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Driver of Truck With 17 Speeding Tickets Fatally Hits Moped Rider In Williamsburg

Scene of the crash: A pickup truck driver struck a moped rider at Grand Street and Graham Avenue in Williamsburg on Dec. 28. Photo: Citizen

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A motorist whose company truck has a long history of dangerous driving, fatally struck a moped rider on a dangerous Williamsburg street on Wednesday morning.

The man behind the wheel of a JCDecaux-marked Ford pickup hit the other man on the motorized two-wheeler while the car driver made a right turn at Grand Street and Graham Avenue at 5:55 a.m., according to the NYPD.

The police said both were heading in the same direction — west on Grand Street — when the moped rider, 45-year-old Gerardo Cielo Ahuatl, "lost control," was "ejected," and hit by the turning trucker. The police language suggested blame for the victim.

Paramedics brought Ahuatl to Elmhurst Hospital where he died.

The 28-year-old driver of the truck stayed on the scene, and cops did not charge him with a crime.

The company car's plate has been caught with a stunning 30 traffic violations between 2017 and 2021, including 17 times for speeding in school zones, three times for running red lights and 10 times for blocking bus lanes or bus stops — mostly in Brooklyn and Queens. The plate (captured by a Daily News photographer) had 10 speeding tickets attached to it in 2020 alone.

JCDecaux builds and maintains city bus shelters as part of a contract with the Department of Transportation, and the crash happened next to such a bus stop on Graham Avenue.

A spokesperson for the French multinational's New York office told Streetsblog that the car had been used by various drivers at different times, but declined to comment further on the tickets.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the family of the moped driver who died after falling from his moped," said Bob Liff. "The driver of the JCDecaux truck remained at the scene and faced no charges in connection with the tragic accident. JCDecaux will cooperate with any further inquiry."

A DOT rep said the agency will address safety with the contractor.

"While an investigation remains ongoing, DOT expects every contractor to follow the rules of the road. We will be discussing safety best practices with JCDecaux as we review the details of this tragic crash," said Vin Barone. "Our thoughts right now are with the victim and their loved ones."

As reckless as the driver or drivers of that truck have been, he or they have not triggered the city's Dangerous Vehicle Abatement Program, which requires drivers to take a DOT safety course if they get 15 or more camera-issued speeding tickets or five or more red-light infractions in any 12-month period.

Only a tiny fraction of drivers who have been slapped with that number of fines have taken the course or been notified about it, a recent Streetsblog analysis found.

Grand Street has for years been a troubled stretch with hundreds of injuries, several deaths, and cyclists constantly forced to navigate around drivers blocking the lanes along the crucial east-to-west bike route, which DOT hardened with jersey barriers this year.

That single intersection of Wednesday's crash has had 10 reported collisions through November, injuring five, including two cyclists and drivers each and one pedestrian.

DOT daylighted the corner at the intersection with a painted area to keep cars from parking right up against the crosswalk and blocking visibility.

The markings are just paint and flimsy plastic flappers, making it easy for drivers to ignore them and continue to make dangerously tight turns.

The corner of Grand and Graham has painted markings with some plastic sticks, but drivers can easily ignore them and still make dangerously tight turns. Photo: Google
The corner of Grand and Graham has painted markings with some plastic sticks, but drivers can easily ignore them and still make dangerously tight turns. Photo: Google
The corner of Grand and Graham has painted markings with some plastic sticks, but drivers can easily ignore them and still make dangerously tight turns. Photo: Google

In 2019, the agency declared Grand Street between Rodney Street and Metropolitan Avenue a Vision Zero Priority Area, because there were nearly 400 traffic injuries between 2012 and 2018, and four fatalities, including three pedestrians and cyclist Matthew von Ohlen, who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in 2016.

In the years after that crash, DOT painted green the formerly unprotected bike lanes on Grand and added a row of parking or plastic delineators to shield cyclists from traffic, but due to vehicles chronically blocking the paths, local pols this past spring lobbied the agency to install harder barriers.

Officials added the concrete walls to some sections of the bike lanes in the early fall.

The local 34th Council District stretching into more industrial East Williamsburg and Bushwick had the highest number of traffic fatalities in Brooklyn and the third-highest in the city from 2014 to 2019, with 41 deaths, a quarter of which involved a truck, according to DOT.

Update: This story has been edited to add comment from JCDecaux and NYC DOT. 

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