Mourners gathered for a vigil on Monday evening at the 23rd Street spot where, earlier in the day, a young bicyclist was fatally struck by a truck driver who initially left the scene of the crash.
A makeshift memorial at the site bore a sign nearly full of messages for the 20-year-old, who friends and city officials identified as bike messenger Robyn Hightman.
“It just keeps getting harder and harder, every time someone passes away,” said Shelley Smith, who said she knew the victim.
The vigil quickly took on the tone of a protest, as about 100 people gathered amid chants of “vehicular manslaughter,” “do your jobs” and “no ticket, drove away.”
Cyclists recounted their stories of incidents with drivers that left them injured and expressed frustration that the truck driver only received summonses in the messenger’s death.
Both the cyclist and the vehicle, a white Freightliner delivery truck, were traveling north on Sixth Avenue around 9:30 a.m. when they collided, police said. The cyclist was pronounced dead at NYC Health + Hospitals/Bellevue.
Witnesses and police said the unidentified 54-year-old driver of the truck left the scene, but returned, and was issued five summonses.
Blood could be seen in the roadway next to a helmet and mangled bicycle.
Yael Malka, 28, an artist from Brooklyn, said she called 911.
“There was blood all over the street. There were a couple people surrounding the cyclist, trying to help them,” she said. “It was really awful. They were super young.”
There have now been 11 cycling deaths in the city this year, surpassing 2018’s total of 10 cycling deaths, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. However, city data conflicts with figures from advocates at the nonprofit Transportation Alternatives. The group has documented 12 cycling deaths so far this year.
Thomas DeVito, advocacy director at Transportation Alternatives, believes the city failed to count the death of a cyclist using an e-bike, which by law are not technically classified as bicycles. DeVito called on the city to more aggressively carry out street safety improvements and to tighten regulations on truck traffic.
“Huge vehicles barrel through intersections used by thousands of cyclists and pedestrians every day, and the loss of life is evidence of the danger," he said.
A police investigation is ongoing.
With Vincent Barone