EAST VILLAGE — The NYPD's Collision Investigation Squad plans to recommend charges against the truck driver who fatally struck 31-year-old cyclist Kelly Hurley at the corner of First Avenue and East Ninth Street, according to the unit's commanding officer.
The squad, which investigates collisions to determine causation and possible criminality, has reviewed video footage of the April 5 collision that resulted in Hurley's death and plans to recommend the Manhattan District Attorney charge the 59-year-old box truck driver who plowed into Hurley as she attempted to ride through a green light at the intersection.
The investigation is still ongoing, and ultimately the District Attorney's office will determine whether the driver faces criminal charges, but the squad will do its best to hold him accountable, said Lieutenant Brian Reynolds at Tuesday's Ninth Precinct community council meeting.
"It’s very tragic. I can only promise you that myself and my detectives will ensure that if we can hold the driver accountable, we will, but a thorough investigation has to get done first," said Lieutenant Reynolds.
"My own opinion is, I’m going to be recommending the driver be held accountable," he continued. "I can’t explain to you exactly what it’s going to be right now, but after what I’ve seen, he’s going to be held accountable, at least on my end from my office."
Reynolds said it was too soon to say what charges exactly the truck driver would face, though the squad has been evaluating whether the driver failed to yield.
"I have to confront the DA, we both have to be on the same page," he said. "I have my own recommendations, [but that] doesn’t mean the DA will be on board with that."
Reynolds also clarified comments made Monday by an NYPD spokesman who had said Hurley slipped off her bike prior to the collision. Hurley had intentionally dismounted the bike in an attempt to avoid the truck, Reynolds said.
"Ms. Hurley tried her best to avoid the truck, but unfortunately she couldn't," he said. "She put the bike down and slid underneath the truck, and the rear tires landed on top of her."
Bike advocates were outraged by the NYPD's handling of the fatal crash, which so far has led to the driver only being charged with failure to have a side mirror, particularly after the Ninth Precinct's officers began ticketing cyclists near the intersection shortly after Hurley's death.
The precinct's commanding officer, Captain Vincent Greany, addressed the criticism that his officers had been writing tickets to bicyclists, saying more summonses had been issued to motorists in the same spot.
There were 29 summonses issued to cyclists at First Avenue and East Ninth Street during the most recent recent 28 day period — 26 for running red lights — compared to 52 summonses for cars there — 10 of which were for failing to yield, nine for improper turns, seven for not wearing seatbelts, and three for running red lights, he said.
Greany also blamed "mixing zones" like the one where Hurley suffered fatal injuries for creating problems because drivers are permitted to turn left on a green light — directly into the same lane where cyclists in a bike lane also have the light.
"It's an area where anybody that makes a left turn is allowed to make the left turn. It’s almost impossible to see a bicyclist in the mirror, sometimes in a blind spot, unless you physically turn your head and look back," he said, prompting an outcry from the small crowd, before clarifying that drivers must yield to pedestrians and cyclists and that his officers do crack down on lawless motorists.
"That's one of the big things we do target — the left hand turns are being addressed, the fail to yields," he said.
In addition to enforcement, Greany said the Ninth Precinct would "push a lot more education" about how to operate safely at the intersections.
"If we see the causation of accidents are continuous fail to yields, we will go out there and write more fail to yield summonses and we’ll go out there to continue to press the education part of it and see if there are any recommendations that we can make to pass on to DOT," he said.
Cycling advocates had criticized the intersection as unsafe after Hurley's death, calling the mixing zone — which allows cars to make left turns as cyclists travel through the green light — a "deadly traffic signal design flaw."
The Department of Transportation had disputed the claim that the design was to blame for Hurley's death, noting the truck driver had turned from the right most lane and cut across several lanes of traffic. But officials said they would look into bike intersection upgrades.