A 31-year-old cyclist died yesterday from injuries she sustained after she was run over by a box truck driver in the East Village last week. The victim, Kelly Hurley, is one of four cyclists who’ve been killed by drivers on New York City’s streets this year so far.
According to police, Hurley, a SoulCycle instructor, was biking north in the bike lane on First Avenue early on the morning of April 5 when a box truck driver, also traveling north on First Avenue, made a left turn onto East 9th Street and struck Hurley.
Hurley, who police say had the right-of-way, was crushed under the front wheels of the truck. The driver, a 59-year-old man who remains unidentified, stayed on the scene as the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad investigated the crash, but he was not charged with failure to yield, or failure to exercise due care, or any other crime.
“The crash happened in one of the so-called mixing zones where drivers are allowed to make careful left turns from First Avenue as cyclists are going straight through intersections with the green light,” explained Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives.
Instead of cracking down on drivers making illegal left turns, the NYPD reacted as it often has following such fatalities — by going on a ticket blitz against cyclists. According to reports from bicyclists, NYPD officers were giving out tickets on First Avenue to cyclists riding through red lights at streets where traffic had been closed off.
As for the driver, the NYPD tells the Voice that highway patrol officers confirmed he was “not intoxicated” at the time of the accident but could not identify how they determined that. The department also said that the crash was “still under investigation.”
In Sunnyside, a cyclist was killed on April 1 after a drunk driver struck him and then fled the scene. Police found the driver hours later, still drunk and covered in vomit. They charged the driver with DWI, driving without a license, and with refusing to take a breathalyzer, but no charges related to killing the cyclist, 32-year-old Gelasio Reyes.
At the very same intersection in Sunnyside (43rd Avenue and 39th Street), just ten days later, on April 11, a box truck driver struck another cyclist as he was trying to make a right turn. The cyclist is still hospitalized. The driver was arrested and charged with failure to yield to a bicyclist and failure to exercise due care.
This morning, Queens councilman Jimmy Van Bramer took the city to task for failing to change the intersection where at least seven crashes involving cyclists have happened since 2014.
“Two cyclists have been killed or seriously injured at this intersection in ten days. This is not where we need to be when it comes to realizing Vision Zero,” the councilman said in a statement following the second crash.
While the city has added new laws designed to punish reckless driving and hold the actual perpetrators of collisions accountable (and not the victims), advocates say that without the NYPD actually enforcing the laws, and the Department of Transportation making substantive changes to how New York City traffic operates, cyclist deaths will continue to mount.
“Though the Right of Way Law has made such lawless turns a misdemeanor, and has helped reduce casualties, it cannot by itself guarantee that hurried, distracted drivers will yield,” Steely White said. “The solution is to systematically change traffic signals citywide so that cyclists and pedestrians are given their own signal phase that is fully protected from turning motorists.”