East Village cyclist, 72, killed in Midtown hit-and-run

Officer taking away the mangled bicycle – from NBC4 footage
A police officer taking away the victim’s mangled bike from the scene.

BY GABE HERMAN | A senior cyclist from the East Village died Monday after being struck by a hit-and-run truck driver in Midtown, according to police.

The rider was identified as Joseph Chiam, 72, of 127 First Ave., between E. Seventh St. and St. Mark’s Place.

At 5:52 a.m., on Feb. 4, police responded to a 911 call and found Chiam lying on the ground at W. 45th St. and Eighth Ave. He was conscious and with trauma reported to his body. He was next to his bike, which was mangled from the collision.

Chiam was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Officials said that a 2013 green Western Star truck was headed north on Eighth Ave., then turned left onto W. 45th St. when it hit Chiam. He was reportedly riding his bike in the bicycle lane before the accident.

The driver left the scene after the collision. Police have reportedly identified the driver but have not yet released that information.

City Council Speaker Corey Johnson tweeted later that morning about the fatality, calling it “horrific.”

“This is horrific, and this can’t keep happening,” he posted. “We have SO MUCH MORE work to do to protect cyclists and pedestrians in our city. My heart breaks for this man and his loved ones. What a senseless loss.”

The East Village man’s crumpled bicycle.

Traffic fatalities have dropped in the city for five straight years. Last year, Manhattan had a record-low 27 deaths, compared to 45 the previous year. But Transportation Alternatives noted after this tragedy that there have already been at least four cyclist deaths in the city to date this year in just slightly more than one month.

Ellen McDermott, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement that Chiam’s death was preventable, and that Midtown bike lanes should continue into protected intersections. Such intersections guard cyclists against drivers by creating buffer zones and clearly marking waiting areas for bikes and pedestrians. But Midtown intersections like the one at 45th St. and Eighth Ave. have “mixing zones,” where all travelers merge together.

“While the city has piloted protected intersections at a handful of sites citywide, and found them remarkably successful, their installation has not continued and the vast majority of intersections remain unprotected,” McDermott said.

“More and more people are traveling by bike in our city,” the advocate said, “and more than ever, they need safe, protected space.”

McDermott called for accelerated installments of protected bike lanes and intersections in the city.

“Fixing these problems could have prevented Monday’s fatal hit-and-run,” she said, “but instead the cycling community suffers preventable tragedy.”

She repeated the organization’s call for designating a “bike mayor” to represent cyclists’ interests at City Hall.