Tuesday, November 8

Cyclist Deaths Put NYPD Under Fire

Transportation Alternatives Director Paul Steely White (middle)
and Mathieu Lefevre's family (right) at the press conference
on October 26th. (photo: BikeNYC)
Recent concerns about cyclist safety in Williamsburg were proven justifiable on the evening of October 18th, when another life was cut short on two wheels. 30-year-old local artist Mathieu Lefevre was riding on the corner of Morgan Avenue and Meserole Street when he was fatally struck my a flatbed truck. According to the NYPD, Lefevre was biking next to the truck when it turned right and ran over him. The driver of the truck initially fled the scene - it is unclear whether he was aware of the collision or not - but his identity was discovered two days later when the truck was found unattended a block away from the scene of the accident.

The NYPD’s ultimate decision to not press charges against the driver came as a shock to the victim’s family, who held a press conference on October 26th outside the NYPD headquarters. “We want to know what happened to our son, and the police are not telling us anything,” the victim’s mother, Erika Lefevre said. Paul Steely White, the director of Transportation Alternatives, also spoke at the gathering and expressed concerns towards the police department’s way of handling cyclist accidents. The official statement which NYPD released about October 18’s accident offered a grim conclusion: “There was no criminality involved. That’s why they call it an accident.”

The police department’s dismissive attitude towards the cyclist death is not a unique occurence; since August, four bikers have been killed in Williamsburg but no charges have been pressed in any of the cases. On August 3rd, 29-year-old Robert Doyle was hit by a truck on Metropolitan Ave when he was trying to pass it on his bike. On August 30th, Erica Abbott, also 29, was riding on Bushwick Ave when she hit a pile of construction debris, fell off her bike and was run over by a car. On September 2nd, 24-year-old Nicolas Djandji was fatally struck by an SUV while cycling on Roebling Street. According to investigations, Djandji ran a red light - according to witnesses, however, if Djandji ran a red light then the driver must have too. The drivers were not charged in any of the cases. At the Lefevre press conference on October 26, Transportation Alternatives called driver negligence and NYPD ignorance an epidemic. “The NYPD has consistently failed to file charges against drivers for their lethal behavior,” the director said.

Memorial for Erica Abbott in Brooklyn (photo: Towngrump.com)

Erika Lefevre’s fight for justice for his son has not received a response from authorities so far, but she is not alone in her battle. Transportation Alternatives are approaching the subject fiercely, and a statement released shortly after Mathieu Lefevre’s death showed a plea for change: “The NYPD's blame the victim attitude reveals their disheartening acceptance of traffic violence,” the statement read. TA encourages cycling New Yorkers to take action and contact Police Commissioner Ray Kelly directly with a letter they provide on their website. “Commissioner Kelly, more people are killed in traffic than murdered by guns in New York City,” the letter says and asks Kelly to add more resources to the Accident Investigation Squad and commit to a goal of less - preferably none - cyclist and pedestrian deaths in New York City. NYPD and Commissioner Kelly’s office refused to comment.

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