Hit-and-run trucker goes free because cyclist partly to blame: NYPD

The Brooklyn Paper
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The trucker involved in a hit-and-run that killed a cyclist in Williamsburg escaped prosecution because cops say the bike rider was partly to blame.

The NYPD’s highway division concluded that Bushwick artist Mathieu Lefevre tried to pass a truck on the right at a Morgan Avenue last October, convincing cops they shouldn’t charge the motorist — even though driver Leonardo Degianni wasn’t signalling when he veered into the 30-year-old cyclist, according to police documents.

“The bicyclist is subjected to the vehicle traffic law when there is no marked bicycle lane and should not have been passing on the right while on the one lane roadway,” reads the accident report, which was first published by Streetsblog.

An attorney for the Lefevre family said the NYPD is wrong in blaming the cyclist, characterizing the decision as the latest in a long line police errors including inaccurate documentation of the truck’s direction at the time of the crash and the department’s failure to collect blood samples and other evidence from the scene.

“A cyclist can pass on the right when there is sufficient room to do so,” said lawyer Steve Vaccaro. “In there case, there was sufficient room. This is just one more mistake by the NYPD.”

Cycling advocates have long criticized cops for quickly closing the case and not arresting the driver who struck Lefevre and left the scene. And even though the newly released document blames both the motorist and the cyclist for the crash, the bike boosters say the NYPD’s findings settle nothing.

“The NYPD should not be acting as judge and jury — that’s why we have judges and juries,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Michael Murphy. “By rushing to exonerate deadly drivers and jumping to blame victims like Mathieu Lefevre, the police are essentially telling dangerous drivers that there are no consequences for their lethal behavior.”

The Lefevre family sued police in January to obtain a full accident report and surveillance video from the scene — footage they claim would prove that the cyclist was not at fault.

Cops say they have already disclosed case documents, but the family’s attorney argued that police failed to turn over critical video footage showing the actual moment of the collision — though the NYPD did hand over a file including several photos of the Lefevre family.

Lefevre’s mother, Erika, called for prosecutors to charge the driver at a City Council hearing on traffic safety last month.

“The loss of our son is devastating,” said Lefevre at a hearing. “Our dealings with the NYPD have made that loss even more painful. The NYPD must take traffic crime seriously instead of trivializing it.”

The Brooklyn District Attorney’s office is reviewing the case.

Updated 5:31 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Rob from Williamsburg says:
Get cops on bikes. It's the only way to make things fair for all. Plus- it will increase morale. Seriously. Every precinct should have a dozen or more officers patrolling on bikes.
March 13, 2012, 1:51 pm
manhatposeur from portlyn lakes park says:
Oh now its safe for motorist/truck drivers to run over or kill cyclist and get away scott free.
This is so wrong.
March 13, 2012, 2:23 pm
Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
I wonder what Tal Barzilai of Pleasantville, NY has to say about this.
March 13, 2012, 2:30 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I say another biker who flouted the law came to an unfortunate end due to his own arrogance.
March 13, 2012, 3:39 pm
ty from pps says:
It is not the NYPD job to acquit someone. That is the job of the courts.

Take away the manslaughter charge. What about reckless driving, leaving a scene of an accident, etc. etc. etc.
March 13, 2012, 4:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
First off, I wasn't here at 4:39 PM. Other than that, it's dangerous to pass a truck like that. If there was no room, it shouldn't have been done. Nevertheless, cyclists are required to follow the traffic laws, and this just shows how he could have still been alive had that not been done. BTW, how many cyclists who kill or injure someone stay at the scene at the accident? I would love to see the numbers for that, but I know most of you bike zealots will never show that. Overall, when you put yourself into harm's way, you have pretty much yourself to blame, not someone else for it.
March 13, 2012, 4:27 pm
Daisy says:
Tal it says the driver was not signalling, therefore the cyclist was not in the wrong how would he know the driver would turn if he didnt indicate??!!
The evidence is all there that the driver was in the wrong, how was the cyclist know he was in "harms way"??!!Sounds like you have a bit of an issue with cyclists.
March 13, 2012, 6:47 pm
ty from pps says:
My God, Tal, you are stupid. You have psychological issues. Bad combination. You need to take some time for self-reflection and therapy.
March 13, 2012, 8:51 pm
JHY from BH says:
@Daisy: Basic rules, don't pass on the right...
March 13, 2012, 8:58 pm
Your Teacher from Your Hood says:
"In there case, there was sufficient room."
"In their case, there was sufficient room."
March 14, 2012, 5:59 am
Bob from Harlem says:
Let's grant, for the sake of argument, that Mr. Lefevre was illegally passing on the right at the time of the crash.

