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A Trucker Killed a Cyclist at the Spot Where de Blasio Announced His E-Bike Crackdown

3:22 PM EDT on October 20, 2017

Helen Rosenthal stands with NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas Chan and anti-electric bike crusader Matthew Shefler at Amsterdam Avenue and W. 72nd Street, site of Mayor de Blasio’s e-bike crackdown announcement and the location where a semi driver fatally struck Abu Rifat on October 10. Photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayoral Photography Office

Abu Rifat has died from injuries sustained when a tractor-trailer driver ran him over as he biked on Amsterdam Avenue earlier this month, NYPD said yesterday. The crash happened at the intersection where Mayor de Blasio announced his crackdown on food delivery workers who use electric bikes.

Abu Rifat
Abu Rifat

As the mayor was scapegoating working cyclists on Thursday, NYPD was blaming Rifat for his own death.

Police said Rifat, 24, was riding north on Amsterdam Avenue at around 10:15 p.m. on October 10 when he was struck by the trucker, who was also northbound on Amsterdam, near W. 72nd Street.

There is a protected bike lane on Amsterdam north of W. 72nd, but no separation between cyclists and motor vehicle traffic exists to the south.

NYPD's version of the crash removed all agency from the truck driver. Police told the press Rifat "struck the side" of the truck and "fell to the ground." What police appear to be saying is that the truck driver passed Rifat too closely and sideswiped him with an enormous vehicle.

Rifat, who lived in Jamaica, was transported to Mount Sinai St. Luke’s hospital. He died on October 18. As is typical when a motorist is not charged or ticketed for taking a human life, NYPD did not disclose the truck driver's identity.

The crash that killed Rifat is the latest instance of NYPD blaming a cyclist who died at the hands of a reckless operator of a large truck or bus.

In November 2016, a tractor-trailer driver hit Jing Yin Jiang, a 59-year-old delivery worker riding an e-bike, on Broadway near W. 89th Street. According to police, the trucker hit Jiang as the victim maneuvered around a parked car. No charges were filed, though information provided by NYPD and photos of the scene suggest the trucker passed too closely and was operating a rig so large it's not permitted on NYC streets. The Biking Public Project told Streetsblog NYPD later cited Jiang's death to justify targeting delivery workers and confiscating their electric bikes.

Last June NYPD said Dan Hanegby “swerved” into the path of an off-route bus driver approaching him from behind on W. 26th Street in Chelsea. NYPD's account was contradicted by video evidence uncovered by the victim's family, which showed Hanegby was riding predictably when he was struck.

When an off-route tractor-trailer driver sideswiped James Gregg on a residential Park Slope street in April 2016, NYPD went to embarrassing lengths to make excuses for the trucker, saying Gregg “collided into [the] rear tire” of the rig, which “created something like a wind force that sucked the bicycle toward the back of the truck.”

Amsterdam Avenue has a bikeway north of W. 72nd Street, but no protection for cyclists to the south. Image: DOT
Amsterdam Avenue has a bikeway north of W. 72nd Street, but no protection for cyclists to the south. Image: DOT

Both Rifat and Jiang were struck in the City Council district represented by Helen Rosenthal, who said yesterday that e-bikes are "one of the most frequent category of complaints" from local residents.

Drivers -- all of them operating trucks -- have killed no fewer than four cyclists and two pedestrians in the last 14 months in Rosenthal's district, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog.

While Rosenthal is not shy about condemning food delivery workers who have never killed anyone in traffic, she said nothing publicly about any of those deaths. Basing traffic enforcement on complaints, rather than data, isn't going to make streets in her district safer for walking and biking.

With Rifat’s death, motorists have now killed 19 cyclists in NYC this year, compared to 18 cyclist deaths to this point in 2016, according to Transportation Alternatives.

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