In the past seven days, five pedestrians have been killed by drivers. Just this morning, a 35-year-old cyclist was crushed by a semi truck on the corner of Jay and Tillary streets while apparently making a legal left turn with the light. Year three of Mayor de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative was certainly not supposed to look like this.
Over the past three weeks, at least seven pedestrians have been killed by motor vehicles in New York City. In all but one of the crashes, the drivers of the motor vehicles weren’t ticketed or taken into custody at the scene. In six of the crashes, the pedestrian apparently had the right of way.
As of August, New York City is well ahead (or behind, depends how you look at it) in terms of pedestrian deaths for 2016 as compared to 2015. The number of cycling deaths so far this year has already surpassed the total for all of 2015.
While cyclists have seen multiple crackdowns on their behavior (which includes nefarious activities like not riding with a bell or a helmet), drivers have returned to their place atop the pecking order of the roads, where a driver is granted impunity and any deceased pedestrian was either too slow or careless to avoid a death-bringing automobile (or bus).
Take Anna Colon, for instance, a 73-year-old Brooklyn resident who was on her way to work as a home health aide last Tuesday morning. According to an NYPD release, she was killed a little before 10 A.M. on the Lower East Side by an MTA bus driver. Colon was crossing with the light, when the driver, which was speeding to try to turn before its light changed, smashed into her, dragging her a few feet. She was pronounced dead on the scene.
The driver, however, wasn’t charged with a crime or given a ticket.
The driver who struck the cyclist this morning also did not receive a citation. An NYPD spokesperson told Streetsblog that it “looks like an accident.” The cyclist, who remains in critical condition, was turning right with the light, when the truck, which was making the same turn, crushed the cyclist.
Jun Hiu Liu, 70, was killed in Jamaica on the side of the road on September 27th by the driver of a Chevrolet Equinox. No citation was issued. On September 29th, Dian Mclean, a 54-year-old resident of Queens, died after she was hit by a driver while she was crossing the street. No citation was issued. David Pajarito-Mendez, a 38-year-old resident of Brooklyn, was killed after being hit by a hit-and-run driver in the Bronx. Police have not made any arrests in the case.
The one case in which a driver was actually ticketed and arrested this week serves as an example of the selective enforcement the NYPD has undertaken while carrying out Vision Zero.
At three in the afternoon last Friday, at a crowded corner on the Upper East Side, a van driver making a right turn barreled into a crosswalk, killing 73-year-old Blanca Pagan. While many of the other crashes during the past week have taken place either at night or in sparsely populated locations, this crash was too glaring to ignore. The NYPD charged the driver with failure to yield to a pedestrian and “Failure to Exercise Due Care,” crimes that could be punishable by up to fifteen days in jail.
Much of the possible punishment for these crashes should be coming from the city’s District Attorneys, who, in conjunction with the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad, are charged with piecing together a sequence of events. Often, a family of the deceased has to fight for weeks, or even years, to get the justice system to try to hold drivers responsible, a commitment to giving the benefit of the doubt to drivers that Vision Zero has done nothing to discourage.
Only after months of speaking out did the family of Victoria Nicodemus, who was killed by an SUV driver in Fort Greene last December, finally get the late Brooklyn District Attorney Ken Thompson to indict the driver for second-degree manslaughter. For the family and friends of Matthew Von Ohlen, who have been pushing for the NYPD to make an arrest since Von Ohlen was intentionally struck by an SUV this summer, the wait for action continues.
But without an arrest or citation made at the scene, the hope for any justice for those killed or injured by drivers remains slim.
The Mayor’s Office has not responded to a request for comment.
UPDATE: Austin Finan, a spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, sent us this statement after we published this post: “No death on city streets is acceptable. That’s why we’re stepping up our enforcement against dangerous driving and adding record numbers of bike lane miles to our network this year, 18 of which are fully protected.”