UPDATED: Another Cyclist is Dead — It’s Now 18 Fatalities

Monday's crash scene. Photo: Dave Colon
Monday's crash scene. Photo: Dave Colon

The death toll of city cyclists is now 18 — eight more than all of last year — as another rider was doored into traffic, where she was struck and killed by a massive truck in Sunset Park on Monday morning.

The NYPD said the 30-year-old cyclist was struck near the intersection of Third Avenue and 36th Street at around 9 a.m. by a commercial vehicle. The driver remained on the scene, but the cyclist, later identified as Em Samolewicz, was taken to NYU Langone Hospital–Brooklyn, formerly Lutheran Medical Center, where she died.

Witnesses and police on the scene said that Samolewicz was first doored by a van operator, and then was hit by an 18-wheeler after she tumbled onto the street. The driver of the van told Streetsblog that he did not look before he opened the door of his truck. He was not immediately issued a summons, even though it violates state law to open a car or truck door without looking first. The anti-cycling New York Post focused on the van driver’s sadness.

The driver of this van admitted that he opened his door into a cyclist, who was then hit by a truck. Photo: Dave Colon
The driver of this van admitted that he opened his door into a cyclist, who was then hit by a truck. Photo: Dave Colon

The driver of the truck that hit Samolewicz had proceeded several blocks up Third Avenue before he was flagged down to stop.

Samolewicz was an artist who lived in Sunset Park. Her Instagram account and website are filled with her works. She had a show at Sunset Park Studios last year with three other artists.

A recent work by Em Samolewicz.
A recent work by Em Samolewicz.

The death is the first since Mayor de Blasio announced a bicycle safety plan on Thursday to stem the blood tide on city streets this year. The plan was hailed in some quarters, but consists mostly of slight expansions to existing programs.

The vast majority of this year’s 18 cyclist deaths — 13 — have been in Brooklyn. The latest crash was very close to the spot where Hugo Garcia was killed on Jan. 1 when a passenger in a car doored him into traffic on busy Third Avenue.

Between Jan. 1 and June 30 in the neighborhood comprising those crash sites, there have been 1,433 crashes causing injuries to 41 cyclists, 71 pedestrians and 275 motorists, in addition to two dead cyclists and two dead pedestrians. That’s roughly eight crashes per day in a single neighborhood.

sunset park crashes Jan-June 2019

Transportation Alternatives also highlighted the danger of the roadway.

“Third Avenue, which has eight lanes for cars and zero for bikes, is a product of a bygone era when transportation decisions were made with the sole intention of moving as many vehicles as possible through our neighborhoods, without regard to the people living and working in those neighborhoods,” the group said in a statement, which continued:

The danger is compounded by the Gowanus Expressway looming overhead, and the poor visibility at intersections caused by the elevated highway’s support structures and the acres upon acres of land beneath where people store cars and trucks. Dangerous driver behavior in this neighborhood shouldn’t be surprising; the environment suggests that this corridor belongs to the cars, and if you must ride a bike on this street, you do so at your own risk.

Streets like Third Avenue are incompatible with Vision Zero. To eliminate traffic deaths, these deadly corridors which are dedicated 100 percent to moving and storing vehicles must not be allowed to exist in their current form. We cannot make excuses for so-called “level of service” while saying that eliminating death and serious injury is a top priority. We simply cannot have it both ways.

  • Anyone who rides a bike is a rich, fancy person? Who moved in after you did?

  • qrt145

    “it does have way more rich fancy unrealistic often naive and entitled people who are doing crazy sh*t that just doesn’t make sense”

    You are right: there has been a tremendous increase in the number of crazy people who think they are entitled to drive and park in the city.

  • EV3452

    From the photos, I can see that Samolewicz was riding with a rear brake, but no front brake. That’s not safe. The front brake has much more stopping power than the rear brake. Riding without a front brake is dangerous, especially on unpredictable city streets.

    https://www.sheldonbrown.com/brakturn.html

  • Vooch

    Olga – I have ridden reguarly in Manhattan since 1986. Since JSK, it positively heavenly.

  • Vooch

    Truth is cycling in NYC predates the subways and bus.

    🙂

  • Riding with only one caliper brake is extremely dangerous. Brake cables routinely wear out and then snap. You need redundancy here. Sorry for the victim blaming but to ride a bicycle with only one hand brake is to defy common sense.

