Brooklyn Electeds Pay Tribute to Edwin Ajacalon and Call on Albany to Prevent Deadly Speeding

Edwin Ajacalon's uncle, Eduardo Vicente, broke down before he could speak at last night's vigil. Photo: Dave Colon
Edwin Ajacalon's uncle, Eduardo Vicente, broke down before he could speak at last night's vigil. Photo: Dave Colon

At a vigil last night, elected officials and street safety advocates paid tribute to Edwin Ajacalon, the 14-year-old from Guatemala who was killed by a teenage driver in Brooklyn Saturday night. Calling Ajacalon an “all-American boy” and “a vital thread in the beautiful tapestry that is New York City,” they pressed for street safety improvements and a culture change among drivers after yet another death of a cyclist, the 20th in 2017.

Ajacalon worked as a delivery cyclist and sent money to support his family in Guatemala. His uncle, Eduardo Vicente, told the Daily News that Edwin had dreams of building a house for his parents. Facing the crowd on the corner of 23rd Street and Fifth Avenue last night, Vicente broke down before he could speak. A family friend asked for help to get Edwin’s body back to San José Chacayá.

Borough President Eric Adams called Ajacalon’s death “a truly tragic moment.” Even if Ajacalon appeared to be crossing the avenue when the driver had the green light, he said, “a mistake should not end in death.” Footage of the crash showed the driver enter the intersection at a high rate of speed.

Beginning what would be a theme for the evening, Adams called on state legislators to authorize more enforcement cameras to deter speeding and reduce traffic deaths and injuries. “Vision Zero is not Vision One, Vision Two, or Vision Three — it’s Vision Zero,” Adams told the crowd. “We want no one losing their life to a vehicle crash.”

State Senator Jesse Hamilton, who represents Sunset Park, blasted drivers who speed and use their mobile devices behind the wheel.

“They call it an accident, but if you willfully drive fast, if you willfully text while driving, if you willfully make a telephone call while driving, then you hit someone and kill them, how can you call it an accident?” Hamilton asked. “You willfully disregard the lives of others because of a person’s selfishness.”

Earlier this year, legislation to significantly expand NYC’s 140-camera automated speed enforcement program was stymied in the State Senate by Simcha Felder, a Brooklyn Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, and Marty Golden, a Brooklyn Republican.

Calling for the expansion of the speed camera program, Hank Miller of Families for Safe Streets blasted “some in Albany who prioritize speeding over saving lives.”

“They would rather allow speeding drivers to terrorize our neighborhoods and place our children and our families in jeopardy than support common sense safety measures,” Miller told the crowd.

Following the vigil, a ghost bike was brought to a memorial on Fifth Avenue where neighborhood residents had set up prayer candles and a picture of Ajacalon, and the bike was chained to a light pole on the corner of 23rd and Fifth.

Speaking to Streetsblog afterward, Adams said he would like to see more enforcement of speeding to remind drivers that pedestrians come first. Adams said there has to be a culture shift in the way people in cars relate to the world around them, and in the NYPD so that officers are trained to treat reckless driving as a serious threat to public safety.

“You can’t have hundreds of people who are struck each month and not identify we’re at a crisis,” Adams said.

Photo: Dave Colon
Photo: Dave Colon
  • Edwin was victimized by a culture that views gaining access to driving as a late adolescent rite of passage, not a serious responsibility reserved for mature adults.

    In addition to the speed camera expansion suggested by these legislators, it’s time to get serious about age restrictions on driving in NYC. If you’re too young for the rental car companies to let you operate their vehicles, you’re too young to drive on city streets where a lapse in judgment can easily end someone’s life.

  • reasonableexplanation

    That last bit I’m not sure about; everything I’ve read suggests that it’s not young drivers that are dangerous; it’s new drivers, at any age. In the US where everybody is expected to get a license, “young” is a good enough shortcut for “new” for car rental companies.

    Anecdotally, the worst drivers I know are the one who learned to drive later in life. especially those who learned after 30. They never seem to develop the situational awareness that folks who learned to drive in their teens and twenties do.

    Another anecdotal observation; I grew up riding my bike everywhere, and those that rode with me are universally better drivers than those that did not bike in their youth. Maybe similar situational awareness experience comes into play.

