Medical Examiner: NYPD is ‘Incorrect’ That Cyclist Killed Pedestrian

Photo: Dave Colon
Photo: Dave Colon

Stop the presses: The city medical examiner has not ruled that the hit-and-run cyclist being sought by NYPD for allegedly killing a Manhattan pedestrian last week actually caused the victim’s death.

Police had said that 60-year-old Michael Collopy was struck by the cyclist as he stood in the protected bike lane at Sixth Avenue and 23rd Street on Wednesday, July 31 — and the NYPD definitively stated that the cyclist caused the head trauma that led to Collopy’s death on Aug. 5.

“The medical examiner determined the cause of death was a result of the pedestrian being struck by the bicyclist,” the NYPD said. That statement was not true.

A spokesperson for the medical examiner told Streetsblog on Thursday that police were “incorrect.”

“The ME has not yet made a determination (decided cause/manner of death) in this case,” Aja Worthy-Davis said. She added that she would begin reaching out to local reporters who had also published the NYPD’s version of the events.

Indeed, late on Thursday afternoon, Worthy-Davis sent the following email to multiple media outlets.

It has come to my attention that recent media coverage that covered the death of Michael Collopy stated that the case Medical Examiner (forensic pathologist) made a determination regarding the cause and manner of death.

For clarity, the cause and manner of death in this case is pending determination.

We’d ask that you make this correction in your coverage.

NYPD spokesman Sgt. Vincent Marchese could not explain the discrepancy on Thursday and declined to respond to Worthy-Davis’s direct challenge to the NYPD’s version of events.

“According to the report, this is what we have,” Marchese said. The NYPD had also said Collopy was a Harlem resident, but neighbors at the building where he supposedly lived did not know him and the building super told Streetsblog that no building resident had recently died. Other media outlets said Collopy lived in Chelsea, near where he was allegedly hit.

Very little is known about the last moments in the life of Michael Collopy. Police claim that the northbound cyclist hit him as Collopy stood in the protected bike lane — and they claim that the cyclist fled the scene. The NYPD said that officers showed up at the scene and “encountered a 60-year-old male at the location with head trauma.” It is unclear if Collopy had been knocked down by the cyclist or fell trying to avoid the bike rider, or merely fell on his own.

In any event, he was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he died on Aug. 5.

NYPD did not respond to specifics about the crash on Thursday.

The death of Michael Collopy — whatever the circumstances — is a cause for alarm for all road users, a point underscored by Transportation Alternatives.

“All New Yorkers deserve safe streets and the ability to navigate our city without fear of injury and death,” said the group’s co-deputy director Marco Conner. “Every person killed on New York’s streets is one too many, regardless of the type of vehicle by which they’re struck. Michael Collopy’s death is a tragedy and could have been prevented. Our hearts go out to his family. New Yorkers who bike have a duty to always yield to pedestrians, the most vulnerable users of our streets.”

Conner also underscored how rarely a pedestrian is killed by a cyclist, though it is unclear if that was even the case in this death.

“Since January of 2014, five pedestrians have been killed by cyclists in New York City, while more than 700 pedestrians have been killed by drivers of cars and trucks,” Conner said.

— with Dave Colon and Eve Kessler

  • Joe R.

    Since you mentioned the cyclist’s speed, first off the wide angle lens makes the speed feel higher than it really is. Based on the time to go between intersections, that cyclist is going 15 mph at best, often a lot slower. That’s well under the speed limit.

    Second, they’re likely going faster than they otherwise might because they’re trying to make as many lights as possible. It’s a fact if you ride at 6 or 8 mph you’ll be stopping every block or two. Your overall average speed will be no faster than walking, so you might as well not even bother being on a bike. Again, this is a product of poor infrastructure, in this case lights every block timed for car speeds, not bike speeds. In the absence of traffic lights, a cyclist who reduced their speed from 15 mph to 12 mph for safety reasons would incur a 25% increase in travel time. With the traffic lights and their poor timing, such a speed reduction could result in a 50% or more increase in travel time.

    I can’t really defend salmoning as there’s seldom a good reason for it. There are rare cases where going one block against traffic avoids a many blocks long detour on more dangerous roads but most instances of salmoning don’t fall into that category. However, if you’re going to ride against traffic it’s incumbent on you to defer to everyone else. It’s also important to assume pedestrians might not see you since you’re coming from a direction they don’t expect. That means ride as if nobody can see you, and defer to pedestrians, period, even if they’re jaywalking.

    I’m actually less of a fan of walking bikes on sidewalks instead of riding them at very slow speeds, like 5 or 6 mph. A walked bike takes up twice the width, and it’s easy for the cyclist to clip people with the pedal on the opposite side of the bike. That can easily cause a person to trip. But in any case, riding bikes on sidewalks at anything faster than a fast walk is inappropriate and shouldn’t be done. Also, anyone riding on a sidewalk should go around pedestrians, not force the pedestrians to get out of their way. A sidewalk cyclist is at best an intrusion, and should act like it. If you’re walking and don’t need to change your speed or direction when encountering a sidewalk cyclist then that cyclist is at least operating as they should. If they buzz you at high speeds or bear down on you, they’re being reckless/inconsiderate.

    My own idea for incorporating bikes into the fabric of large cities is simply to put them up off the street on viaducts. That neatly solves all the complaints about cyclists, while letting cyclists ride without stopping or slowing down in an environment free from motorists, pedestrians, and potholes. Of course, NYC will never spend the money needed to build something like that.

  • neroden

    This is criminal slander by the NYPD, as well as illegal involvement in politics.

    When is the NYPD going to be shut down for being a Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organization?

  • mike saunders

    Regardless of actual cause of death the fact remains that bicycle lanes have added another level of danger for NYC pedestrians. It’s become more dangerous for bicyclists too. More cyclist are getting killed by cars than ever before. The hard truth is that bike lanes do not work in most of NYC. NYC is simply too dense. Too much traffic, too many pedestrians. And bicyclists do not obey traffic or bike lane laws. They frequently race through the lanes on bikes without lights or horns and don’t stop for red lights. They ride up down streets and down up streets and in or out of the bike lanes as they please. Some get angry at pedestrians yet the law clearly states that pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. It really is a bloody mess. But this mess appears here to stay. Not because it make sense in NYC. But instead for PC reasons that compel politicians to try and drive the square peg of bikes lanes into the round hole of congested NYC streets.