NYPD: No Charges for Driver Who Fatally Doored Delivery Cyclist Juan Pacheco

Dooring is illegal, and has caused at least five cyclist fatalities since 2012. But NYPD isn't ticketing drivers who do it.

La Salle Street and Broadway in Manhattan, where a driver opened a car door into the path of Juan Pacheco. Image: Google Maps
La Salle Street and Broadway in Manhattan, where a driver opened a car door into the path of Juan Pacheco. Image: Google Maps

A driver doored delivery cyclist Juan Pacheco in Morningside Heights last week, causing fatal injuries. NYPD filed no charges and issued no tickets.

Pacheco, 57, was riding east on La Salle Street near Broadway at around 9:30 p.m. on April 20 when a 40 year-old man in a Nissan minivan opened the driver’s door into his path, according to Gothamist and the Daily News.

Police told the News Pacheco hit the door and “was thrown from his bike onto the roadway.”

Pacheco, who worked for a Mexican restaurant near the crash site, was transported to Mount Sinai-St. Luke’s Hospital in critical condition. He died Monday.

As is typical when a motorist faces no penalty after taking a life, NYPD shielded the driver’s name.

Dooring is a traffic infraction under state law. Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who specializes in traffic violence cases, told Gothamist the driver might also have been charged under the city’s Right of Way Law, though he knows of no instances of NYPD applying that law in crashes caused by dooring.

“Police officers think that it’s just as much the fault of the cyclist as of the doorers, which is not the law,” said Vaccaro. “I don’t think police officers are taught the law about opening doors unsafely.”

A witness told the Daily News the minivan “was jutting out from the line of cars” on La Salle, which could have contributed to the crash.

Dooring was the primary factor in at least four other cyclist fatalities since 2012, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. NYPD is known to have issued a ticket in just one of those cases — to a cab driver, for discharging a passenger in a bike lane.

City motorists have killed at least four cyclists in 2018, matching the number of deaths during the first four months of 2017. Drivers killed at least 28 people riding bikes last year.

This fatal crash occurred in the 26th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Mark Levine.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Not a criminal charge.

    Not a fine.

    Not even a shaming. As in people know you did something that had horrible consequences, and you ought to feel remorse and apologise.

    Nope, the skell had it coming. They might try to charge the restaurant of his family for the damage to the door.

  • Eric McClure

    Shameful. Had the deceased been riding an ebike, they’d have seized it.

  • Joe R.

    And don’t think the dooring wasn’t intentional, either. Sadly, quite a few doorings have nothing to do with not looking for a cyclist when you’re opening the door. In quite a few cases, the exiting person is clearly aware a cyclist is coming, and waits for the right moment to hit them with the door. I’ve seen it myself a number of times. Motorist parks, glances back, sees approaching cyclist, then patiently watches in their rear view mirror for the moment to open the door. Of course, they’ll tell the police it was an accident, assuming the police even get involved. No way of telling if this is what happened here, but it’s certainly a possibility.

    When we get to the era of self-driving cars, the car should prevent opening doors into the paths of oncoming cyclists. It should also close the windows whenever the car passes cyclists to prevent another favorite pastime of motorists, namely throwing stuff at cyclists.

  • Ken Dodd

    I was once stopped by an NYPD officer for taking the lane on a narrow cross street. He tried to tell me that it was law that I had to basically hug the side of the road at all times so that cars could pass (specifically, him). When I explained that I had to keep at least an open car door’s width from the parked cars for my own safety, he said “that has nothing to do with anything. You cannot block the flow of traffic on a bicycle.”

    So there you have it. They want you to roll a die with your life by riding close enough to get doored, but they don’t even offer a deterrent to dissuade drivers from opening doors into your path and killing you. Cyclists in this city should receive a tax rebate based on the fact that the police officers we pay for point blank refuse to do their job and protect our lives.

  • newshuman

    This is a terrifying trend. Of all the dangers drivers pose to me, opening doors are probably the most common and also the closest calls. Because I have a crosstown commute on streets without bike lanes, I’m nearly doored probably once a week and I’m extremely vigilant for signs of passenger activity.

    I have a memorized lecture I give them about how dooring a bicyclist is illegal and the drivers/passengers are usually extremely apologetic. Too bad my lecture is apparently bullshit.

  • newshuman

    It’s crazy. But this happened to me once. I was actually in a tuxedo on my way to a friend’s wedding rehearsal on citi bike. The driver saw me coming. I saw him watching me and assumed he was waiting for me to pass. Nope. He timed it and I swerved just in time.

    It’s the only moment of my life I’ve ever wanted to fight someone and the only reason I kept my composure was the thought of ruining the rented tuxedo.

  • I am genuinely surprised to read that drivers and passengers are apologetic. In my experience of near doorings (and one actual dooring), the drivers and passengers have been utterly dismissive, expressing the narcissistic/sociopathic idea that bicyclists just should not be in their way.

  • newshuman

    In all other situations, that’s my experience. But when it comes to dooring, I think there’s an element of shock because of the “accidental” nature of it. When a driver swerves in front of me or speeds past when there’s no room, they’re making a conscious decision to put my life in danger.

  • flamingo21

    if you had a gun you have the right to shoot him, he just tried to murder you.

  • John Brooking

    No doubt about it, the drivers need to be charged, and police need to be educated.

    But the culture also needs to get it through its head that cyclists MUST NOT be expected to ride in the door zone. Engineers need to STOP striping bike lanes there, and police and the public need to learn not to harass cyclists riding outside of it. Cyclists, please stop riding in the door zone! It’s the only way to avoid this fate. Please.

  • John Brooking

    Do you have links to the other dooring fatalities? I searched your site and could only find Xin Kang Wang last year, and Jasmine Herron in 2010.

    I’ve kept an informal list of dooring deaths that I hear about, but I’m sure it’s incomplete. Feel free to send me links to articles for victims I don’t have. The list is publicly viewable at https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1NUFnRpcavvW3ggjM1cvmpfd91BDwXnQ6DpSsVXf31lg/edit?usp=sharing

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