NYPD Blames Victim After Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Cyclist Ronald Burke in Bushwick

In a separate fatal crash over the weekend, NYPD also blamed an elderly man who was struck and killed by a cab driver at Cooper Square in Manhattan.

Central Avenue, just east of Linden Street, in Bushwick, where a motorist struck and killed Ronald Burke early Friday morning. Photo: Google Maps
Central Avenue, just east of Linden Street, in Bushwick, where a motorist struck and killed Ronald Burke early Friday morning. Photo: Google Maps

A hit-and-run driver killed a man cycling in Bushwick early Friday morning, and a yellow cab driver killed an elderly man walking in Greenwich Village last night. NYPD blamed the victim in both cases.

Ronald Burke
Ronald Burke

The NYPD public information office told Streetsblog the victim of the crash in Bushwick, 32-year-old Ronald Burke, was riding east on Linden Street at around 3:30 a.m. Friday when he was struck by a driver in a 2005 Acura, who was traveling southbound on Central Avenue and entered the intersection with a green light.

But that narrative does not match what witnesses told DNAinfo. They said Burke was riding south in the Central Avenue bike lane when the driver hit him from behind.

Streetsblog spoke to the NYPD public information office this morning, and police could not cite the basis for the claim that Burke ran a red light. Photos published by DNAinfo show the bike, with a warped rear wheel, lying on Central Avenue at least one car length to the east of the Linden Street intersection.

NYPD has a history of prematurely blaming cyclists for fatal crashes, releasing information that is later proven false. To cite a few recent cases, police initially said Dan Hanegby, Kelly Hurley, and Lauren Davis were all at fault for their own deaths before video evidence or witness testimony disproved those accounts and indicated driver recklessness instead.

Burke sustained head and body trauma and died at Kings County Hospital. He was riding home from work when he was struck, according to the Daily News.

The driver left the scene and remains at large. NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan told DNAinfo the driver spoke to first responders after the crash but fled before police arrived.

Police also blamed the victim of a second crash, in which a yellow cab driver struck an 87-year-old man in Greenwich Village at around 9 p.m. yesterday.

According to NYPD, the victim, whose name was withheld pending family notification, was walking east to west on 5th Street and the cab driver was southbound on Cooper Square, i.e. Third Avenue. NYPD said the victim was crossing the street “against a steady ‘don’t walk’ light,” but did not say where that information came from. Police filed no charges.

Third Avenue at 5th Street. Image: Google Maps

Though there’s a center island on Third Avenue, the crossing distance at this location is long, with two moving lanes and a parking lane in each direction. Even if, as NYPD says, the driver had a green light, it’s possible the elderly victim entered the crosswalk with the signal and could not reach the curb before it turned red.

NYPD shielded the name of the cab driver, who was identified only as being 47 years old. In the absence of summonses or criminal charges, cab drivers who kill people receive no license sanctions from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.

  • nanter

    In the first case, the driver probably told first responders the cyclist ran the light. In the second case, the cab driver probably exculpated himself to police.

  • Ken Dodd

    Exactly.After no other kind of homicide does the killer get to abort any possible charges against themselves by merely telling police it wasn’t their fault. One reason why the NYPD accept the killer driver’s word in every case is because they’re effectively jumping at the chance to wrap up a case without having to do a thorough investigation. They know that there is no pressure on them, political or otherwise, to deliver justice after a road traffic death. So they don’t bother. Why would they?
    there’s nothing in it for them whatsoever. Another reason why they accept the driver’s word is because they know that if they really started getting to the bottom of whether or not these fatalities were crimes, the annual homicide stats would almost double.

  • Steven Craig

    The answer is simple. Enforce the traffic laws for both vehicles and bikes.
    Cyclists seem to believe the laws are merely suggestions and have very little consequence by ignoring them.
    Requiring registration and a licencse which could be issued with the NYC id card would produce revenue..create an understanding bikes are vehicles subject to traffic laws and enhance collection of tickets which now because of rider identity questions are often uncollectable.
    Pedestrians. Vehicles and bikes are subject to the laws.
    Instead of complaining about facts not in evidence to discredit the nypd how about demanding they do their job?