  • Not even trying to comment on the circumstances of the actual crash, but that’s not a safe bike to ride. Talking about the lone rear brake and the drop handlebars with no grip tape. Even in the best of conditions, drop bars are a bad idea for any city riding IMO.

  • BklynPete

    Times change.
    Resentful ole POS, aren’t you?

  • AMH

    From her photos, it looks like a fixed-gear bike, which means you can use the pedals to stop. That’s at least some redundancy.

    All the brakes in the world won’t save you from a sudden dooring, however.

  • AMH

    The street is for all of us. People of all ages are getting killed because our streets are still designed for speed over safety.

  • AMH

    Until you kill someone with it.

  • Appears to be a flip-flop hub, we can’t tell which side though. Anyways I’m mostly just commenting on general bike safety as it relates to gear choices. Lots of dodgy looking rides out there. I am tired of this underlying assumption that a cyclist is a cyclist is a cyclist, and that a bike is a bike is a bike. Lots of different manners of riding, and lots of different gear choices. Maybe impossible to avoid a dooring (if you’re riding in that zone) but braking distance can be a make or break factor. That’s just my own opinion; I am always checking the brakes on mine and my wife’s bikes.

  • david

    I’ve been biking in the city for over 30 years. I love it. I’m not fancy. I accept the danger. One can’t live in fear.

  • MatthewEH

    It’s technically a drop handlebar, but the stem is a multipiece thingamajigger that raises them up pretty high. I don’t think the riding position ends up being any less upright than flat bars.

  • MatthewEH

    The legal requirement is just that the bike be equipped with a brake capable of making one wheel skid on dry pavement. Samolewicz’s bike had that base covered, at the very least.

  • Tomas Paine

    It’s not victim blaming. That’s what I’m trying to say here.

    I wish many car drivers weren’t a-holes. I also wish that car drivers didn’t just straight up make mistakes. But we are all human and unfortunately many drivers are a-holes and drivers just make mistakes sometimes.

    This is a tragedy. But in such a rambunctious city we all have to look out for ourselves. We are our own best protectors, our own best advocates.

  • Tomas Paine

    Well I guess. We all take our risks. I just think bike riding is pretty darned risky.

    Still, we all take our risks, make our own choices. Stay safe out there.

  • Tomas Paine

    Well safer for the driver I mean.

    And I always advocate responsible (and that means SLOW AND CAREFUL) driving.

  • Tomas Paine

    Ageism! How progressive!

  • Tomas Paine

    Heck I agree with that too.

  • Tomas Paine

    Still a ton of people in NYC throughout.

  • I like your precision.

  • Tomas Paine

    You don’t need such a fine level of precision in this case. NYC has always been tight and crowded. If you were a real New Yorker you would know that.

  • Tomas Paine

    Hehe, and I like how you call it “suburban flight.” LOL. Yeah, precision!

  • Joe R.

    Yeah, my maternal grandfather started out as a bike messenger for Western Union when he was 12 or 13. This would have been around 1913 or 1914. Bikes had been around for a good 50 years back then. The modern safety bicycle was already around for nearly 30 years.

  • SDGreg

    For driver’s side vehicle doors, would requiring a warning message on the door or window just above the door handle that’s something like, “Look behind before opening door”, make a difference?

  • maxmaxed

    No NYC way less crowded when most of the streets as well as subway system were designed. The system is overloaded and breaks down often hence cycling is the best solution for all.

    You probably never been to Europe, in the cities with millions of people that have extensive bike lane network and cycling is part of the regular urban life. Mayors were exactly right to build and to keep building more bike lanes so less of these accidents happen. Keep in mind this woman was hit on 3rd Ave where no lane exists. So constructing and painting lanes actually does save lives.

    And no, NYC will become predominantly bike/pedestrian city as car owners are already just 17% of the population. Boomer days are gone, nobody needs this car-obsessed crap here anymore. Deal with it.

  • maxmaxed

    Almost all cyclist fatalities are caused by trucks. Rarely buses. And only single cases are regular cars.

  • maxmaxed

    Why would a rich fancy person ride a bike to work trying to save some money on expensive MTA passes? Rich fancy people in NYC take UBERs all the time. Was that killed artist girl rich and fancy? She barely made a living in Sunset Park. Same applies to many of the slain cyclists. None of them are rich. Cut this BS.

