Court Sides with Deceased Cyclist, but Activists Say Vision Zero Progress Too Slow in Coming

A New York court has found a bus driver guilty of a misdemeanor for running over a Citi Bike rider last year. It's small comfort for transportation advocates.

(AP Photo/Jim Mone)

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A court has sided with the cyclist who was killed by a Coach bus while riding a Citi Bike last year, the New York Times reports.

The bus operator, Dave Lewis, was found guilty of failing to yield the right of way, a misdemeanor, and failure to exercise due care, a violation, the Times says. The misdemeanor carries up to 30 days’ jail time, and 15 days’ extra for the violation.

The cyclist, Dan Hanegby, had been wearing headphones when the bus struck him on his Citi Bike. Defense attorneys for Lewis argued that Hanegby had been “completely and totally unaware” of his surroundings. The argument did not convince the judge on the State Supreme Court, a fact that slightly cheered transportation advocates.

“Drivers are rarely held accountable for recklessly taking lives on New York City streets,” Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Times. “All too often, police hastily exonerate drivers while erroneously blaming bicyclists and pedestrians for their own deaths.”

Across the country, a few dozen cities have begun to make good on their Vision Zero pledges, but progress has been painfully — and in many cases fatally — slow. In Washington, D.C., activists are so fed up with what they say is the city’s lack of enforcement of red-light running and speeding that one was moved to create a clock showing the number of days since a traffic death. Chicago has seen 30 pedestrian and 6 cyclist fatalities so far this year, according to Streetsblog, which also reported recently that Denver has seen 16 pedestrian fatalities and four cyclist fatalities this year, as well as the deaths of five motorcyclists and 20 people in cars.

The distressing news comes as many cities are attempting to address the problems, albeit slowly.

New York’s Community Board 7 approved a nonbinding measure to protect existing bike lanes near West 67th Street, the scene of a cyclist’s death in August. The city’s transportation department will now consider the issue.

Philadelphia, which adopted a Vision Zero plan in 2016, has landed a $3-million grant from the state to build a new protected bike lane on Market Street, one of the city’s busiest, Philly magazine reports.

The project will reduce vehicle travel lanes from four to three, adding a protected bike lane in each direction, as well as “floating bus islands” and “pedestrian islands” on Market Street between 2nd and 6th. The area is a hub for major tourist attractions, with the Museum of the American Revolution and the Liberty Bell bookending that stretch of Market. The new funding will help build the proposed lanes but could take up to five years and cost an additional $4 million.

In San Francisco, Mayor London Breed has directed the SFMTA to expedite its bike-lane projects, beginning with a proposed lane on Valencia Street, which the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition called “one of the … most dangerous corridors in San Francisco.” The Mayor has said she wants fully protected bike lanes on a four-block stretch of Valencia in the next four months, “to serve as a pilot to inform changes through the rest of the corridor,” Streetsblog reports.

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Rachel Kaufman is Next City's senior editor, responsible for our daily journalism. She was a longtime Next City freelance writer and editor before coming on staff full-time. She has covered transportation, sustainability, science and tech. Her writing has appeared in Inc., National Geographic News, Scientific American and other outlets.

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Tags: new york cityphiladelphiasan franciscobike-sharebike lanesbike safetyvision zero

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