NYPD Tickets Cyclists Where Speeding Driver Killed 14-Year-Old Edwin Ajacalon

The past two mornings, police in the 72nd Precinct were ticketing cyclists on Fifth Avenue and 23rd Street, two blocks from the site of the fatal crash.

Video still via WCBS
Video still via WCBS

For the past two days, police have been ticketing cyclists on Fifth Avenue and 25th Street in Brooklyn’s 72nd Precinct, just two blocks from where a driver killed 14-year-old Edwin Ajacalon on Saturday.

It’s the same rote protocol NYPD follows after every cyclist fatality: ticket people who are vulnerable to the same type of harm that caused the crash. Similar ticket blitzes followed the deaths of Neftaly RamirezDan HanegbyKelly HurleyLauren Davis, and Matthew von Ohlen. Despite the absence of any data to suggest these bike stings reduce injuries or fatalities, NYPD insists there’s a “strategy” behind them.

Ajacalon, who worked as a delivery cyclist in the area, was riding a bike with an electric battery across 23rd Street at around 5:45 p.m. when he was struck by a 19-year-old male driving a 2017 BMW southbound on Fifth Avenue. Video footage suggests the driver had a green light but also shows him traveling at a high rate of speed entering the intersection.

Joelle Schindler, who commutes to along Fifth Avenue from her home in Park Slope, observed police ticketing cyclists at Fifth Avenue and 25th Street at around 9:45 a.m. yesterday and today. She did not stop to see what police were citing people for, but said officers had pulled over multiple cyclists when she rode by the intersection this morning.

It was striking to see that police response so close to the site where a driver ended Ajacalon’s life, she said. “That ghost bike is now on my commute to work, which is really heartbreaking.”

Video posted by the Daily News and WCBS shows the driver striking Ajacalon at high speed. The 72nd Precinct had ticketed fewer than two drivers per day for speeding as of August, the latest month of available NYPD summons data.

Meanwhile, the 72nd Precinct has bragged on its Twitter feed about confiscating electric bicycles, despite no evidence that they post a public safety threat.

The commanding officer of the 72nd Precinct is Deputy Inspector Emmanuel Gonzalez, and the precinct community council holds meetings open to the public on the second Tuesday of every month. The next meeting is scheduled for December 12, 7:30 p.m., at the precinct house at 830 Fourth Avenue.

Transportation Alternatives has a petition to demand NYPD stop ticketing cyclists after fatal crashes. So far 931 people have signed.

  • Joe R.

    I haven’t recently averaged 20 mph when moving but I have in the past on multiple occasions. For example, I once covered 10 miles in 25 minutes (24 mph average). On the parts of my rides where I don’t need to stop I’ll sometimes average 20 mph even if the overall average for the entire ride is far less. Yes, I’ll slow on the uphill portions but might get well in excess of 20 mph, even 30 mph, on the downhills.

  • walks bikes drives

    I only use my large chain ring except for big climbs. My RPM might be 80 in the 50-11 but I’m going on feel because I don’t have the computer showing cadence for my commute. Commute screen is speed and clock. I guess you ride Sram if you’re cross chaining.

  • Joe R.

    Actually I’m using Shimano but I haven’t had any issues cross chaining. I’m usually not doing it for very long. Typically I cruise at 18 to 22 mph. For that my second or third highest cogs are fine.

    The cadence sensor on my bike computer broke a while back. I’m just giving the numbers based on my wheel circumference of 2060 mm.

  • Joe R.

    You can return all the streets in NYC to two-way, even the little dinky 25′ or 30′ wide side streets, if you stop worrying about curbside parking. The Manhattan Avenues were all historically two-way. We should go back to that.

  • Joe R.

