Witness Account of Park Slope Collision Contradicts NYPD Victim-Blaming

If, as NYPD says, the cyclist collided with vehicle head-on, why is the rear tired destroyed? Photo: Toby Cecchini
A witness believes the cyclist who was severely injured in Park Slope Wednesday night was struck from the side, not head-on, as NYPD claims. Photo: Toby Cecchini

A witness believes the driver who severely injured a 20-year-old cyclist Wednesday night in Park Slope T-boned the victim as he rode across Sixth Avenue in the Ninth Street bike lane with the right of way — contrary to NYPD’s claim that the victim was hit head-on while biking against traffic on Sixth Avenue.

The crash happened at around 9 p.m. NYPD said the 25-year-old motorist was southbound on Sixth Avenue between Ninth and 10th streets when the cyclist, traveling northbound on Sixth, “suddenly reared into the southbound lane, causing a collision.”

But Toby Cecchini, who had just crossed Sixth Avenue on the north side of Ninth Street when he heard the crash behind him, thinks this account is inaccurate.

I did not see the cyclist, but my impression was that the driver’s version is incorrect. From the sound behind and to my left, and the debris field, I believe the cyclist was crossing Sixth in the same direction I was, heading [westbound] in the bike lane just to my left. His bike was struck directly from the side, very obviously from my photos, and so this corroborates that. Had the cyclist been riding as the driver maintains, his bike would have been crushed head-on, in a completely different manner. Also, the cyclist would have gone face-first into the windshield and had his face mutilated. Clearly, he went sideways or even backwards into the windshield, from the way his scalp had been taken off from the rear, and from how he ended up with his feet pointing upwards initially, sticking out through the windshield. Also his face was intact, which makes the driver’s assertion impossible.

At the time of the collision, Cecchini had just reached the curb and was walking with the signal, meaning the cyclist would have had the green light as well. After the crash, Cecchini said, the driver was “shouting loudly that the cyclist swerved into him from nowhere and repeating it loudly over and over.”

The preliminary report from the NYPD Collision Investigation Squad reflected the driver’s version of the story, which Cecchini said he overheard at the scene, and was disseminated by the department’s public information office. NYPD told Gothamist the motorist was waiting at a red light on Sixth at Ninth just before the collision.

The white arrow indicates the direction of the witness to Wednesday’s crash. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver. The red “X” is the approximate location where the driver stopped, based on photos of the scene. Image: Google Maps
The white arrow indicates the path of a witness to the crash, who believes the cyclist was traveling in the same direction. The red arrow indicates the path of the driver. The red “X” is the approximate location where the driver stopped after the collision, based on photos of the scene. Image: Google Maps

NYPD routinely blames traffic crash victims who can’t speak for themselves. This year alone, police wrongly accused Brooklyn cyclists James Gregg and Lauren Davis of causing their own deaths at the hands of drivers, correcting themselves after the media moved on.

Cecchini said police left the scene “within very few minutes,” leaving the driver, the damaged car, and the mangled bicycle behind.

Sixth Avenue and Ninth Street is a busy commercial intersection, so it’s possible the crash was caught on video. The NYPD public information office did not know if crash investigators were checking for surveillance footage. The victim was in stable condition as of this morning, according to NYPD.

Update: We got word that NYPD is asking around for crash video.

  • looks like an impact dent in the frame is on the side, not on the front or undertube. Lots of signs here that this wasn’t a plain head-on collision.

    Is this a respectable effort by the NYPD to investigate? Or is this just plain false report filing?

  • AMH

    So typical. The DNA story quoted both the police who said that the cyclist veered into the southbound lane and the local precinct which appropriately declined to comment pending the investigation by CIS. Then they at least mention that the NYPD has been criticized for presenting false speculation as fact. I suppose that’s progress, since they’re tempering the bullshit rather than just repeating it.

    Now they’re saying the cyclist “reared” into the southbound lane. What is he, a horse?

