Citing No Evidence, NYPD Claims Critically Injured Astoria Cyclist Ran Red

To hear NYPD tell it, people on bikes routinely launch themselves at motor vehicles by blowing red lights at speed.

35th Street at 23rd Avenue in Astoria. Image: Google Maps
35th Street at 23rd Avenue in Astoria. Image: Google Maps

A motorist critically injured a woman riding a bike in Astoria yesterday. NYPD said the victim caused the crash and did not penalize the driver in any way.

The 23-year-old victim was riding eastbound on 35th Street, in the bike lane, at around 12:20 a.m. Tuesday when the driver hit her with a van as she crossed under elevated train tracks at 23rd Avenue, according to NYPD.

The police spokesperson I talked with said the cyclist, whose name was not released, impacted the “front passenger side” of the van. She sustained head and leg trauma and was transported to Elmhurst Hospital in critical condition. NYPD had no updates on her condition as of this morning.

Hours after the crash, NYPD told media outlets the cyclist ran a red light. However, the department’s public information office could point to no evidence, like video or testimony from witnesses, to substantiate that account.

NYPD is known for adopting motorists’ stories as the last word in crashes that leave injured or deceased victims unable to give their version of events. Often, those stories are later shown to be false.

To hear NYPD tell it, people on bikes routinely launch themselves at motor vehicles by blowing red lights at speed. No fewer than six times in the last 16 months, NYPD blamed a cyclist for running a red following a fatal collision, according to crash data tracked by Streetsblog. In none of those cases did police produce corroborative evidence.

As is typical when NYPD declines to ticket or arrest a motorist who harms someone, the department shielded the identity of the driver in yesterday’s crash.

This collision occurred in the 114th Precinct, and in the City Council district represented by Costa Constantinides.

  • Joe R.

    Sorry, but no sane cyclist is going to run that light without ascertaining that there’s no cross traffic. To do so given the limited visibility you would have to slow to a near standstill. You won’t be going so fast that you’ll impact the passenger side of a van with enough force to result in major head and leg trauma. Much of the time you’ll opt not to run the light at all on account of heavy cross traffic (obviously not an issue at 12:20 AM).

    From where I stand it sounds more like the cyclist had the green. Her only mistake was not looking for cross traffic on green like I always do. This is a good habit to get into. I’ve easily avoided at least a dozen collisions by looking on green. She was probably going cruising speed, and then hit the van as it ran the light. Of course, the police version always involves the cyclist disobeying traffic laws, never the motorist. Probably the driver was the one who said she ran the light.

  • Hilda

    Does Streetsblog have a list of all the times that NYPD have apologized or corrected their statement? A resource listing the initial reports and the ultimate findings would be incredibly useful for activists that want to attend Community Council Meetings and hold officers and precincts accountable for their ‘statements’. The NYPD making this statement at this time likely means they don’t feel the need to investigate; look for video, witnesses or evidence, as they have already figured everything out by blaming the victim.

    Streetsblog broke the story on the witness that saw Lauren Davis riding with traffic in 2016, ultimately leading to the NYPD investigating video and finding that their initial statement was not correct. That may be the only instance I am aware of that they changed their statement and report.

  • Brad Aaron

    Of all the instances when evidence emerged that disproved the NYPD narrative, Lauren Davis is the only case I can think of where it was known that the department publicly acknowledged same.

  • William Lawson

    When you think about how utterly horrific a crime it is to blow a red light at high speed into the path of some poor soul on a bicycle, killing them, and then in turn think about the NYPD letting off the potential perpetrator of such a crime simply by virtue of the fact that they said they had the green, it really draws into focus how scandalously awful the NYPD are. I can’t think of a more perfectly formed case of injustice.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    @bradaaron:disqus , I agree with Hilda that generally speaking an updated “fact sheet” of these kinds of things, such as statistics on how many times the NYPD blames cyclists, or filterable PDFs by how many people were killed by drivers (vs “unruly cyclists’) in each precinct would be SOO helpful for us who can bear the hemorrhoid pain of going to a CB or, even worse, a police precinct meeting. If I were attending the 80th precinct meeting this month, for example, I go to a hub page and filter by date and precinct and print out (or save to phone) and then I have some facts at my hand when I stand in front of those thugs. I understand this may be beyond the resources you all have, but I echo the sentiment.

  • Scott Knobler

    But 35st goes north, not east…as it shows in the pic above which is looking north?

    That’s a bad intersection in general. Lots of blind spots.

  • Scott Knobler

    At night you would think that the lights alone would be a tip off. Makes me think that the driver may have been speeding as well.

  • Mariam

    Everybody is blaming the driver like they were there and witnessed that. People with bikes and people walking NEVER stop for the light, they don’t mind crossing the streets even when the light isn’t green for them. I’m 100% positive that each one that asking for a prove and blaming the driver in the comments DOES NOT respect the rules and DOES NOT wait for no lights. I’m not against the young lady but come on people let’s be fair and think about it the other way around, you don’t know neither one of them so why you taking sides when you weren’t there. 99% the driver could’ve been in the hospital too if his car wheels flipped out, and all of you would’ve been blaming the girl for not stopping for the light. DO NOT JUDGE IF YOU HAVE NO CLUE WHAT HAPPENED. Hopefully the girl have a speed recovery. Best of luck for both of them

  • walks bikes drives

    “To hear NYPD tell it, people on bikes routinely launch themselves at motor vehicles by blowing red lights at speed.”

    While maybe not routine, people do actually do such things. Since it seems insane and counterintuitive, I wouldn’t believe it either – except that I have actually seen it myself, on numerous occasions.

    So yeah, the NYPD tends to blame cyclists and pedestrians right off the bat, based on drivers’ statements. I’m not disputing that. But the idea that a cyclist or pedestrian would never do such a thing? No, I cant say that’s true. I have seen too many instances of that happening with my own eyes to discount the idea just based on the idea that a cyclist or pedestrian just wouldn’t do it.

    NYPD needs to have the facts before making a statement of fault. We can discount the veracity of their statements based on their preliminary nature or being one sided. But we cannot discount them because it just doesn’t make sense that a cyclist or pedestrian would actually do that. Because some would, even if we wouldnt.

  • Alexis Leonardo Solórzano

    Asking people why they are taking sides, while you yourself are taking sides.

  • Alexis Leonardo Solórzano

    I agree, its possible that the cyclist just got green and the motorist just continued on even though the light has just turned red for him, which I have seen happen a lot.
    But I guess we wont know until we get some video.

  • harry smith

    Wic fatalities did you witness?

  • walks bikes drives

    I never said I witnessed any fatalities. I said I have witnessed other cyclists blow into intersections against the light at speed. I have seen numerous near missed that were avoided because the driver, who had the right of way, was able to slam on the brakes and stop in time. Any of these cyclists, with a slight miscalculation, could have ended up colliding with the vehicle. I witnessed one incident on 5th Ave and 79th street where the cyclist blew the light at speed because the walk signal across 5th changed to solid dont walk, but the cyclist must not have realized this was followed by a left turn arrow from 79th onto 5th, collided with the rear quarterpanel of a cab. Literally rode right into the side of the car. Now I wouldn’t have believed it had I just come upon the scene, but I was stopped at the light myself, waiting to be able to pedal on. So yeah I have seen cyclists do stupid shit that is counterintuitive to what common sense would dictate. Are they the rule? No. But does that discount the argument that no one would actually do that just because it is insane? Yes.