we can’t trust safety to luck. I’d rather we use some combination of driver training and inherently safer equipment. It exists. The problem is the trucking industry, or at least a lot of truck drivers, are opposed to it for their own superficial reasons of styling.

  • Adamlaw

    there was mention of it in the Post or Daily News sorry

  • Adamlaw

    btw, I’m not biomechanical engineer but there is no helmet I know of that can withstand being run over by an 18 wheel tractor trailor

  • Joe R.

    To repeat my comment to Andrew below:

    Cabovers would eliminate the big blind spot in front of the vehicle, and most of the blind spots to the left and right. You can take care of the rear blind spot by requiring rear view cameras.

    Conventional style trucks on urban surface streets are inherently too dangerous. That even includes single unit trucks. Look at the relative carnage of private carting companies, who mostly use conventional cabs, and NYC sanitation, which uses cabovers. That alone makes the case for requiring cabovers on NYC surface streets.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, exactly but the police and media always seem to feel a need to mention if a dead cyclist was wearing a helmet. Helmets don’t really help at all even in a collision with a subcompact. The speeds and masses of motor vehicles invariably mean the effect on the cyclist is the same as running into a concrete barrier at whatever the relative collision speed is.

  • Adamlaw

    true dat

  • Andrew

    We already acknowledge that certain types of trucks are inappropriate on certain types of streets. Which is why this truck had no business being here in the first place.

  • Andrew

    The truck was not in the wrong. The truck is not a sentient being; it cannot be in the right or in the wrong. The truck driver was in the wrong. Important distinction.

  • reasonableexplanation

    I don’t think it changes the point either way, so…okay, sure?

  • CookieGugglemanFleck

    I bike this exact street at this time many days a week. It’s incredibly narrow with just cars leaving very little room to navigate between the parked cars and driving cars. I frequently have to walk my bike on the sidewalks until Flatbush because it’s so tight. So, I can imagine how little room there was if a truck was passing. And a little girl who witnessed it said he “lost his balance”. I can totally picture the exact scenario: trucker gets so close, biker gets overwhelmed trying to not hit truck OR mirrors of parked cars, loses balance and gets pulled in by tire. Just horrific.

  • Larry Littlefield

    “Police say the truck driver and Gregg were traveling the same direction on Sixth Avenue when Gregg “collided into the rear tire of the tractor trailer.” Update: Andy Newman tweeted a quote from police indicating the truck driver passed the cyclist, causing the collision.”

    Well that’s the key. Trucks do have lots of blind spots. They are hard to drive, and cyclists should stay clear. Sometimes I pass a stopped truck in traffic, but I’m very wary of doing that.

    But if the truck passed the cyclist, the truck driver knew he was there. Unless the truck was half way into the other lane, any little disturbance could put the cyclist under the wheel.

    And the cyclist had no option, no way out. Not only did he not do anything wrong, there was nothing he could have done to ride defensively. It’s the equivalent of someone going over the centerline and hitting you head on with no warning.

  • Emmily_Litella

    Actually there are defenses, handlebar or helmet mirror and a willingness to interrupt your cadence and pull over to let them pass, or the balls to take the lane if going over 15 MPH. It shouldn’t have to be like this but it is.

  • Andrew

    The media often assign blame, through sloppy language, to inanimate objects, like cars and trucks, as if there is no human being in control (or not) of the inanimate object. It’s an issue that I think most regular Streetsblog readers are aware of.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I’ll let them pass, but if you are in the middle of a block with tightly parked cars next to you, that is easier said than done.

    You may recall I was knocked off a bike only once, on Union Square east. There was a slow moving truck in the left lane. A van tried to squeeze between us in the right lane, came up behind me, and hit my elbow with the mirror — causing the front wheel to turn and throwing me to the ground.

    Nothing you can do, other than always try to take up the whole lane and risk an intentional hit due to road rage.