  • jeremy

    Thanks for the updated article.

    Why is the NYPD leaking false information to the media while the poor guy is still fighting to survive? This is f’ed up

  • AlexWithAK

    Because it’s what they do literally every time a cyclist is hit by a car. It’s their protocol to explain how the cyclist caused their own injuries while the driver was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Doing anything else would mean they have to actually do their fucking jobs.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Is there a need for an Alt-CIS, with witnesses and those with video evidence encouraged to report there rather than the NYPD?

  • Eric McClure

    The car was a new-enough Honda that it should have a black box. The data recorder records driver inputs, so it should show whether the driver had been operating the vehicle in the way he claims, or if the facts contradict him.

  • ahwr

    Because it’s what they do literally every time a cyclist is hit by a car.

    Pedestrians too, but a bunch of commenters here think it’s a plausible scenario when it happens to someone on foot.

    http://www.streetsblog.org/2016/08/17/todays-headlines-2447/#comment-2842362723

  • jeremy

    9th Street Cycles is right there and has a camera directly pointing towards the scene, can’t anyone go ask them? The NYPD probably won’t

  • sbauman

    I disagree. It’s difficult to figure things out from this single photo and the angle is misleading. However, the damage is consistent with a head-on collision.

    Here’s why.

    First, the front wheel is rotated 180 degrees. This can be ascertained because the front brake is facing to the rear of the bike. The brakes should be at the front.

    Second, given which side faced forward, the fork is pushed backward toward the rear of the bike. The usual way for this to happen is for the wheel to hit something.

    Third, the downtube is noticeably bent upwards in the vicinity of the headtube. This is what usually happens in a front impact collision. The fork and headtube are pushed back. This forces the downtube upward.

    Fourth, the impact point on the rim is pretty noticeable. It’s at the bottom in the picture. There wouldn’t be such a dent, if the collision were from the side. The rim would still be taco-ed but without the dent at the rim flanges.

  • jeremy

    Spot on!

  • Eric McClure

    I know that at least one media outlet contacted them about it yesterday. There’s a camera that points toward the library (around the picture, not the one in the photo you posted), but if it was working, it likely would have captured the car approaching the intersection, which could shed some light on the veracity of the driver’s account. The camera pictured above may be trained on the bikes, rather than the intersection.

    But yes, this should be Crash Investigation 101 stuff. I surely hope the PD is on it.

  • jeremy

    Where exactly was the bike found? Was it found right of the intersection on 9th street? The witness mentioned debris at the intersection

  • ADN

    Yes, I think this is very much needed. Some sort of non-profit, third-party entity to do oversight and reinvestigation of these NYPD non-investigations. Maybe something like a Citizens Budget Commission for traffic crashes and vehicular violence. NYPD simply has zero credibility at this point. And we really need to solve this problem. NYPD can’t seem to be bothered no matter how many times Chief Chan says, “Vision Zero.”

  • Brad Aaron

    Photo: Toby Cecchini

    Don’t know if the bike was moved there or if that’s where it ended up when the driver stopped.

  • Honest to god, I hate these “Law & Order: Comments Section” investigations. This picture tells us very little. What would tell us a lot is a proper NYPD CIS investigation, but they can’t be bothered to respect people who bike and walk as human.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    It is plausible. Part of the problem with arguing everything based on identity politics is excluding possibilities before the evidence is in.

    In reply to your comment, I see people on bikes (I guess I’m supposed to call them “cyclists”) do dumb shit that could get them seriously hurt all the time (though not so frequently since I switched to a new commute route with fewer enticements to bad behavior by people cycling).

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Does CIS investigate severe crashes involving only automobiles more often than those with bike/ped involvement?

  • Jeffrey Baker

    That’s not how they work. They would only record if the air bag in the car deployed, or if the computer was thinking about deploying it. It doesn’t look like it popped in this case, so there would be nothing.

