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

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 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.

 

  • Driver

    The headline is misleading. It implies that the driver of the van was arrested. He got a traffic ticket.

  • Daphna

    If Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams truly wants safer street designs to be implemented in his borough, then he needs to appoint different people to many of his community boards. The people who Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has appointed to Brooklyn community boards are often the primary obstacle to getting safer street designs implemented. Eric Adams could get rid of that obstacle! If he does not want impediments to street improvements, he should stop re-appointing people who advocate to keep streets dangerous to his boro’s community boards.

  • Joseph S

    Well Duh. If the truck was just driving straight and the van driver doored the cyclist the truck driver did nothing wrong. The doorer killed the cyclist. Streesblog owes the truck driver a big apology.

  • Exactly!

  • My Dog, Streetsblog. You’re out of line! Chances are the doored cyclist appeared in the truck driver’s path with little warning.
    Ever heard of Perception Reaction Time and Braking Reaction Time?

  • Vooch

    ever heard of driving too fast for the conditions

    following too close

    etc etc

  • woodyguthrie

    Chances are the truck was an illegal 53.

    Ever hear of not entering NYC driving a vehicle which is illegal?

    “The truck driver, whose rig was marked with the Illinois-based company
    Gold Star Carriers, stayed at the scene and was also ticketed because
    his truck was too long.”

  • woodyguthrie

    Maybe you owe the apology?

    “The truck driver, whose rig was marked with the Illinois-based company
    Gold Star Carriers, stayed at the scene and was also ticketed because
    his truck was too long.”

  • maxmaxed

    Truck’s length doesn’t really change much. It could be a box truck or a garbage truck or even a bus. This happened many times before as cyclists were killed after getting doored. There are two main reasons: 1) She got doored 2) She was cycling on insane 3rd Ave. I don’t think a truck driver is to blame here, he didn’t even see her. A piece of shit who doored her though, should be charged with murder.

  • maxmaxed

    It could be any other vehicle. Any other box truck, legal truck etc etc. Doesn’t change the fact. There is no bike lane on 3rd Ave. 3rd Ave is insanely dangerous at all times. Assholes do open doors without looking around all the time. All these factors contributed to her death. Length of a truck – not so much.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They were traveling in front of the driver in the same direction.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Eric Adams likes to talk a big game on cycling to aggrandize himself while keeping the same 1960s-mentality people on the CBs to hold up change forever, and encouraging his employees to park on pedestrian space in the public park next to his office. He’s a liar.

  • Al

    The vehicle was illegal to be operating on the street, so it shouldn’t have been there to begin with.

    Although, if it was any other vehicle, the result could have been the same. if the cyclist was launched into the path without notice to a truck driver, I dont think the truck driver could have stopped in time, so I don’t think he should be charged for the death of the cyclist.

    The driver who doored should be charged for the cyclist’s death to the fullest extent possible, not just a measly $100 fine. Make an example of him so other drivers know to actually check before swinging their doors into traffic.

  • Elizabeth F

    Did the van driver violate the cyclist’s right of way? Can the NYC right of way law be applied?

  • Vooch

    stopping distance

    visibility

    changes with length

  • maxmaxed

    He didn’t apply brakes. He didn’t even know she’s there somewhere. In case of any truck moving at 30mph, it doesn’t matter. If you are doored in front of it you are done.

  • WodOffPooH

    With all that in mind you would have to be an idiot to ride on 3rd Ave. You can’t ride in NYC with a sense of how things should be you have to ride with a sense of what is, reality. Then you might get home safely.

  • WodOffPooH

    Yup

  • WodOffPooH

    Why is no one wondering why a bike rider would choose to ride on 3rd Ave when it is the most heavily congested commercial traffic in the entire community. Do bike riders have any culpability for their own safety by choosing safe routes. Or are cars and trucks responsible for bikers safety.

  • WodOffPooH

    Same issue with the lady killed in Bushwick. Rider chose a terrible route. And then we blame the truck that had the green light. Why? I’m all for biker advocacy but blatantly blaming drivers for the poor decisions of bikers is laughable. Opposite traffic riding on the side walk and running a red light but the truck is responsible. Riding on a congested truck laden street when there are much safer streets.

  • WodOffPooH

    And yes the van caused the death. The truck had no part in it.

  • Vooch

    So you agree, the driver waa driving too fast for the conditions. 30 MPH is postively reckless with wild disregard for human safety in that location.

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