  • One Brooklyn elected was notably absent: Bill de Blasio.

    Odd that a phone call to the Brian Lehrer show from a wealthy investment banker causes the mayor to hold a press conference but the death of a child? Not a peep.

  • JarekFA

    It’s really so pathetic that all we have to offer is the possibility that maybe, just maybe, if there was a speeding camera at the Hellenic Charter School at 19th street, then perhaps this driver wouldn’t have been speeding? Edwin was struck at 5.45pm on a Saturday so would the camera even have been functioning?

    We need serious infrastructure modifications. Like purposeful road narrowing that forces cars to actually brake. Like Chicanes. All sorts of shit. And remove some parking and enforce daylighting of intersections (which would’ve made a difference in this case). Just hoping that camera enforcement will do it, when the driver sees a wide an open straight road, when he’s going to go fast, 25 mph speed limit be damned, is just fantasy.

  • Altered Beast

    This is totally politicizing this event because it was a young boy that got killed. 1. I bike every day so I’m for tougher street regulations but the driver had a green light. If he had stopped I wouldn’t have a issue but he tried to hit and run so fuck him. Also ebikes are a menace and they ride recklessly 2. If his family actually cared about this kid in the first place he wouldn’t be delivering food at 14 years old. All around fucked up situation.

  • Altered Beast

    He was victimized by his family without planned parenthood. He had to work at 14 years old. Sad

  • Larry Littlefield

    Those who killed this child were knuckleheads, but press reporting did not imply that they were evil people who did not care.

    NY State recommends 100 hours of practice with an experienced driver in the passenger seat before someone drives alone. I far exceeded this, because I didn’t want my kids to be involved in a tragedy. In this case?

    And research shows that teens driving with other teens are more likely to crash — some places with graduated licenses restrict this for a time. But if people aren’t going to follow the law anyway, what could you do?

    I can only hope the self-driving technology advances. It could have prevented this. Either humans will stop driving, or at least there will that more experienced “driver” looking out for them permanently.

  • r

    Assigning responsibility for crashes are rarely as simple as figuring out who had the light. The NYPD boils it down to that and it’s garbage. (Much like how they blame pedestrians who are “outside the crosswalk.”) How fast was the driver going? Was he texting? Drinking? He fled and his passengers ran away on foot. Perhaps more was going on here than just a random crash with a reckless cyclist.

    And unless you know something about the economics of Guatemala or this family’s particular situation, it’s absolutely horrible to suggest they didn’t care about him. Just shameful that you’d post something like that.

  • JarekFA

    Eyewitness said the car ran the light. He was supporting his impoverished family back home in Guatemala. Perhaps they should’ve done coding or STEM classes instead of being born into poverty in Guatemala.

    A speeding car driver killed a child on a bike and you have the gall to say ebikes are a menace? What happened to your humanity.

  • Altered Beast

    Are you saying that poor people shouldn’t have morals? If you live a terrible life in poverty why would you want to bring children into that world unless you were evil as hell?

  • Dima Sv

    So the illegal immigrant, who should not even have been in this country, operating an illegal motorized bike while being 14 years old and having a third world attitude towards road rules, attempts to cross on red light and gets hit by a car and its the drivers fault?

    This is why everyone with at least some degree of common sense despises bicycle zealots.

  • Dima Sv

    And for all the morons that are claiming that the car ran a red light, you can clearly see another car passing the intersection in opposite direction at the same time. Its very unlikely that both drivers ran the red, but bicyclists consistently disregard traffic signals.

    http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/brooklyn/teen-killed-bike-crash-hoped-return-family-guatemala-article-1.3658818

  • reasonableexplanation

    I drove about 1000 miles before taking my road test. NY state only recommends 50 hours I believe. And you know, sure I could drive, but it took about 2 years of driving 20k miles a year before I could really say I’m an experienced, good driver. It takes a while to get truly good to the point where you can anticipate other cars, pedestrians, and have enough experience in general. I don’t think there is a real way to legislate experience.

    I know plenty of people that don’t drive much, and as such, are not prepared for all the nuances of operating a motor vehicle when they rent one a handful of times a year.

    Graduated licenses only apply while you’re under 18.