    Also would shed no light on the apparent uncertainty in this case: which direction the bicyclist was headed.

  • Eric McClure

    I’m not sure that’s correct, but okay. Not sure if the air bag deployed or not, but I’d like to think if a 150- to 200-pound object came flying through my windshield, whether my fault or not, that the airbag would trigger.

  • Joe R.

    For what it’s worth, I’ve put bigger dents in rims than that hitting potholes. A head-on collision with a motor vehicle collision likely would have split the rim at the point of impact. Also, I think we would be seeing much more severe frame damage, including the front fork snapped clean off. My cousin once ran off the Grand Concourse and side swiped a lamp post. The bike frame was literally wrapped around the lamp post but he was OK.

    The bottom line however is it’s pretty difficult to discern exactly what happened just by looking at the bike. I hope some video surfaces.

  • There is ample evidence of a side impact but little of the front impact that was initially reported. Had the impact been from the front the front wheel would have been crushed. not tacoed or pringled. The dent in the downtube would be underneath not the side. And the most telling thing is there is no rear wheel on the bike. A bike hit head on as the initial report stated would have a near pristine rear wheel still attached to the bike, the missing wheel could be an attempt to hide evidence that the collision was from the side.

  • Joe R.

    Exactly. One time I was making a left turn and had an impatient taxi driver behind me. I was waiting for a gap in traffic to make my turn. He kept honking, then finally gassed it a little and hit my rear wheel going maybe 5 or 6 mph. The wheel looked similar to the one in the picture. Now had this bike collided head on with a vehicle, I agree the front wheel would have been crushed. Even if the car was doing the speed limit of 25 mph and the bike was going 15 mph, that’s still a relative speed of 40 mph. That would put the momentum change at ~8 times that of my incident—easily enough to more or less destroy the wheel.

  • Vooch

    at the Speed The inattentive Killer Driver was gunning bis hulking Death machine, The Victim and his bicycle could have been Dragged on killer’s hood Quite some distance

  • Brad Aaron

    Driver speed is another key question.

    From the 2016 Honda Civic owners manual:

    “This vehicle is equipped with an event data recorder (EDR). The main purpose of an EDR is to record, in certain crash or near crash-like situations, such as an air bag deployment or hitting a road obstacle, data that will assist in understanding
    how a vehicle’s systems performed. The EDR is designed to record data related to vehicle dynamics and safety systems for a short period of time, typically 30 seconds or less. The EDR in this vehicle is designed to record such data as:
    • How various systems in your vehicle were operating;
    • Whether or not the driver and passenger safety belts were buckled/fastened;
    • How far (if at all) the driver was depressing the accelerator and/or brake pedal; and,
    • How fast the vehicle was traveling. These data can help provide a better understanding of the circumstances in
    which crashes and injuries occur. NOTE: EDR data are recorded by your vehicle only if a non-trivial crash situation occurs; no data are recorded by the EDR under normal driving conditions and no personal data (e.g., name, gender, age, and
    crash location) are recorded. However, other parties, such as law enforcement, could combine the EDR data with the type of personally identifying data routinely acquired during a crash investigation.”

  • sbauman

    Don’t know if the bike was moved there or if that’s where it ended up when the driver stopped.

    The rear wheel is missing. My guess is the bike was moved.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I seems that Streetsblog and Vaccaro & White are sort of evolving into that role.

    The question could be framed this way. Can the NYPD be trusted with evidence in these sorts of situations — motor vehicles kill or maim pedestrian or cyclist? Or should people be encouraged to give their witness accounts/video to someone else so it won’t disappear?

    It would be a little scary if the latter is thought to be necessary.

  • GHT

    I don’t think a broken windshield necessarily triggers the air bag. I think the air bag sensors are typically in the bumpers and the body of the car.