    That’s fine so long as you make the threshold equivalent to what a strong human cyclist can do. My personal preference would be 25 mph. This also happens to be the legal speed limit on most NYC streets. That said, I’d settle for the federal standard of 20 mph if that’s what it takes to legalize them as regular bikes. Maybe we should have classes for >20 mph e-bikes similar to those for pure scooters but with lesser standards (i.e. no licensing or insurance but mandatory registration). My reasoning is e-bikes typically handle just like regular bikes given their mass. If you can ride a bike then you can ride an e-bike, even one capable of, say, 30 mph. Scooters are typically heavier. They also handle differently.

  • Joe R.

    I don’t see how anyone but a well-conditioned young athlete can ride 60 miles a day, 5 or 6 days per week. It’s beyond cruel. It’s just physically impossible for these people. Even when I ride enough to be in somewhat decent shape, I feel it when I do two 40 mile days in a row. If someone asked me to do a third one, I just couldn’t. If I ride 60 miles in one day, something I’ve only done a handful of times, I generally take the next day off.

    If this e-bike crackdown continues restaurants will just have to limit their delivery radius so the workers don’t do much more than 10 to 15 miles a day, 20 at most.

  • walks bikes drives

    Not too hard to do that on a greenway. But not on city streets.

  • Joe R.

    Yes, but on city streets the same things which slow you or I down, like red lights and potholes, will also slow down e-bikes. Unless it’s an illegal e-bike with a top speed well over 20 mph, there’s no way e-bikes have a 20 mph average when in motion on city streets.

  • walks bikes drives

    I used a calculator. 80rpm is equal to 28mph on a 700/25 wheel and 50-11.

    I’d just spin way too fast to use my small chaining. I have a compact 50/34 and my comfortable cadence range is 75-95.

  • walks bikes drives

    Again, not the mathematical average, but the moving average. Ebikes get up to speed quickly and sustain speed easier.

  • Joe R.

    Sounds about right. With my wheel size I’m getting 28 mph also in a 50-11 gear @ 80 RPM.

    I had a compact chain ring on one of my bikes. I switched it once it wore out for a 52-42. Didn’t need the super low gear. For me 42-26 is fine on the worst hills I encounter.

  • Joe R.

    If there’s a lot of upgrades, then the e-bike will almost certainly beat a human rider. A lot of e-bikes can maintain 20 mph on hills that slow me to 10 or 12. If it’s flat terrain, or undulating terrain where on average you’re not gaining altitude, then for a strong cyclist I’d say it would be a wash. Obviously a 20 mph moving average is beyond a lot of human cyclists in average shape but it’s still well under ultimate human capabilities.

  • walks bikes drives

    Yes, a scooter is heavier than an ebike. But I am not comparing ebike to scooters, which are regulated by DMV as motorcycles based on engine size. I’m comparing them to mopeds, which are separated into classes by speed capability – the same way ebikes should be. They are electric mopeds and should be treated the same. That simple. They are not motorcycles. They are not cars. Nor are they just bicycles. They are mopeds.

  • Joe R.

    Well then maybe we should relax the standards for mopeds. Right now they require either a driver’s license or a motorcycle license in NYS. Some states just require plates. That’s all we should do here.

  • walks bikes drives

    But why are we comparing it to ultimate human capabilities. An ebike can take an out of shape, overweight, underperforming person and put them in the same speed ability as a professional cyclist. Classification should not be based on superman, but on what a typical person would do. To keep it in the class of bicycle, it should perform at speeds typical to bicycles, not the maximum thresholds.

  • walks bikes drives

    Sure. Make a new class of 15mph max speed and no license required.

  • Joe R.

    Why not 30 mph max if the vehicle mass is similar to a bicycle, say 50 pounds or less? I’ve heard some cyclists complain about e-bikes in bike lanes. So maybe ban them from bike lanes but allow them unlicensed operation at a maximum speed which is adequate to ride in a traffic lane in most of NYC. 30 mph would cover that. 15 mph essentially restricts them to bike lanes.

