Witness: Speeding Driver Ran Red and Struck Cyclist. NYPD: Nah, Victim’s Fault.

A Citi Bike rider suffered severe head trauma in a collision that NYPD claims he caused. But the only witness interviewed in the press says the victim was following the rules.

NYPD has a credibility problem when it comes to describing traffic crashes, but the media has been slow to catch on. Image via WCBS
NYPD has a credibility problem when it comes to describing traffic crashes, but the media has been slow to catch on. Image via WCBS

NYPD was in typical victim-blaming mode after a cab driver seriously injured a man on a Citi Bike in Chelsea yesterday. Police told the media the victim ran a red light, but the only eyewitness cited in press accounts said the cyclist had a green and it was the driver who violated his right of way.

Sunday’s incident fits the pattern of NYPD publicly blaming crash victims who can’t speak for themselves before investigations conclude. Over a 15-day span in June and July, motorists killed four people riding bikes — Edouard MenuauCorbin CarrRonald Burke, and an unidentified 81-year-old man. In every case, NYPD said the victim ran a red while citing no corroborative evidence.

Yesterday, NYPD said the driver, who reportedly works for Uber, was heading south on Ninth Avenue in a Toyota SUV at around 11:40 a.m. when he hit the cyclist, who was riding west on W. 21st Street. The victim sustained severe head injuries and was transported to Bellevue in critical condition.

“The cyclist, a 23-year-old man from Rochester, ran a red light and then ran into the Uber sport-utility vehicle cab,” police sources told WCBS.

“While approaching Ninth Avenue, the cyclist rode through a red light and was hit by a taxi going south on Ninth, according to the police account,” Patch reported.

NYPD told DNAinfo the victim “passed through the red light” but “didn’t say how investigators knew the cyclist ran the red.”

The NYPD preliminary report was contradicted by witnesses who told the Daily News the driver sped through the intersection against the light.

“The bike definitely had the green light, for sure,” Roberto Pinell told the News. “I mean, look at the bike, look at the rim, that car was going fast, that poor guy never had a chance.”

Bill de Blasio and James O'Neill can end NYPD’s harmful practice of blaming crash victims. What’s stopping them?
Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill can end NYPD’s harmful practice of blaming crash victims. What’s stopping them?

When a crash victim is dead or incapacitated and can’t tell his or her side of the story, NYPD often accepts the driver’s version of events as the official account of the collision. NYPD said Dan HanegbyKelly Hurley, and Lauren Davis — to name a few recent victims — were responsible for the collisions that took their lives before evidence revealed motorist behavior as the cause. But by the time police are proven wrong, the press has usually moved on to other stories, leaving the public to believe the victim was at fault.

After a series of incidents where police wrongly blamed crash victims, NYPD Inspector Dennis Fulton said the department, which answers to Mayor Bill de Blasio, has no plans to change the way it disseminates crash information.

The driver in Sunday’s crash, also a 23-year-old man, was not charged or issued a ticket. The News said NYPD is looking for evidence to back up the story the department already told the media: “A police source said cops were investigating whether it was the cyclist who crossed against the light.”

In the absence of charges from NYPD or Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, the driver faces no sanctions from the Taxi and Limousine Commission, leaving him free to continue operating a cab on city streets.

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