  • MasonEagle

    Yet licenses and registrations don’t seem to do anything for the standard of motor vehicle driving.

    Discredit the NYPD? They pretty much do that every day with their lies and buffoonery.

  • Steven Craig

    So your answer is do away for all licences and registrations?
    The nypd has been obviously told to stand down on cycle violations and that creates the enviorment of lawless entitlement and recklessness that is the recipe for tragedy.

  • MasonEagle

    No, my answer is that licenses and registrations for cyclists won’t do a thing to reduce the number of deaths of cyclists on the road, almost all of which are caused by reckless drivers who have no respect for human life regardless of how licensed or registered they are.

  • Steven Craig

    Must disagree.
    Most cyclists do not even wear helmets and the suggestion that it becomes mandatory brings an avalanche of entitlement rhetoric.
    Registration and licencing would clearly bring about the revelation that they are operating a vehicle amonst other vehicles.
    I believe it would along with enforcement of traffic laws for both vehicles and bikes save lives.

  • Andrew

    The answer is simple. Enforce the traffic laws for both vehicles and bikes.

    I’d love to see the traffic laws enforced for motor vehicles. By the way, what’s the question that you’re proposing to answer?

    Cyclists seem to believe the laws are merely suggestions and have very little consequence by ignoring them.

    Motorists seem to believe exactly the same. (Which is why they kill so many pedestrians and cyclists.)

    Requiring registration and a licencse which could be issued with the NYC id card would produce revenue..create an understanding bikes are vehicles subject to traffic laws

    Yet it doesn’t create that understanding for motorists.

    and enhance collection of tickets which now because of rider identity questions are often uncollectable.

    Source for that claim?

    Pedestrians. Vehicles and bikes are subject to the laws.

    Motorists don’t seem to care very much about the laws. (Motorists employed by the NYPD seem to care especially little – just look at all of the illegally parked cars lined up on sidewalks near virtually every police station across the city.) Why do you pretend that they do?

    Instead of complaining about facts not in evidence to discredit the nypd how about demanding they do their job?

    The NYPD does a fine job of discrediting themselves without anybody’s help.

  • Steven Craig

    I think you epitomize the problem in the cycling community.
    You clearly believe that because some motorists violate the law it gives cyclists that same right.
    Ignoring of course that motorists need to operate legally have not only license. Registration and insurance. Cyclists have none of these and as mentioned actually oppose in many instances manditory helmets if they chose to share the roads. I would remind you the seat belts are manditory for operators and in some instances passengers of motor vehicle..why the opposition to helmets?
    It is entitlement without responsibility that seems to characterize much of the cycling community and its pervasive cry of victimhood that is changing public opinion.

  • Andrew

    Care to address any of my points, or are you going to keep rambling on about irrelevancies?

    (I don’t ride a bike, BTW.)

  • not sure if this image is reliable .. but in the case of the pedestrian, the DNA photo shows the taxi turning .

    and does n’t the pedestrian have priority anyway in the crosswalk?

    We need a mass psychoanalysis and hypnosis to rewire the NYPD brains and get them to be objective . judge the acts and not the people …

    Maybe the “big brother big sister” model would work: each cop should must become the big brother of a cyclist or pedestrian for a year , go ride and walk with them on the week end..

  • Andrew

    If this incident took place at 9 p.m., as the article states, then I have a hunch that the image isn’t entirely reliable. Just a hunch.