Now let's see, truck driver illegally turns without signalling and kills cyclist who was illegally passing on the right. Does that mean that they are both equally at fault? Hardly. The greater burden of responsibility falls on the person who was operating the deadlier piece of machinery. Not to mention, the one who actually killed someone. Imagine a wrong-way driver killed a jaywalker. Would you blame it on the jaywalker?

Plus, even if it had been 100% Mr. Lefevre's fault, running away from the scene of a fatal crash is still a felony.
March 14, 2012, 8:39 am
Brooklynite from Brooklyn says:
Thanks for blaming the victim, Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY. I'm sure Mathieu's friends and loved ones appreciate your commentary.
March 14, 2012, 9:21 am
Paul from Prospect Park says:
I have to disagree with your statement: "The greater burden of responsibility falls on the person who was operating the deadlier piece of machinery". The greater burden of responsibility lies with the party that will be most damaged. The cyclist did not have a chance and I doubt that the truck driver did this on purpose. As Sancho Panza says : "Whether the rock hits the pitcher or the pitcher hits the rock, it's always bad for the pitcher"
March 14, 2012, 9:37 am
Bklynbiker from South Slope says:
Paul, is that a fact of law or rule of the street, or just something you just made up?
March 14, 2012, 9:52 am
Steve from Flushing says:
The truck was making a right turn. According to the VTL
§ 1160. Required position and method of turning at intersections. The driver of a vehicle intending to turn at an intersection shall do so as follows:
(a) Right turns. Both the approach for a right turn and a right turn shall be made as close as practicable to the right hand curb or edge of the roadway or, where travel on the shoulder or slope has been authorized, from the shoulder or slope.

The truck was in position for going straight and did not signal a turn. The bike rider, who is also required to ride as close as practicable to right curb had no reason to suspect truck was making a right turn. Truck was not in as close as practicable to right curb and did not have turn signal on.
March 14, 2012, 9:55 am
Paul from Park Slope says:
Don't know why the hostility towards a simple observation. I notice you did not challenge Bob on a similar observation. Now that the guy is dead, and the incident closed, who bore the greater responsibility?
March 14, 2012, 10:12 am
pete from park slope says:

And the driver ran away-that's a hit-and run;
Why isn't the driver of the truck punished for that?
March 14, 2012, 10:54 am
Bikerman from Brooklyn says:
So, who's up for a few thousand of us circling that district until justice is done?

And thanks, Steve from Flushing. Wish you'd been the judge!
March 14, 2012, 11:35 am
Matt from NYC says:
Rob from Williamsburg you are positively brilliant. Don't forget the massive savings; police cars probably cost more to operate for 24 hours than one police bicycle costs to acquire and operate for a year. Municipalities can have better policing at lower cost.

