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20th Cyclist of 2020 Killed in Upper East Side Hit-And-Run

File photo: Dave Colon

New York City reached a grim milestone on Sunday afternoon as the 20th cyclist of the year was killed in a hit-and-run on the Upper East Side.

Police say that a delivery cyclist, identified as 42-year-old East Harlem resident Ernesto Guzman, was killed on his bike while riding south through the intersection of East 97th Street and Second Avenue. According to the NYPD, Guzman was hit by the driver of a Chevy Tahoe SUV with TLC license plates at about 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, as the driver moved west through the intersection on 97th Street. Guzman was rushed to the nearby NYC Health + Hospitals/Metropolitan Medical Center, where he died of his injuries.

The driver of the Chevy Tahoe fled the scene of the crash, and police later found the SUV unoccupied at 96th Street and Third Avenue. Police did not have a description of the driver, and say that their investigation remains ongoing.

Second Avenue has a protected bike lane, although the lane ends before the intersection of 97th Street in order to provide a turning lane for drivers making a left onto 97th. There were 37 crashes in the intersection from January 2017 through December 2019, injuring three cyclists, seven pedestrians and one motorist, according to Crashmapper.

2nd Ave. and East 97th Street, looking south. Photo: Google
Second Avenue and East 97th Street, looking south. Photo: Google
2nd Ave. and East 97th Street, looking south. Photo: Google

Guzman's death means that at least 20 cyclists have died on city streets for a second consecutive year. Twenty-nine cyclists were killed in 2019, after just 10 were killed in 2018. His death was also the third traffic-violence death in a bloody weekend, which also saw a 65-year-old woman and an 8-year-old girl killed by the driver of a SUV who drove onto a curb in downtown Jamaica on Friday night. Witnesses told reporters on the scene that the driver in that crash appeared to be rushing to beat a red light before mounting the curb with her car.

Transportation Alternatives's Executive Director Danny Harris connected Guzman's death to the larger toll of more than 200 New Yorkers killed by traffic violence this year and the mayor's decision to slash funding for Vision Zero and the budget for the "Green Wave" bike-network plan:

A driver wielding a 5,500-pound Chevrolet Tahoe SUV has killed a working cyclist who was delivering food on the Upper East Side on Sunday. The victim, identified as Ernesto Guzman, is at least the 20th person to die while riding a bicycle, and at least the 206th person killed by traffic violence, to date this year in New York City.

Delivery cyclists have been on the front lines of this pandemic, and food delivery remains one of the most dangerous jobs in New York precisely because of constant exposure to impatient drivers piloting multi-ton assault vehicles on streets designed to move and store cars.

Guzman’s death is not an accident, but the predictable and preventable result of the mayor slashing the Vision Zero and Green Wave Plan budgets, and delaying the rollout of the Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program and the Streets Master Plan. The New York City Department of Transportation has the tools to deliver safer streets, but as long as the mayor holds them back, all New Yorkers are stuck with a system that prioritizes the convenience of drivers over human life.

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