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I Was Hit By a Driver — Then a Cop Blamed Me

4:11 PM EST on December 7, 2018

File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

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Police officers routinely blame traffic violence victims for injuries and deaths caused by drivers.

But rarely do we hear from one of the victims.

A Prospect Heights resident said he was crossing Vanderbilt Avenue in his neighborhood on Wednesday at around 5:40 p.m. What happened next left him injured, shaken, angry and ultimately defiant.

Here how his story unfolds, both in tweets and in an interview with Streetsblog on Friday (the victim wanted to remain anonymous beyond his first name, Jordan):

The details are the key here because what happened speaks to driver impatience and the general chaos on the roads today. Jordan said he was crossing Vanderbilt, with the light, from west to east on Plaza Street East, which has a two-way bike lane on the south side of the street. A driver heading westbound on Plaza Street East was waiting for Jordan and a cyclist to cross before making his left onto Vanderbilt.

Jordan takes it from there:

But the car behind the driver who struck me — who was also looking to make that left — wanted to beat the light. That second car tried to make his left before the first car. The bike passed through straight in between those two cars, threading a needle, who were now basically turning simultaneously. The driver who struck me was so worried about the cyclist and the aggressive driver behind him that he never saw me. ... I want to stress that the driver who struck me was not driving aggressively and he handled himself perfectly, including pulling to the side and sitting with me, comforting me, while we waited for the first responders to arrive.

"We treat pedestrians (and cyclists) like we’re all disposable at the expense of cars," he concluded in a final tweet.

Streetsblog asked Jordan to explain his treatment by the NYPD in full.

The accusation around rights of way came from just one of the officers, Officer Pacheco ... as the FDNY EMTs were checking me out in the back of the ambulance. ... The other officer did not make any accusations to me around fault. ... Initially, I was angry and upset. Angry that I'd had to deal with this, of course ... but more so that the NYPD officer accused me of wrongdoing, asking me if I'd tried to "make contact" with the vehicle to stop him from hitting me. That was so appalling. And I was upset because, as the accident was happening everything almost went into slow motion, I remember thinking to myself that I might die right there and that I might never see my 4-year-old son or my wife again, might not even get to say goodbye to them. That continues to make me massively sad. Earlier today, I attended a Hanukkah party at my son's preschool, and I was nearly overcome with sadness thinking about how if this had all gone differently, I wouldn't have been there."

Jordan says he is still sad, but not feels "more determined."

"[I'm] determined to try and help prevent such a thing from happening to the next person, who might not be so lucky to go home to their 4-year-old son later that same night, and to help the NYPD handle these types of situations differently," he said. "I know the city has come a long way in dealing with these things over the past few years, but there's still so far to go."

He said that neighbors have expressed "shock and concern," especially in light of how traffic violence came to the forefront in Park Slope after a driver killed two children on Ninth Street in March.

But then he said a curious thing.

"I don't think anyone is as shocked as they may have once been," he said. "The reaction from the pedestrian and cyclist safety wing of Twitter has been concern, naturally, plus an utter lack of surprise."

In some ways, that's the scariest thing: A man almost gets killed, yet it's basically routine.

According to the latest city stats, Jordan is one of 11,863 pedestrians or cyclists who reported being injured between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2018, roughly 40 per day.

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