  • What is important is to protect all street users who respect the law. forget about the ones who do not. they are taking their life in their hands ..
    unfortunately when car drivers do not respect the law, more often than not they hurt other people not just themselves. bicyclists and pedestrians are not afforded the same safety protection that modern cars provide for drivers . so they are more vulnerable. just like children would be . because of this there is a larger responsibility on the shoulders of the drivers just like there is a larger responsibility on parents.
    if pedestrians and bicyclists do not respect the law, they will pay a dear price for it. That ought to be enough. We cannot be nanny state.

  • Andrew

    We’ll put. Thank you.

  • Simon Phearson

    The point is to say that all the regulatory requirements you’re proposing to impose on cyclists haven’t stopped drivers from killing hundreds and injuring thousands of pedestrians and cyclists in this city, each year, so what possible reason do we have to think that building a whole new regulatory regime for cyclists is going to help?

    The truth is we don’t. You – and others like you that propose this total non-solution – just want to discourage cycling. That’s all that it’s about.

  • Steven Craig

    I believe I did.
    Bottom line cyclists need to obey the law and it seems the only way for that to happen is for their licensing registration and insurance mandate like any other vehicle that uses the roads.
    Increasingly they are perceived as immature entitlement parasites contributing nothing not even to the construction of bike lanes.

  • Steven Craig

    Your solution?
    No regulations or just for automobiles?
    All vehicles need to be held accountable or get off the roads.

  • Steven Craig

    Motorcycle operators must be licensed insured and their bike registered plus they must wear helmet.
    Agree about the nanny state but who pays for the jerk who has head trauma because they didn’t wear a helmet?

  • The jerk pays for it . – Full disclosure a good friend of mine had a motorcycle crash and has been mentally diminished since then.

  • Steven Craig

    Full disclosure..was he wearing a helmet?

  • Simon Phearson

    Cyclists are perfectly accountable for their actions on their streets. They can get ticketed just as easily as drivers for violating the law. Matter of fact, I happened to pass a cyclist-sting going down on 34th Avenue in Jackson Heights just this morning. Probably cracking down on more of those menacing cyclists, rolling safely through red lights.

    Licensing isn’t about “accountability,” and you know it.

  • Ken Dodd

    So what? Drivers don’t wear helmets either and head injuries are the #1 cause of fatalities in car accidents. When are you going to start calling for the mandatory wearing of helmets for motorists? And why aren’t you answering the point Mason made above, which is that licenses and registrations don’t seem to have done diddly squat to prevent motorists from driving with reckless abandon around this city?

  • Steven Craig

    Then what is it about ?
    Why object ?

  • Ken Dodd

    Answer the following question: has the licensing, registration and insurance requirements of motor vehicle drivers had a chilling effect on the way they drive and their overall respect for the rules of the road? Or do they just drive like psychos anyway.

  • Steven Craig

    Your solution?
    No licences for anyone?
    Helmets save lives.
    Don’t wear one fine but who pays the medical cost riding an uninsured vehicle?

  • Steven Craig

    At least they are accountable and imagine if rental cars were available on the same terms as citibike?
    Bikers need some regulation.

  • Simon Phearson

    You tell me. You’re the one trying to justify significant licensing and registration requirements for cyclists, despite there being absolutely no reason to believe that it’ll change or improve anything.

  • Steven Craig

    They are vehicles no reason not to license.
    As a kid on Nantucket I had to licence and register.
    Why not as an adult in NYC?
    Better for all

  • Ken Dodd

    A biker is still accountable if they hit someone. And none of this has ANY bearing on whether or not people conduct themselves in a safe manner on the roads. The bottom line is that the OVERWHELMING issue on New York roads is not cyclists, but psychotic drivers who believe that being encased in a metal shell entitles them to disregard the human lives of others. This is not just conjecture – the statistics prove it beyond doubt.

  • Simon Phearson

    There’s no reason to license, either, so your argument falls utterly flat. It’s just a backdoor way of discouraging cyclists, for no good reason.

  • Steven Craig

    No reason to license?
    On what grounds?
    Operate on the streets get a license and an insurance policy.
    Get it.