  • Tooscrapps

    The driver traveling in the opposite direction was fully out of the intersection before the driver of them BWM entered it. Perhaps the first driver went through a yellow and the second through a red. We can’t say.

    What we can tell from the video is that the driver of the BMW was traveling too fast and would have had a hard time stopping *if* the signal were changing. And while the cyclist crossed illegally, he likely would have made it clear if the driver had been going a reasonable speed.

  • BortLicensePlatez

    Dima, you’re a hateful troll. GTFO with your derailment. Hope you don’t have to deal with any drivers today lol.

  • Kwyjibo

    This person created a Disqus account just to comment on this post.

    Based on that, and the obvious fabrications about a video we can all see, he or she probably has a personal stake in protecting the 19-year-old who killed a kid while joyriding in a brand new Beamer.

  • Larry Littlefield

    A BMW. The perfect present for your son’s last birthday.
    How many of those have crashed in recent years, killing the driver and/or others?
    Because you aren’t allowed to drive in NYC until you are 18, I took my daughter our of the city to practice. Out in the Five Towns, we came across a BMW up a tree.

  • Dima Sv

    Two cars went through the intersection following each other. The bicyclist coming up 23rd street never stopped.

    Its true that the BMW driver was likely speeding, but bicycle zealots need to accept responsibility, not just automatically blame the driver.

  • Dima Sv

    No, I just been reading this site for a long time, and I own a shop on 24th and 4th. I motorcycle or drive on 5th all the time, and every day I observer hordes of these undocumented immigrants on their ebikes completely disregarding rules of the road.

  • reasonableexplanation

    There’s nothing about a BMW that’s less safe than any other car. In fact, a modern BMW probably has more safety features than a comparable toyota. It’s the people that get them that can be the problem.

  • Tooscrapps

    And both drivers going the opposite direction were clear before the driver of the BWM even entered the frame.

    Motorists need to accept the responsibility that they have a far greater ability to do harm than any pedestrians or cyclists.

  • Derick Rhodes

    I witnessed the horrible crash that killed Edwin, and while the driver had a green light, which was not in the process of changing to red, he was clearly speeding recklessly well before he arrived at the intersection. The driver never touched the brakes before hitting the kid – he was clearly moving way too fast and not paying attention to what was developing ahead of him.

  • JarekFA

    The day lighting at that intersection is awful. You’re looking up hill and cars park right up to the intersection so that it’s easy to think that traffic has passed but your view is partially obstructed and if a car is speeding . . . . . I live 100 feet from the intersection.

  • Derick Rhodes

    Yep. It’s not hard to imagine that the kid glanced over before he was close enough to see fully beyond the parked cars, thought the way was clear, and that the BMW driver was going fast enough to hit him regardless. I watched the car accelerate between 22nd and 23rd, thinking, “Why the hell is he going so fast?” – others on the street were clearly acknowledging that he was moving way too fast well before he struck the kid. So horrible.

  • Dima Sv

    Don’t act stupid, theres just a fraction of a second before the car in the opposite direction clears the intersection and BMW enters it – lights don’t change this fast.

    Bicyclists need to learn that they are not privileged and must follow road rules and accept responsibility, instead of being a bunch of whiny, entitled zealots.

  • Tooscrapps

    You said the same time. So, yah, you were incorrect. Is speeding down a busy street not against road rules?

    Also, it only takes a fraction of a second for a light to turn from yellow to red.

  • Larry Littlefield

    It’s marketed as the “ultimate driving machine.” Which is fine if people drove that way on a racetrack, but not on a city street.
    It has lots of safety features to protect those inside the vehicle, not outside.

  • Jose
  • reasonableexplanation

    Let’s dissect that a little bit:
    Safety to protect those outside: ever car has to comply with pedestrain safety regulations regarding hood design and so on. A BMW is no more dangerous than a Honda in this regard.

    Ultimate driving machine: usually refers to handling, but in a city you’re not exactly pulling G’s cornering any more than a Honda could take.

    Acceleration: a mid range BMW accelerates to 60 in a bit under 6 seconds, same as V6 Honda Accord.

    So what makes a BMW more dangerous other than the people drawn to buy them?

  • strangemonkey

    ATTTN BROOKLYN UNSEAT ASSHOLE SIMCHA FELDER.

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