  • kevd

    But the truck driver was in a hurry!

  • Zanthe Taylor

    I had to walk by this horrible scene this morning, totally blindsided by the sight of a dead body lying on my street–this was someone’s son, someone’s friend, someone’s colleague, perhaps someone’s father or husband or boyfriend. To quibble over whether he was somehow at fault seems to overlook the fact that he is the victim here. This was an unnecessary, violent death of a person in the prime of life, riding down a street in his own neighborhood, who was squeezed off the road by and under the wheels of a massive truck that had no business traveling on this narrow, two-lane road. I’ve never seen such a huge truck on this part of 6th Avenue–it was so clearly out of place even by common sense standards.

  • gneiss

    Anyone who reads this blog and rides bicycles in the city knows full well the blinds spots that exist on tractor trailers are. We don’t need reminding. What we need is better infrastructure and trucks that aren’t so dangerous.

    We also need truck drivers who are mindful of the fact they have blind spots and don’t try to drive like it’s an open highway but busy, narrow streets full of people who can easily get crushed under their wheels.

  • Cold Shoaler

    Don’t forget that it’s vitally important to keep on-street parking both sides of 6th Ave.

  • Miles Bader

    Yup, narrow streets are almost universally better for any bicyclist or pedestrian on the street, because they force drivers to slow the fuck down

    Ideally, of course, so narrow that giant vehicles are physically prevented from using rhe street in the first place… ?

  • Jules1

    Just like any responsible bus company, any large truck truck company should be required to have a dashboard camera system on their fleet to monitor driver performance.

  • Bob

    How would a dashcam prevent this?

  • Jules1

    It would help get bad drivers off the road.

    Also, in cases like this, it would be much simpler to determine fault, rather than messing around with potentially unreliable eye-witnesses.

  • Sean Kelliher

    There’s a way to keep this from happening:

    Take the parking lane from one side of residential streets and repurpose it as a bike lane protected by a curb or some other kind of physical barrier. It’s not radical. More people could use the space and then there are the ancillary benefits of less danger, less pollution, and a healthier population.

    The sooner DOT grows up and decides that it’s highest priority is to keep residents safe and not provide free parking, the better we’ll all be for it.

  • dporpentine

    “Take the lane” (at 16 mph!) in front of a massive truck that will be tailgating you and probably beeping. So if you make the teeny tiniest mistake they’ll flat out run over you. This is criminally stupid advice.
    Want to find out how bad? Track down his friends and family and try to tell them that to their face. The shame you’ll feel–preceding the punches–will likely teach you a thing or two about reality.

    Nothing could’ve saved this person except not being in a city that treats the lives of its non-car-driving majority like wadded up tissues.

  • dporpentine

    Just a reminder. Trucks can’t see anything. But drivers can. And this one killed a cyclist.

  • dporpentine

    With a huge truck tailgating you.

    This is moronic–and dangerous–advice.

  • jooltman

    Someone whose kids go to nearby PS282 reports there was zero police presence/enforcement this morning. We need SO much more preventative medicine (enforcement, design) but in meantime, we can’t even get basic Impact enforcement mandated after fatality? Next 78th Precinct Community Council meeting is next Tuesday, 4/26, 7:30 p.m. at the precinct house, Bergen & 6th Avenue.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    Vision Zero will continue to fail until, among other things, the City actually enforces the law about oversized trucks. As the article says “Trucks longer than 55 feet are allowed on New York City streets with a
    permit, but only if the load is “non-divisible,” such as construction
    beams. A trailer carrying boxed or other loose cargo, like the one
    involved in this crash, would not be permitted on surface streets if the
    total truck length exceeds 55 feet.” More than 25 years ago, the City Council passed a law requiring the City to post signs at entrances to the City stating the truck size limitation. The DOT has to this day refused to do so. Police precincts say they cannot enforce the rule because they require (a) specially trained officers to measure the truck sizes and (b) specially approved measuring tools, and claim they have neither.