  • Simon Phearson

    We license drivers of cars because cars are large, heavy vehicles, capable of high speed, that can cause a significant amount of damage if handled improperly. Bicycles are lightweight vehicles, capable of only much lower speed, that pose fewer risks if handled improperly. Moreover, cyclists are already naturally much more inclined to behave safely, given their vulnerability while using their vehicles, than are car drivers, who are protected by large, steel cages.

    That’s why we license drivers and not cyclists.

    The fact that cyclists “operate on the streets” is not relevant. That reflects a prior policy choice to require cyclists to use the streets; asserting that it, in itself, compels the conclusion that cyclists be licensed is just circular reasoning. The argument would fall apart in any circumstance where cyclists are permitted to use the sidewalks (as is the case in much of the country).

  • Steven Craig

    Totally disagree
    As pointed out the town of Nantucket required a registration and license in 1968. NYC choses to require nothing. ?

  • Simon Phearson

    People have researched this. The systematic registration of bicycles just isn’t worth the expense, and it effectively operates as a barrier to entry for anyone who wants to use them. You’re just not being rational about this.

  • Members of the hegemonic group recognise no obligation to be rational.

    On the rare occasion when they even deign to acknowledge the existence of an opposing point of view, they tend to argue in a self-serving manner, bullying from a position of strength.

  • Steven Craig

    Who are these people?
    Same applies to cars?
    Or just another self serving cyclist bit of propaganda?
    Why oppose registration?
    Afraid of something?

  • Simon Phearson

    What could I possibly be afraid of, apart from the inefficient waste of public resources on a “solution” in search of a problem? I just don’t want public policy to be shaped by ignoramuses like yourself.

  • Steven Craig

    Obviously I hit a nerve illustrated by the name calling.
    Waste of resources?
    Some might say that is a good definition for bike lanes.
    Meanwhile let’s licence..register. insure all vehicles using our roads and provide additional funding which will pay foritself to enforce the laws.

  • Steven Craig

    This is clearly the case of many of the myopic cycle advocates. They often can offer parody to animal farm.
    …two wheels good four bad…

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m not “name calling” you by calling you an “ignoramus.” I’m just pointing out your ignorance, which is obvious by this point.

    There are smart ways to manage traffic and traffic violence. People who research and study these issues – and you are clearly not one of them – know this. Bike lanes, like sidewalks, segregate cycling traffic and provide a clear, safe, and predictable place for cyclists to be. That’s why it’s not a “waste of resources” to provide them. Bike licensing and registration regimes never “pay for themselves” – in Nantucket, you pay only a few bucks – and there’s no evidence whatsoever that they improve safety or compliance with traffic laws.

    If you want cyclists to obey traffic laws, there are two clear ways we already know of that will do this: first, design a system of traffic laws where cyclists are not treated like they’re no different than drivers. It should be obvious that cyclists and drivers do not have the same needs, and do not pose the same risks, on our streets, so it makes no sense to regulate them the same way. Second, design a cycling infrastructure network that protects and serves cyclists. A good amount of the non-compliance we see is the direct result of an approach to road design that prioritizes the interests of drivers. Everywhere this is done, we find that cycling is safe, popular, and legally compliant. It’s simply scientific fact at this point.

  • Steven Craig

    Again totally disagree.
    Cyclists needs are not and should not be the driving force of public policy.
    Those who use the roads need to be subject to the same regulations and there should be enforcement of traffic laws for both vehicles and bikes.
    Time for cyclists to be registered licenced and insured. Perhaps a surcharge on citibike could be used to pay for these bike lanes?
    Certainly dedicated enforcement with fines doing the same would satisfy everyone.

  • Simon Phearson

    It’s not “cyclist needs” that should be driving public policy. It’s pedestrian, cyclist, and driver safety, all of which are promoted by segregating different modes of traffic from one another. Hence, bike lanes. That’s why we don’t require pedestrians to walk in the streets and follow the same rules as drivers, and why we don’t allow drivers or cyclists to drive or bike on sidewalks. That’s why we say traffic fatalities – for pedestrians, cyclists, and drivers and passengers – drop when we install bike lanes. It’s all right there in the data. Educate yourself.

