Drivers Who Killed Madison Lyden Have Little to Fear From Cy Vance, Bill de Blasio, and NYPD
A woman is dead because of the actions of two drivers, and the agencies responsible for driver safety are doing next to nothing in response.
Visiting the city from Australia, Madison Lyden and a friend were riding rented bikes last Friday afternoon when a livery driver forced her out of the Central Park West bike lane and into the path of the private sanitation worker who struck and killed her.
Lyden’s life was taken by two drivers whose jobs are regulated by the city.
The livery cab driver, identified by authorities as Jose Peralta, works for Uber. Lyden was compelled to bike into traffic because Peralta was straddling a bus stop and the bike lane, a police source told the Daily News.
When a cab driver kills someone, the Taxi and Limousine Commission as a rule takes no action against that driver’s license unless NYPD issues a summons or files criminal charges. It’s illegal to block a bike lane with a motor vehicle, but Mayor de Blasio’s police didn’t ticket the cab driver for obstructing the bike lane ahead of Lyden and putting her in harm’s way.
When asked whether Peralta would face consequences for Lyden’s death, the TLC cited the “ongoing investigation” and declined to give a definitive answer.
On multiple occasions, Mayor de Blasio has expressed no qualms with drivers who block bike lanes. The mayor’s windshield perspective is shared by NYPD. The 20th Precinct, where Lyden was struck, bragged about ticketing 69 cyclists last month for infractions like riding on sidewalks and rolling through red lights. The precinct is also where de Blasio announced his crackdown on food delivery workers who use e-bikes to earn a living.
While police target bike riders, who cause practically zero serious traffic crashes, the motorist violations that killed Madison Lyden remain rampant and continue to cost people their lives.
The carting worker who hit Lyden, 44-year-old Felipe Chairez, works for Mellifont Construction Corp. based out of Orangeburg, New York, which currently has only one truck in service, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration.
On a per-mile basis, private waste carters are the deadliest drivers in NYC. There are hundreds of firms doing business in New York, many of them small operations like Mellifont.
The Business Integrity Commission is charged with regulating the carting industry, but the BIC isn’t doing all it can to improve safety. When a Sanitation Salvage driver fatally struck two people in a span of six months, the BIC targeted the employee but has so far done nothing to hold the company itself accountable. Including Lyden, private carters have struck and killed at least 44 people in NYC since 2010.
Chairez allegedly had a blood alcohol reading of .04 — the legal limit for commercial drivers — and had beer cans in the cab of the truck. He told police he drank two beers before the crash, according to the Times.
Streetsblog asked the BIC about its response to the crash that killed Lyden.
“BIC is working with the NYPD and the Manhattan DA’s Office on their respective investigations,” the agency replied via email. “We are working with state and local partners to review all driver and company records to assess what further action is necessary.”
Chairez was charged with operating a commercial vehicle with with a BAC of between .04 and .06 percent — a traffic infraction, and the same charge that would have applied had police pulled Chairez over before he killed someone.
NYPD and Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance filed no charges against Chairez for recklessness or the act of ending Lyden’s life. Chairez faces a maximum penalty of a $500 fine, 15 days in jail, and a one-year license revocation.
Streetsblog asked Vance’s office if the DA has done all he plans to do with this case. A spokesperson gave no indication that Chairez will face consequences beyond the existing charge. Peralta stands to face no charges at all. Vance’s office “confirmed that he was a validly licensed operator, and separately did a legal analysis to see if any criminal charges could apply, but found that we have no applicable charges in a situation like this.”
Transportation Alternatives is organizing a memorial ride for Madison Lyden starting on Central Park West at 67th Street today (August 17) at 4:45 p.m. For info or to RSVP, visit TransAlt’s Facebook page.