  • Tyler
  • Bob

    The solution is simple. 53 foot trailers should be outlawed within the city limits of NY, CHI, and SF to begin with. The roads are old , way too narrow , the bridges are low and us truckers hate going there just as much as we’re not wanted. Break the load down in outlying distribution centers and box truck from there into the city.

  • new yorker

    If you think that is a viable option that you are completely insane and out of touch with reality.

  • new yorker

    The truck driver should be hurried off to jail.

  • Joe R.

    I’ll call BS about the part about the special training. Every trailer usually has the size stenciled somewhere. If it says 53, then the truck is over the size limit, period. If it says 48, and it’s being pulled by a cabover, you might be under or at the limit, but barely. If the tractor is a conventional, as most sadly are, then it’s still over the limit with a 48 foot trailer. Most trailers these days are either 48 or 53 feet. You also have 40 footers, but those would be mostly containers nowadays. Regardless, the size of the trailer is usually stenciled on it somewhere.

    That said, I feel the problem isn’t total truck length but the extensive use of conventional cabs with poor visibility. I’d like to see those banned altogether from NYC surface streets. That includes conventional cabs on single unit trucks like box trucks or garbage trucks. Much easier for the police to enforce, too. If it has a hood, it gets a ticket.

    We also need to enforce truck routes, better. I don’t think semi-trailers of any length should be allowed on most residential streets. I’m pretty sure that truck wasn’t allowed on that street even if it had been within the length restrictions.

  • reasonableexplanation

    I’ve seen this argument here before, and it’s not compelling to me. Even when drivers are talking to each other about being in accident; you typically say something like: i got rear ended by a prius today, the douchebag was playing with his phone…

    Being a stickler for driver/car distinction sounds as pointless to outsiders as when gun folk insist you say magazine vs clip. It just seems, I don’t know, petty?

  • Joe R.

    Accident is another loaded word which implies a collision is out of the control of the driver. On very rare occasions it is but most of the time one or both parties did something wrong.

  • Joe R.

    I’ve found in NYC taking the lane with any vehicle is suicidal, much less a big truck. For starters, NYC streets are in awful condition. If you miss seeing a pothole and go down, there’s a good chance you’ll get run over. For another, vehicles always tend to follow too closely. When I’ve taken the lane, which is only when I can match prevailing traffic speed, I’ve had idiots practically riding my rear wheel. That compounds the danger if I fall. Basically, it gives me zero margin for error. Third, it seems no matter your speed, a majority of drivers will insist on trying to pass a cyclist who is taking the lane. Case in point—one time I was descending a long hill, catching a draft from a vehicle in front of me. This was a NYC arterial with a 30 or 35 mph limit. I was doing 50 mph. That was actually about the speed of prevailing traffic, and yet I could see a few cars itching to get around me. As soon as space permitted and the hill started leveling out, I had to move out of the way. Drivers tacitly assume since it’s a bike, it must be slowing them down. They’ll make any dangerous maneuver they can to get ahead of you, often nearly clipping you in the process.

    Your advice might work in some parts of the country, but all bets are off in NYC.

  • reasonableexplanation

    There’s more worth to this than the car/driver thing. Still though, a lot of times ‘accident’ is simply used as a nice euphemism in polite society. Just like ‘passed away’ instead of ‘died.’

  • Joe R.

    I often find I’ll start to say “accident” when discussing collisions with people out of force of habit but I’m trying to consciously no longer use that word unless it’s clear the incident really was an accident. And note that “fault” isn’t necessarily always the driver’s. If a person suddenly darts out between parked cars and gets hit, the driver isn’t at fault for the collision. I would only fault the driver if they were driving over the speed limit, causing the person more injuries than otherwise would have been the case.

    I tend to use “rode the light” instead of passed away, died, or croaked. For some reason it just sounds better, especially to those who believe in an afterlife.

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