Everybody wins!
March 14, 2012, 11:41 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Brooklynite, placing one's self into harm's way is NOT blaming the victim. If anything it was really saying that he signed his own death warrant. I would say the same thing for jaywalkers as well. Nevertheless he made within the blind spot of a trucker, who was literally unable to see him when he did that. BTW, do you give any condolences for Stuart Gruskind, who was killed by a messenger cyclist flouting the laws, but you will probably turn a blind eye to that just like any one else who got hit or killed by cyclists. For the record, Streetsblog hardly talks about that, while their Weekly Carnage Report is only about motor vehicles that do accidents, but never one about cyclists who cause similar things or sometimes twisted around to make it go their way.
March 16, 2012, 2:22 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- I really hope you never get run over by a truck and have your head crushed and get dragged down the street.
March 16, 2012, 6:28 pm
Bob from Harlem says:
Tal, the weekly carnage on streetsblog typically reports three or so pedestrians, and sometimes cyclists, killed by motor vehicles. Please go ahead and publish a similar report about pedestrians killed by cyclists. You'd have to publish one issue per decade to have similar numbers. I completely agree that Stuart Gruskin's dead was a tragedy and that it was the cyclist's fault for going the wrong way, but you know perfectly well that there have been exactly zero pedestrian deaths caused by cyclists in the nearly three years since Gruskin's death.

Paul, what a sad way to look at things. By that logic, if someone shoots you and kills you, it's your fault for not wearing a bulletproof vest.
March 16, 2012, 6:42 pm
mike from GP says:
More accurate reporting here:
March 16, 2012, 8:26 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Bob, there may not have been a lot of deaths from bicycles since that event, but it doesn't mean that there weren't a lot of injuries from bicycles going into pedestrians occurring. BTW, cyclists are known for fleeing from a scene numerous times, which is why they should be licensed, registered, and insured, so that they can be found just like other vehicles. The only reason why your kind opposes this is not because of the costs, but because you can no longer get away with it. I still find placing one's self into harm's way a fool's game, but I never said he deserved to die, he just had what was coming when he did that. I do give my condolences to his death, but he would have still been alive today had he not done what lead to his death. As for ty, if that did happen to me, you would probably be happy and have you and your friends probably dance on my grave, which is something I would never do even if it was someone I never liked.
March 17, 2012, 3:57 pm
Other Michael from Park Slope says:

You are embarrassing to your kind.

Go away
March 18, 2012, 4:22 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Other Michael, sometimes the way that Streetsblog covers such accidents is very similar to biased reporting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflicts. I always see a lot of articles condemning the way Israel responds to terrorist attacks and claims that they are killing innocent lives when that is truly false, while at the same time, there is little to no mention when Hamas launches attacks against innocent civilians even though they were gunning for them. This is exactly why I feel that their Weekly Carnage Report is one sided to only their view only. Whenever a cyclist kills or injures someone, it's kept under the rug for the most part or they just give the cyclists that did the crime a slap on the wrist, while any caused by motor vehicles, they demand that the motorist be burned to the stake for what they did.
March 18, 2012, 11:24 am
Mike says:
Tal: When was the last time a cyclist killed someone in NYC?
March 18, 2012, 9:50 pm
Mike says:
Tal: When was the last time a cyclist killed someone in NYC?
March 18, 2012, 9:50 pm
Paul from 11211 says:
Cyclists haven't killed pedestrians, Tal. Many terrorize and injure pedestrians, and many are a nuisance to those who use the streets and sidewalks of New York; but a cyclist has yet to actually kill a pedestrian in New York.
March 20, 2012, 1:14 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Stop with the personal attacks and cyberimposturizations, b/c where I come from they are a hit way below the belt. Back on topic. The majority (although not all) of cyclists remind me of Hamas, flouting the law, terrorizing the majority, yet gaining public sympathy, including the likes of all you here, that always take the side of the biker vs. the trucker. On a side note, bikers wouldn't have bikes to ride if there were no trucks to bring them into the retailers that sell them. Trucks are essential for modern commerce, but bikes are superfluous, dangerous to themselves and to motorized traffic, and generally a drain on public finances. If you want to respond, respond to the issues rather than attacking me personally with debunkable charecter asasingnations. I am personally fed up with all this Hamasing
March 22, 2012, 4:13 pm

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