  • walks bikes drives

    Because 30mph is way above where most human cyclist can attain. Yes, there are a few particular powerful cyclists. But very few cyclists outside the pro circuit will attain such speeds on a flat surface, let alone sustain them.

  • Joe R.

    The reason we should compare it to ultimate human capabilities is the same reason we have to account for those capabilities even if we’re just talking human-powered bikes. In the Netherlands for example most of their bike infrastructure is designed for 40 km/hr (25 mph) or more. This is obviously beyond what most of their cyclists do but it needs to be factored in if you don’t want some cyclists riding on roads instead of bike lanes. Same them here. If the legal framework says strong cyclists capable of going 25 mph, even 30+ mph in bursts, don’t need a license/registration/insurance then neither should e-bikes with the same capability.

    What worries me here is possible precedents. If we start by saying a 20 mph e-bike needs some kind of license, then what happens next? Do we require a license for road bikes and especially velomobiles? In general when society requires a license to do something, it’s because that something can be hazardous without special training. The more the hazard potential, the stricter the licensing. The converse is true. We don’t require walking licenses because a pedestrian mostly has the potential to harm only themselves. Same thing for cyclists of all abilities given their mass and speed.

    Let’s just look at pedestrian collision data here if you need more convincing. There is a very small chance of dying if you’re hit by a motor vehicle going 20 mph, which is e-bike speed. Note this is despite the much greater mass of a motor vehicle. Pedestrians and bikes are similar in mass. Therefore, each suffers about half the momentum change in a bike-ped collision (compared to nearly all of it in a ped-motor vehicle collision). A bike would need to be going 40 mph to impart the same momentum change to a pedestrian as being hit by a car at 20 mph. For a heavier e-bike, the numbers might be lower, perhaps 30 mph. The main point though is an legal e-bike has a very small potential to harm. Even if their top speed was 30 mph instead of 20 mph that would be true. The data backs all this up. Has any pedestrian ever been killed by either a bike or e-bike due to blunt force trauma? I think the answer is no. Those who have been killed simply were knocked over and hit their heads when falling. The fall caused their deaths, but a bike hitting them at 10 mph could just as easily have caused such a fall. Based on all this, I’m just not seeing any compelling reason to treat e-bikes differently than regular bikes. What needs to be done is aggressive enforcement of high-speed salmoning or sidewalk riding. That obviously has potential to cause injury. It’s also a nuisance.

  • Joe R.

    See my lengthy post above regarding damage potential.

  • Jason

    The most vulnerable, who also conveniently (for him) can’t vote.

  • walks bikes drives

    We’re not talking about building infrastructure, we are talking about a motorized contraption that can take even your worst physical specimen of a cyclist and give them abilities akin to superhuman. Yes, when building infrastructure you want to design it to keep everyone safe. But when licensing a moped, a heavy moped at 50lbs traveling at 30mph will do more damage than a 10lb carbon bike at 20mph or a 20lb cruiser at 13mph. This is a given. And death is not the only outcome we need to avoid. Our pedestrians do not have to deal with many “superhuman” cyclists at 25mph. But now with ebikes, anyone can be superhuman.

    I am pretty steadfast against the idea of licensing and registering riders and bikes. But if ebikes are going to become so prevelant without another regulatory avenue for safety, and as a result the average cyclist speed increases to the degree of ebikes, that would turn my opinion and I would be for registering and licensing. While cyclists pose little to no threat of death to a pedestrian, we do pose the possibility of life altering injury. And that can’t be completely ignored.

    But anyway, this thread is not supposed to be about the issues with ebikes. So I’m done now. Goodnight.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not sure registration and licensing would accomplish much in the area of safety. They certainly haven’t with automobiles. All licensing e-bikes would accomplish is having lots of riders on the street without licensing, and the NYPD pretty much unable to enforce such licensing.