  • Andrew

    It’s neither. Airbags are triggered by rapid deceleration. The driver slamming on the brakes and coming to a stop on his own wouldn’t be a steep enough rate of deceleration to trigger airbags.

  • Thanks for that info, I was unaware of how and when they were triggered. Although the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says only that most EDR’s are built into the airbag control modules, not that they’re triggered by airbag deployment or signals to the airbag. I have to look into this more.

    What’s a real shame is the state and federal laws that protect drivers by requiring a court order for police or prosecutors to access the information on EDR’s. I don’t feel that how somebody drives on public roads should be private or privileged information. Great example of how lawmakers get all over zealous about hot button issues (like “privacy”) and pass laws that hinder law enforcement by protecting one group (drivers) and hurting another (vulnerable road users, and even other drivers).

  • Jeffrey Baker

    I agree. It should be implied consent, like breathalyzer.

  • Aaron

    The latter is absolutely necessary. Vaccaro and White have repeatedly proven that victims often need to do their own investigations to have any hope of even getting the minimum information needed to file insurance claims. The Dulcie Canton case was a classic example of this.

  • SteveVaccaro

    If the airbag didn’t deploy, often the EDR data is overwritten after the car resumes operation. Most likely the car was towed away, but the police should get a subpoena to collect that data before the car is operated.

  • Larry Littlefield

    And can one trust the legal system?

    https://larrylittlefield.wordpress.com/2015/09/13/our-efficiently-inefficient-system-of-injustice/

    Any lawyers want to comment.

    How bad off are we in this society anyway? I’m know as a cynic after a few decades of following public policy and observing the future, and those who will live in it, sold out time after time. With the media refusing to inform younger people what is going on, and younger people not participating in and organizing against the sell out of their own future.

    Not being able to trust the police/legal system would be another, more troubling level of social decay.

  • Andrew

    Personally, I’m more inclined to focus on the people who do dumb shit that could get other people seriously hurt (or killed).

  • Andrew

    EDR data are recorded by your vehicle only if a non-trivial crash situation occurs

    As opposed to a trivial crash situation?

  • I assume it exists to protect Honda from warranty claims, not to protect cyclists from cars.

  • Joe R.

    There shouldn’t be any restrictions on the use of EDR. Moreover, it should be recording and saving car telemetry whenever the vehicle is in motion in case that data is ever needed in the future. We can easily fit a lifetime’s worth of car telemetry data on today’s storage devices. No reason cars made today shouldn’t have a record of everything that car ever did from the time it was made. I agree if you operate on public roads everything you do should be public information. The data would also protect drivers against overzealous police who might give out unwarranted speeding tickets.

  • dfiler

    I’ve been hit by cars 5 times, luckily none resulted in hospitalization or even ambulance rides.

    As much as I’d like to say otherwise, the damage to the bike looks exactly like a head on collision. A head-on impact bent the front wheel inward but not laterally, the fork legs bent backward and the bottom tube crimped enough to make the head tube angle backward. The damage to the sides of the down tube are a result of the bike rotating sideways after initial impact, and subsequent tumbling. This type of wheel failure, fork being folded under, and downtube getting crimped, is precisely what happens with a front end impact.

    Side impacts are way different.

    Either way, i hope video evidence is available so that justice is certain.

  • MiklosMeszaros

    I disagree the impact was side, but it wasn’t directly head on either. The fork legs are not bent backwards, but the wheel is rotated with the brakes cutting into the down tube and the stressing the junction between the down tube and head tube to snap. The rim and tire spun around and pressed against the car likely caused the dent, which is also the area where the tube walls are narrowed as stress is lower in the middle as compared to the end of the tube.

    If the bike had rotated around the head tube upon impact, it could lead as to how the rider was potentially thrown. There is limited deformation at the rear triangle, but the images don’t define the overall damage well.

    Still, it appears more frontal with an offset. Hopefully some video will clear up the direction of the rider, but the observational deductions of some don’t seem likely in this matter.