  • Steven Craig

    Then lets enforce the law and use the revenue to pay for the bike lanes.
    Can’t see the problem of registration either.
    Cyclists who ride on sidewalks and against traffic rarely are ticketed.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Cyclists who ride or sidewalks can be, and have been, arrested.

  • Steven Craig

    Alas far too few in relation to the numbers who feel themselves a special entitlement group that the city choses to pander to
    Just enforce the law.

  • We bicyclists are not the hegemonic group. We’re a marginalised group. Therefore, we by definition cannot operate from a position of strength.

    For decades absolutely everything was set up with the unquestioned assumption that automobiles are the only legitimate road users. This is being corrected to some degree in some locations. But, as is the case with all hegemonic groups, drivers have internalised their own sense of superiority. This attitude on the part of drivers towards bicyclists is the analogue of the hostility on the part of other entrenched groups to various movements for equality in society and under the law. To the members of a hegemonic group, anything less than absolute domination is interpreted as persecution.

    Also, the formulation “two wheels good; four wheels bad” is a mindless caricature which illustrates an intellectually dishonest desire to delegitimise all opposition. In reality, everyone realises that the automobile is a necessary evil, first of all for purposes of emergency services and other government administration. What’s more, commerce depends on deliveries by truck to retailers. And a van is necessary for many jobs such as plumber or electrician, or any job that requires the hauling of tools or gear. There are many applications of gas-powered vehicles with four (or more) wheels that a modern society needs in order to function.

    What is an unnecessary evil is the personal auto. Let us note that an additional positive use of the automobile is mass transit. Even if other cities lack the subway and regional railroads of New York, all municipalities and counties could operate extensive bus services which would function as the primary means of commuting and of getting around. What’s more, policies which strongly discourage the use of personal autos have the effect of making the legitimate functions of automobiles (such as emergency services, commercial deliveries, and mass transit) much more efficient.

    No one dislikes bicyclists who break the law more than do I, a car-hating cyclist. We bicyclists have the responsibility to follow the law; we have to obey the laws even as we battle to achieve changes in the stupidest of these laws. Our obligation to follow the law is partly ethical, arising out of the demands of good citizenship. But this obligation is mostly strategic, because, when we flout the laws, we enrage the public, thereby empowering our most irrational enemies to create false equivalencies between bicycles and cars, and to argue for even more nonsensical regulations to be applied to us. When bicyclists break the law, we further our own marginalisation, and we risk losing the gains that we have made up until now.

    So I don’t object in principle to ticketing bicyclists who break the law; I object only to misplaced priorities on the part of law enforcement. In other words: while I deplore cyclists’ habit of running red lights, and while I have absolutely no sympathy for any cyclist who gets a ticket for doing that, the fact remains that all police attention paid to bicyclists is attention that should be paid to the rampant lawbreaking committed by drivers.

    Drivers speed with regularity. They turn without signalling. They blow stop signs, and sometimes even red lights. And, when they do deign to stop at stop signs and red lights, it is almost always by coming to a halt well beyond the stopping line, and sometimes within the crosswalk. In the places outside New York City, drivers turn right on red without even bothering to stop, just rolling right through the red light. They do these illegal things because each driver knows that the chance of getting caught is practically nil; and, each driver also knows that, if he/she is caught, the penalty is negligible.

    Such illegal driver behaviour causes great harm, and constitutes the single greatest menace that confronts the public in this City. Yet the police do nothing about it. The problem is that the police consider traffic enforcement to be beneath them; and New York City’s civilian government has abdicated its authority over a police force that has become essentially a ruling military junta. In a functioning democracy, the chief executive would order the police to make traffic enforcement the top priority, as it should be; and all of these dangerous driver behaviours would be wiped out. But, alas, we do not have a functioning democracy.