    I personally see e-bikes as having the potential to make things safer if they equalize the speeds between strong and average riders. A lot of the safety issues in bike lanes now are due to cyclists passing each other. While pedestrian safety can’t be ignored, I tend to think injuries are caused more by unsafe operation than by the choice of vehicle. Also worth a mention is pedestrians tend to intrude into bike lanes (and get injured) when they think bikes are traveling at very low speeds. I’ve noted this myself where people have a much higher tendency to jaywalk in front of me if I’m going slower. If ~20 mph was normalized by the prevalence of e-bikes, such intrusions would be far less common.

    E-bikes are semi relevant to this thread because the 72nd Precinct has decided enforcing e-bike laws is more important than speeding or other motorist moving violations. Perhaps if safety is the goal then just ticket unsafe operation, whether done in a motor vehicle or on an e-bike.

  • Frank Kotter

    That and dropping F bombs on a transportation advocacy blog’s comments.

  • Guy Ross

    ‘Can you imagine the outcry if the cops protected people who kill with *bikes* to this extent’?

  • Guy Ross

    He tested the waters of calling a spade a spade. The NYPD went into open rebellion and the Mayor relented. He now knows that he is subservient to the NYPD and only benefits by lavishing praise. Terribly unhealthy for the city.

  • We Need @NYCCouncil Oversight And NYPD Reform To Stop Victim Blaming & Ticketing Cyclists When Reckless Drivers Kill https://campaigns.transalt.org/petition/stop-ticketing-cyclists-when-reckless-drivers-kill

  • reasonableexplanation

    Is that 15min promise still a thing anywhere? I don’t order food often but when I do I typically get it in about 45-60min in fairly trendy Brooklyn neighborhoods.

  • Flakker

    He owned this completely once he caved to the city council and actually hired even more new cops than they demanded in the first place. If he couldn’t fight them when he took office he did absolutely nothing to try to contain the threat to his mayoralty.

  • RedMercury

    no charges have been filed against Ajacalon’s killer, who ran a light, according to an eyewitness

    Meanwhile, from above:

    Video footage suggests the driver had a green light

    I think I’ll believe the video over the eyewitness.

  • RedMercury

    I’ll choose option 3: Not get hit.

    I appreciate that an e-bike might only put me on the hospital for a week rather than kill me. But I don’t think I should have to choose between a hospital stay or death when I walk down the street.

    But, to coin a phrase, my safety is more important than your efficiency.

  • strangemonkey

    Was the cyclist trying to cross 5th Ave while on 23rd?

    Or was the cyclist also heading southbound on 5th Ave, crossing 23rd? If the
    latter, was the cyclist hit in the back while in the bike lane?

    There looks to be a pile of dried blood further south on 5th Ave (around 1/2
    block towards 24th St.) in the northbound bike lane.

    Be safe people.

  • Blackcatprowliii

    Comment on story : Same old story. More laws & more state. I feel story the guy was
    hit, but he ran a red light. He is to blame for his own death. Don’t use
    it as an excuse to push an agenda, aside from people taking
    responsibility for their own actions & learning.

  • kevd

    I average around 14 commuting. Ff i’m doing a tangential outer borough trip sometimes that gets as high as 16-17.
    I don’t know, maybe I’m just not that freaked out by a bike going a few mph faster than me? Plenty of faster (muscle powered) cyclists pass me too.

    Big honking e-scotters that weight 125-250 lbs? Those worry me and I think probably belong in traffic lanes (without speed limitations other than speed limites) but not the ebikes that are most common and weigh about 45 lbs. (basically a slightly long mountain bike with a battery next to the downtube)

  • kevd

    Would you rather be shot or punched in the face?
    I dunno. How about neither?

    “The answer is to legalize and regulate.”
    Yup. Just legalize ones under a certain speed and weight. Call ’em “bikes” and treat them like bikes.
    Ones OVER a certain speed and weight can be treated like motor scooters.
    While we’re at it we should also improve laws for scooters and motorcycles.

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