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

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

SB Donation NYC header 2Police 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.

SB Donation NYC header 2
  • Daphna

    Way more than 40 pedestrians and cyclists are injured per day because those statistics only track serious injuries. Many injuries are not reported and many injuries that are reported are not counted as serious enough to be in the police statistics.

    When can Plaza Street have the design it was supposed to have in the first place? It was supposed to have a bike bi-directional curbside parking protected bike lane. Senator Chuck Schumer’s wife, Iris Weinshall, 9who was the status quo NYC DOT commissioner prior to innovator Janette Sadik-Khan0, Chuck Schumer’s daughter Jessica, and many others on the NBBL (Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes aka Never Built a Bike Lane) campaigned against the crucial re-design of Prospect Park West, which they were not able to stop, but they cost the city plenty of legal bills with their effort. Sadly a result of their lawsuit was that the NYC DOT watered down the Plaza Street design to appease them and avoid another potential lawsuit.

  • Joe R.

    I think some multiples of 40 people per day are injured by motorists but don’t bother reporting it because they know in all likelihood nothing will be done.

  • com63

    Shouldn’t the driver be charged with a right of way violation?

  • Eric McClure
  • jcwconsult

    Pedestrians crossing legally when they have the right of way should always be respected and protected.
    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • AMH

    This is horrifying, and basically the scenario that I imagine very often when crossing the street. The knee-jerk exoneration has to stop.

  • joyauto

    Correction! Jordan did NOT have the right-of-way! He was supposed to have it but didn’t get it because the left-turner didin’t give it to him. That’s the fallacy that needs to be exposed. You don’t have the right-of-way unless it’s given….and the law doesn’t do the giving. It can’t and does not give any one the right-of-way. Only the person who is supposed to yield, by law, can give it. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/679b871c7a1c178d33dae74082024ab831f92d31ca3224e46c39efa9cdab339d.jpg
    BTW, the cop was dead wrong saying the car had the right-of-way. He should be dismissed.

  • qrt145

    That’s like saying you don’t have your money unless a mugger doesn’t steal it.

  • joyauto

    That is a ridiculous comparison. You’re talking about something you already have. Right-of-way is not something you have that is taken away from you. It’s something you never have unless its given to you. If you read the law book (or my book) you’ll learn that the law does not give anyone the right-of-way. It only speaks about who is supposed to yield it.

  • c2check

    Speed is a major factor in ensuring motorists see pedestrians waiting to cross at crosswalks, particularly uncontrolled crossings. Lower speeds allow you to see more in your peripheral vision. Lower speeds result in a higher rate of yielding to pedestrians as required by law. However the National Motorists Association doesn’t support common sense measures to ensure safe speeds are followed, like speed cameras, instead arguing (as I understand it) that speeds be posted based on 85% speeds. Prevailing speeds are not always safe for the many pedestrians in urban areas. And while the NMA is in favor of engineering design changes to slow dangerous motorists to safe speeds, we obviously don’t have money to reconstruct every street to passively enforce safe speeds. Camera enforcement of speeds have been shown to reduce deaths and injuries. (Granted, they have not always been implemented properly, but that should not be a reason to oppose traffic safety cameras outright.)

    If this is truly what the National Motorists Association promotes, they should push for enforcement of safe speeds that do not exceed 25mph (preferably 20mph) in urban areas* where people are walking and biking, and where you would expect people to have to cross the street at uncontrolled crosswalks.

    *not applicable to divided highways or many rural roads.

  • jcwconsult

    If artificially low posted limits with ANY level of enforcement cities are willing to fund with either cameras or officers, you would have a point.

    But limits set well below the 85th percentile speeds which most motorists find safe and comfortable – and which ARE safe and comfortable in almost every case – do not have much effect on the actual travel speeds of most motorists. They CAN cause more speed variance with maybe 10% of the flow complying with artificially low limits, but with 90% that don’t. That causes uneven and riskier traffic flows.

    Speed cameras, as they are ACTUALLY deployed in most cities are for-profit rackets sold to the cities by the for-profit camera companies as a source of “free money”.

    James C. Walker, National Motorists Association

  • MatthewEH

    Agree with qrt145. That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

    You would be correct if “has right of way” was synonymous with “had an unobstructed path”. That’s not what it means. It’s a concept of priority, of who the space is due to in the event of conflicting desires.

    This is like saying “the government threw you into jail — under no pretext — for speaking against US involvement in World War I. Therefore the 1st Amendment right to free speech does not exist.”

  • joyauto

    It amazes me how you people can’t grasp a simple 3rd grade concept. If the law says you must give me your pencil, does that mean I now have it? Don’t you have to give me the pencil first, before I can say I have it?

  • A right is granted by the law, not by the other people in the street. We can say that a person has the right of way by virtue of the law that grants it in a particular set of circumstances (for example, crossing a street in the crosswalk during a green light).

  • MatthewEH

    Whaddya mean, “you people?”

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/23dca1b4510eb19a6d667e909e916190c76f7aa42b86e463c522dc530ce4a42c.jpg

    Blocked. Have a nice commenting life!

  • joyauto

    Oh sorry, should I have said you persons? Can’t you ever discuss anything without bringing race into it?

  • joyauto

    You are so wrong! The Vehicle and Traffic laws do not grant anyone the right-of-way. That may be wishful thinking on your part. You need to read the law. It only says who is supposed to yield the right-of-way. So sure, if a pedestrian is crossing with the light in the crosswalk, motorists are, by law, told to give that pedestrian the right-of-way. But there are many, many law breakers out there. And that’s why our friend Jordan didn’t have the right-of-way…it wasn’t given to him. A bitter pill to swallow, I’m sure, but that’s why we have so many dead pedestrians. They were thinking the same way you are.

  • joyauto

    What does “whaddya” mean. That sounds ghetto to me. Is that your problem?

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Transportation Alternatives Launches Probe Into NYPD Crash Investigations

|
Transportation Alternatives today delivered over 2,500 citizen letters to Ray Kelly demanding that NYPD crack down on dangerous driving, and announced a comprehensive probe into how the department handles traffic crash investigations. Flanked by dozens of supporters and victims of traffic violence at 1 Police Plaza, TA executive director Paul Steely White excoriated NYPD for […]

Witness Account of Park Slope Collision Contradicts NYPD Victim-Blaming

|
A witness believes the driver who severely injured a 20-year-old cyclist Wednesday night in Park Slope T-boned the victim as he rode across Sixth Avenue in the Ninth Street bike lane with the right of way — contrary to NYPD’s claim that the victim was hit head-on while biking against traffic on Sixth Avenue. The crash happened at around 9 p.m. NYPD said […]