    Drivers’ lawbreaking costs lives and impacts the day-to-day living of almost everyone in this City. Still, this should not be used as an excuse for cyclists to ignore the law; and any cyclist who defends his/her own lawbreaking by pointing to drivers’ behaviour is doing his enemy’s work. Cyclists’ lawbreaking has virtually no consequences in terms of safety; the only victims of cyclists’ lawbreaking are cyclists ourselves, as we alienate the public, and, by extension, the elected officials whom we need on our side if we want to make progress.

    If we had appropriate police attention paid to drivers’ lawbreaking, if we had a world in which drivers didn’t dare to commit illegal acts out of fear of getting caught, then I would be 100% in favour of ticket blitzes against bicyclists. But, until we have that state of affairs, any attention paid to bicyclists’ lawbreaking represents a collossal misdeployment of resources that should be used against those who cause actual harm, namely drivers.

  • Steven Craig

    Simple enforce the law for cyclists and motorists.
    Extend licencing and insurance plus an add on for all registrations to pay for bike lanes and strict enforcement.

    Your reasoning is interesting but seems to justfy the perception that the activist cycle community is based less on transportation than a cult of automobile haters.

  • Simon Phearson

    We pay for bike lanes the same way we pay for pedestrian and driver infrastructure: through sales, income, and property tax revenue. We all pay it, we all get the benefit.

    Here are some ideas for raising more revenue that would rationalize traffic behavior, incentivize compliance with applicable traffic laws, and promote our common good: congestion pricing, ending free on-street parking, enforcing parking laws against placard abusers, enforcing traffic laws against drivers who fail to yield, run red lights or stop signs, block the box, park in the bike lanes, turn or change lanes without signaling, speed, honk unnecessarily, drive trucks and buses on non-truck routes where they’re prohibited, reverse into intersections, etc., etc., etc. We’ll raise far more revenue, far more quickly, by doing any or all of that, than we will by trying to catch cyclists who ride on sidewalks or against traffic.

    Not that you have any evidence-based reason for saying that sidewalk riders or salmoners are rarely ticketed (in fact, they are often ticketed, particularly when they’re non-white and riding in poorer neighborhoods), but the main reason they might not be has to do with NYPD priorities. It has nothing to do with easing off cycling infractions and everything to do with what’s easy to catch. The NYPD would rather put a cruiser at a T-intersection with tons of cyclists rolling by, in order to catch a regular flow of them safely riding through a red light, than do the much harder work of patrolling for scofflaw behavior that is intermittent and unpredictable. So even your suggestion of using ticket revenue to pay for an inexpensive feature of roadways (do you have any idea how much of the expense of a road goes into making them car- and truck-friendly, as opposed to suitable for other traffic?) is profoundly under-suited for its putative purpose. You’re not going to fund a single bike lane by cracking down on delivery cyclists who occasionally ride on the sidewalk, the same way you’re not going to pay for a single office clerk’s salary with Nantucket’s anachronistic (and probably widely ignored) bike licensing fees.

  • Steven Craig

    It is obvious your myopic bike centric world view believes much as members of other cults that entitlement is your birthright.
    Sorry but time to pay your share and play by the rules.

  • Simon Phearson

    It’s plain you can’t be bothered to read more than a few sentences. I’ll put it simply: I already do pay my share and play by the rules. I also care about smart transportation policy, informed not by uninformed biases but by data and science. You need to educate yourself, if you can manage to muster the attention span.


Drivers Kill Four Pedestrians in Six Days, Two Flee Scene

Four pedestrians have lost their lives on New York City streets since Thursday. Two of the crashes were hit-and-runs and a third killed a four-year-old child. A cyclist is also in critical condition after a man who wasn’t licensed to operate the tractor trailer he was driving struck her on a Bushwick street Friday morning. […]