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Pickup Truck Driver Kills Cyclist in Sunset Park But is Not Charged

The driver was not charged, police said, even though the official narrative clearly indicates that he turned into the cyclist.

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman|

The scene of the crash features a left-turn bay onto 53rd Street from Fourth Avenue. This photo is looking north. The cyclist at left is near where the crash occurred.

A driver of a large pickup truck slammed into and killed a cyclist on Fourth Avenue on Wednesday in a left-turn maneuver that violated the cyclist's right of way, cops said.

According to the NYPD, the cyclist, whose name has not been released pending family notification, was heading southbound in the protected bike lane on Fourth Avenue at around 9:10 a.m. when the driver of a northbound Chevy Silverado turned left from Fourth onto 53rd Street, striking the cyclist and causing head and body trauma.

Cops arrived to find the 49-year-old cyclist unconscious and unresponsive. He was taken to NYU Langone, where he died. The 40-year-old driver remained on the scene and was not charged, police said, despite the fact that the official narrative clearly indicates that the pickup driver turned into the cyclist.

One witness, however, cast doubt on the NYPD narrative, saying that the Silverado had been traveling westbound on 53rd Street the entire time and had not turned from Fourth Avenue. Police declined to provide further information.

"All I heard was 'Boom' and we all ran outside to see it," said a worker at a bodega on the corner, who declined to give his name because he's not the owner.

A 2007 Chevy Silverado weighs 4,797 pounds, according to Edmunds. At that weight, vehicles are harder to stop and are much more likely to inflict lethal injuries, according to multiple reports and studies.

Even before the pandemic unleashed a new wave of recklessness on city streets, the Department of Transportation was raising the alarms about massive vehicles driven by men, reporting that in 2018, 80 percent of fatal crashes were caused by male car drivers — and 41 percent of men who caused fatal crashes over the same period were driving pickups or SUVs.

At the time, that problem was getting worse, with men having caused 78 percent of the crashes between 2013 and 2017 — 32 percent of them in SUVs.

In the wake of the crash, Families for Safe Streets put out a statement demanding more safety for Fourth Avenue, which has a protected bike lane whose daylighting is often obstructed by illegally parked cars.

“Crashes like these are a continuing failure of our mayor to provide safety at dangerous intersections like protected daylighting and leading ‘walk’ signal intervals for pedestrians and cyclists to avoid turning drivers," said group member Deb Harden. "This is one of the biggest dangers on our city’s streets, including on Fourth Avenue in Brooklyn which has a somewhat protected bike lane that needs intersection safety improvements now.”

It's unclear how much the protected bike lane has helped improve safety on Fourth Avenue, which remains a busy thoroughfare with double-parking and obstructions.

In 2019, the last full pre-Covid year before the bike lane was installed between the Prospect Expressway and 60th Street, there were 358 reported crashes, injuring 20 cyclists, 14 pedestrians and 72 motorists. In 2023, the number of reported crashes dropped dramatically — to 241, according to city stats. But the number of injuries to cyclists soared to 65, mostly as a result of more bike riders choosing Fourth Avenue over the far-more dangerous Third and Fifth avenues on either side.

There is construction to the north of Wednesday's crash site, which eliminates the bike lane for several blocks at a time, but that did not seem to be connected to the fatality, which occurred at a location without any construction.

It hasn't made many headlines beyond Streetsblog, but 2024 is shaping up to be a horrifically deadly year on New York City streets. According to the NYPD, total injuries from crashes are up 1.6 percent versus last year, with 17,829 people injured so far this year — or 135 people every day. Pedestrian injuries are up 4.7 percent this year. From Jan. 1 through May 12, 3,235 pedestrians were injured, or 24 every day.

According to the NYPD, 89 people have died on the roads this year, up from 88 during the same period last year. Last year, 29 cyclists were killed on city streets, up from 19 the previous year. The DOT repeatedly said the increase was partly due to the rise in electric bike use, but crashes like Wednesday's show that the type of bike is rarely a factor when car drivers strike cyclists.

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