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Van Driver Charged for Dooring Cyclist — But Tractor Trailer Driver Who Killed Her Is Free

2:27 PM EDT on July 30, 2019

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

The van driver who doored a Sunset Park cyclist, leading to her death under the wheels of a tractor trailer on Monday, has been given a rare NYPD summons for unlawfully opening his door into traffic, police said on Tuesday.

The truck driver who ended up running over and killing Em Samolewicz, however, remains uncharged, according to the NYPD, which would not answer any questions on Streetsblog's routine checklist, including how fast the truck driver was going, whether he or she was distracted by music or someone else in the truck, whether he or she was eating or distracted by a phone, or whether the driver has a prior record of violations.

"The investigation is ongoing," a police spokesman said. The spokesman also had few details about the summons issued to the van driver, which is believed to be a $133 ticket for opening a door in a manner that interferes "with the movement of other traffic."

Mourners will gather near the intersection of Third Avenue and 36th Street on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. to grieve the loss of Samolewicz, the 18th cyclist killed so far this year — a horrifying number in any year, but particularly troubling given that there were just 10 cyclists killed all of last year. A Gofundme campaign has been set up in Samolewicz's memory collect funds that will allow "transwomen and trans femmes to receive healing services" from The Third Root Community Health Center.

"Em was deeply committed to ensuring healing services were accessible and provided for trans feminine community. This fundraiser will honor this commitment and her legacy," the fundraising page states.

The summons for the van driver came one day after a police spokesperson had jokingly dismissed the notion that there might be charges for the dooring.

"It's not a crime to open your car door," the spokesperson had told Gothamist. When the website reminded the flack that state law requires motorists to only open their car door when it is safe to do so, the spokesperson clarified that he or she was "joking around."

The exchange with Gothamist prompted outrage from several elected officials — and encouraged Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to demand that a gag order be placed on police officials so that they do not spout inanities or other victim-blaming rhetoric in the painful moments after a crash. Samolewicz's death also prompted Adams to demand more protected bike lanes, more Citi Bikes, and better road design.

Adams is not the only elected official demanding changes in the wake of 18 cyclists deaths — and Mayor de Blasio's promise to do more to stem the blood tide. On Wednesday, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer will demand extensive improvements to the substandard bike network of booming Long Island City. Van Bramer, who will join activists at 9 a.m. at the foot of the Pulaski Bridge, is believed to be the first member of the Council to jump all over de Blasio's "Green Wave" proposal with a full-throated, "Yes, please."

Meanwhile, other members of the Council have demagogued the issue. The most egregious example came from Council Member Robert Holden of Queens, who said that his wife, who works in Manhattan, "says bikes have taken over as the most dangerous [mode of transportation]."

That comment came last Wednesday, one day before de Blasio announced his plan to reduce what was then wave of violence against cyclists that left 17 bike riders dead — all of them killed by car or truck drivers.

Holden has opposed bike safety legislation in the past, including a Council bill that would let cyclists get a head-start on cars.

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