Safe streets advocates to NYPD: Stop prematurely blaming cyclists for their own deaths

File Photo Credit: Dave Sanders

The day after city Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told the City Council that cycling was up by 57%, yet another cyclist was killed in Brooklyn symbolizing an onslaught for street safety advocates who claimed NYPD takes a strong in favor of motorists in crashes.

Early Thursday morning, at Ocean Parkway and Avenue N in Midwood, Brooklyn, a 29-year-old man was killed when a 2020 Camaro SS. But the group Transportation Alternatives is accusing of taking the driver’s word for it that the green light was in the sports car’s favor at the time.

The victim here became the fourth cyclist killed in this month only ten days into September. That makes 13 cyclist deaths in 2020 alone.

Transportation Alternatives Executive Director Danny Harris vented over the NYPD seemingly siding with the driver, and pointed out that the latest crash occurred in a City Council district where bicyclist fatalities have occurred with disturbing regularity.

“This fatal crash took place in the district of City Council Member Kalman Yeger, a district with the most bicyclist fatalities in New York City in recent years. In the last two years, seven New Yorkers have been killed by drivers while cycling in Yeger’s district. By comparison, the district with the second-most cyclist deaths during the same time period saw two cyclist fatalities,” Harris said. “After the crash, police told reporters that the driver of the Camaro had a green light.”

The driver in Thursday’s crash had a history of speeding, having five speed camera violations associated with its New Jersey plates in the city since June 10 when streets were empty of all but protestors due to COVID-19 and demonstrations against police brutality.

“The NYPD has a long history of speaking prematurely, taking drivers’ words at face value, and blaming victims for their own deaths,” Harris explained. “But to explain the cause of a fatal crash, on the record, without evidence, and before an investigation is complete, seems to be standard operating procedure for New York’s Finest.”

NYPD did not immediately respond to a request for comment from amNewYork Metro.

Just days prior Thursday morning’s fatality, 35-year-old Brooklyn assistant district attorney Sarah Pitts was killed when she got hit by charter bus on Wythe Avenue in Williamsburg.

Harris said MTA took the same stance against the victims of cycling crashes in the 2016 death of Lauren Davis, the 2017 death of Dan Hanegby and the 2019 death of MD Abdul Bashar. According to Harris, video footage proved NYPD wrong in each instance.

During the Sept. 9 City Council Transportation Committee hearing, Trottenberg listed the lengths the agency had gone to open up streets to pedestrians and cyclists as well as making surface transit more equitable while admitting that traffic congestion was on the rise.

As cyclists contend with motorists for space on the streets, and mass transit ridership struggles to rebound from COVID-19, advocates such as Transportation Alternatives are calling Mayor Bill de Blasio to take more drastic action in preventing roadside deaths.

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