  • MiklosMeszaros

    The fork legs are actually swung around. Notice the brakes cutting into the down tube and the head tube junction showing twisting from the down tube. I agree its front end, but at an angle that twisted the front wheel around rapidly.

  • dfiler

    Yeah, the wheel, fork and bars are pointed backward. It’s important to stress that this means nothing in regard to direction of the collision. This always happens during crashes, the final direction that the front-wheel/handlebars are pointing is entirely random.

    What is telling is that the fork initially bent and tucked under the bike, the downtube bent backward during the same impact and front wheel all bent front a radial impact, not a lateral impact.

    I’d give this a level of certainty of “beyond a reasonable doubt” that this was a head on impact. Side impact results in side to side bending, not the precisely front to back bending shown in the photo.

  • dfiler

    The fork is bent backward as is the head tube. The head tube is _severely_ bent backward. That only happens so precisely in alignment during in a front end collision. Side collisions result in lateral bending.

    As a cyclist I’d love to say the evidence pointed to a driver at fault. But all I can say is that the bicycle damage is quite clearly the result of a head on collision.

  • dfiler

    Many cyclists are experts in crashes and damaged bikes. Being a mountain biker, I see destroyed frames and wheels on a regular basis. I’ve also been hit by cars five times.

    The pictures actually tells us quite a bit. Decades of experience make it quite clear this was a head on collision.

  • Andrew

    As a cyclist I’d love to say the evidence pointed to a driver at fault.

    Does the evidence point to a driver who was complying with the 25 mph speed limit, who was exercising due caution to avoid colliding with pedestrians and cyclists, who wasn’t distracted, who was watching where he was going?
    If not, then perhaps the driver was partly at fault, even if the cyclist was also partly at fault.

    Whatever the cyclist may or may not have done wrong, he’s already been punished severely for it. How about we consider the possibility that the driver may have some something wrong, too?

  • Joe R.

    Assuming you’re correct, all this would mean is the bike had a head-on collision with something. This could have been the result of being hit from behind and pushed into another vehicle. The evidence isn’t a slam dunk that the cyclist was riding against traffic.

    As a cyclist I’d love to say the evidence pointed to a driver at fault.

    It could still be the driver’s fault even if we assume a head-on collision. The driver may have been on the wrong side of the street, perhaps going around a double-parked vehicle. I’ve seen my share of drivers aggressively drive around double-parked vehicles.

  • NYer

    Speaking of Hondas… A guy in a white Honda just like this one was driving like a complete sociopath down Atlantic Avenue this evening. Easily could have caused an injury like this to someone, or worse.

    His license plate number was NY HGK 3904.

    Why is it not possible for me to easily look this guy up or file a complaint or put some sort of “horrible driver” mark in some sort of official database? Why is this maniacal driver’s privacy prioritized ahead of New Yorkers’ life and limb? This was a driver who should be removed from the transportation system until he can be retrained.

  • jeremy

    Probably an off duty NYPD cop

  • dfiler

    It was only an assessment of what can be determined or not determined from the photo.

    It is rightfully an emotional topic so outrage is understandable. To react even more productively, it is key to listen to what other people are saying without knee jerk reactions. It doesn’t help to attempt to argue with somebody who you actually agree with. 😉

  • Anne Fuller

    The police didn’t leave quickly at all. They taped it off as a crime scene for at least several hours. Detectives contacted me more than once and I urge Cecchini to be in touch if he has not. Learned today that the cyclist is still alive…

  • Andrew

    What I can determine from the photo is that there is a reasonable chance that the driver was in violation of multiple laws when he struck the cyclist.

    Why focus on what the cyclist may or may not have done wrong, seeing as he’s already been punished on any case? Do you agree that, if the driver was even only partly responsible, he too should be penalized? If so, why focus on the cyclist’s potential wrongdoing at this point? Doesn’t that only distract us from the question of whether the driver should still be on the road?

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