  • maxmaxed

    I agree she could take precaution measures, but not with the bike in particular. Avoiding 3rd Ave would be the best option. I see many people riding on 4th and 3rd all the time and it looks extremely dangerous. I can’t blame them, but they take that risk knowingly.

  • maxmaxed

    I think not taking 3rd Ave would make more sense as well.

  • maxmaxed

    After I was doored, I try to stay as far as possible from parked cars now. I also slow down if I have to go close to them. I also try to stick to bike-lane streets only as much as possible and almost never run red lights.

  • Tomas Paine

    Meh, I hope you’re right, and hopefully one day this will all be safe.

    But I definitely consider you all “early adopters” and in almost any context, early adopters take the brunt of it.

    Good luck. Hopefully one day this will all work out. But in the meantime, I’m taking the bus.

  • qrt145

    Not “almost all” cyclist fatalities are caused by trucks. The actual figure is 30%, although there’s an apparent uptick in recent years. See https://www1.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bike-safety-plan.pdf , page 5.

  • Andrew

    No.

  • You’d think the driver of the car would take care to remind his passenger to take care not to cause damage to his/her car door by, y’know, flinging it open into oncoming traffic without looking. Not even for the sake of any cyclists, if only for the simple concern of not getting the car door all dinged up. But alas, even that is too much. We’re fucked.

  • qrt145

    It may make a difference a couple of times, but then people start tuning it out as part of the environment. Plus I’m not sure that people even look at the door handle when opening it.

    A high-tech approach such as a blind-spot warning system might fare better, but I don’t think it can compete which people actually looking. Unfortunately that requires retraining all car users (not only drivers!), something which might take a generation if we are lucky. And is not something the city can do on its own given constant migration.

  • david

    Will do!

  • maxmaxed

    That is weird. I followed all fatalities this year and I can’t remember anything not caused by a truck of some sort. Same for last year.

  • qrt145

    I also remember mostly deaths involving trucks this year. Maybe it’s a real streak, or maybe the reporting puts more emphasis on trucks. I tried looking back at Streetsblog’s reporting and this is the most recent case I could find not involving a truck (in this case it was a van, though, so still a “larger-than-car” vehicle): https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/05/15/cyclist-killed-in-borough-park-after-driver-doored-him-into-traffic/

    See also https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/03/14/breaking-cyclist-is-killed-in-queens/ which involved a Chevy Cruze.

  • What’s the definition of a real New Yorker?

  • Tomas Paine

    Ok I’ll stop. I was just messing with you.

    All you crazy bike people have made me rethink some of this. All in all, I’m starting to think bikes are cooler and can play a bigger role in this city as long as it’s all planned realistically and responsibly. I like the simplicity, the low cost of bikes vs other forms of transportation, and the environmental friendliness. It’s not safe enough for me at this point and I don’t think little children should be transported on bicycles (I see this in Brooklyn a lot and I think it’s insane) but otherwise hey, we all take our risks, we all make our own decisions. Freedom and choice is good.

    Still, be careful out there, and please be respectful to pedestrians and people who take the train and the bus. Don’t hit us. We are people too.

    PS. Yes, this applies to motorists too.

  • Och

    I ride on the sidewalk on 9th while its closed.

  • Och

    3rd avenue could be perfect for biking. They need to get rid of car storage underneath the BQE – where it is literally storage for mostly crashed cars that belong to repair shops along 3rd Avenue, and create bike lane and green zone like they are doing underneath the FDR along South Street peers.

  • JamesM2

    Maybe there is a mechanical solution, a door that only opens very slowly and has reflective strips and warning lights to show other users it is opening and is open.
    More and more trunks open and close slowly by electric motor. There is no reason car doors should not be slow opening, and properly marked and illuminated.

  • NoWay Jose

    So a mentally ill, liberal, NYC jew got potato pancaked by an 18-wheeler, big deal.

  • iwantapony

    I call that a good day.

  • NoWay Jose

    And walking predates cycling. Maybe you should just walk.

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Cyclist Doored, Killed by Truck in Midtown

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A truck driver opened his door into the path of a 63-year-old cyclist this morning, sending him into traffic, where he was run over by another truck. Though the cyclist, who has yet to be identified, was conscious immediately following the collision, he was later pronounced dead at Bellevue Hospital. Here is the wire report: […]