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One year after Lefevre’s death, what has changed?

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The dangerous conditions that led to the death of cyclist Mathieu Lefevre remain as hazardous now as they were one year ago today, when a hit-and-run driver killed the 30-year-old artist and ignited a street safety movement that sought to change the city’s traffic enforcement culture.

Lefevre’s death sparked outcry from his family and cyclists citywide, who claim the NYPD botched the initial investigation and stonewalled them in their quest to find out what exactly happened and how the trucker who ran him over while making a right turn on Meserole Street from Morgan Avenue — then left the scene — only received a couple of traffic summonses for the fatal collision.

One year later, Lefevre’s mother is still asking the same questions she did when she received news of her son’s death.

“My family would like to know what actually did happen that night on that street,” said Erika Lefevre. “We have the right to have that information.”

The investigation

The crash cast a spotlight on the NYPD’s accident investigation squad — but despite widespread criticism, police continue to pursue traffic cases much the same as they did before, according to Lefevre family lawyer Steve Vaccaro.

The family and their attorney have blasted police for incorrectly telling the press that Lefevre ran a red light, wrongly reporting the direction the trucker was headed, and failing to collect crucial evidence, including photos of the cyclist’s blood and bike paint from the front bumper, because accident investigators used a broken camera.

The 19-detective unit took heat from publications ranging from transit blogs to the New York Times for being understaffed and appearing unable or unwilling to investigate collisions between motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians “if there is not ‘a likely to die,’ or a death.”

Councilman Steve Levin (D–Williamsbu­rg) introduced two traffic-taming bills and three resolutions in the aftermath of Lefevre’s death — one of which would dramatically increase the number of trained accident investigators by putting five such cops in every precinct.

But none of that legislation has become the law yet.

“We are working on this diligently and daily,” said Levin. “It is a lengthy process.”

Activists say the NYPD has not altered its approach to traffic investigations, its allocation of resources, or its commitment to address such serious accidents.

And in a city where traffic collisions cause more deaths than guns, records indicate that some precincts have gone months without issuing a single speeding ticket.

“I do not believe the NYPD is committed to addressing this issue; they’ve given no evidence of it,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D–Park Slope).

The NYPD did not return requests for comment on this article.

The documents

The Lefevre family fought hard for access to case records — but their battle has done little to change the NYPD’s approach to records disclosure.

Police initially refused to provide detailed information about the case to Lefevre’s family and denied a Freedom of Information Law request filed by them, until the victim’s relatives sued the department in December.

The NYPD eventually released the information, quashing their suit, though a judge recently said police had “needlessly delayed handing over the documents and other materials.”

The family also has a civil suit pending against the truck driver, the company that employed him, and its owner, and they remain hopeful that an investigation by the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office will shed more light on their son’s death.

Levin’s Lefevre-inspired legislation would, among other things, call on the NYPD to file more thorough reports for all accidents involving motor vehicles and cyclists. But that legislation remains in the works.

The streets

The roadway where Lefevre lost his life looks much as it did just after midnight on Oct. 19, 2011, when a trucker failed to signal before turning into the passing cyclist. And bike boosters say it’s just as dangerous.

Transportation advocates argue that industrial areas with growing residential populations — such as Bushwick and East Williamsburg — are only getting more hazardous as drivers compete with an influx of pedestrians and cyclists.

Earlier this month, rock band drummer Terrence Connor was struck and killed by a hit-and-run motorist while biking on a similarly industrial stretch of Metropolitan Avenue about ten blocks away.

“In that neck of the woods, trucks are driving as if the road belonged to them — because it used to,” said Juan Martinez, the general counsel for Transportation Alternatives. “What are we going to do about these types of neighborho­ods?”

There are no plans to put a bike lane on Morgan Avenue or Meserole Street.

The aftermath

Lefevre’s legacy lives on one year after the crash, both through the art the Edmonton-native created — which is currently on display in a memorial at Galerie Division in Montreal opening today — and through the street safety activism his death sparked.

“Mathieu’s tragic death helped to galvanize a movement for these changes,” said Lander. “I do hope that a year from now we’ll be able to point to not just a movement, but concrete systemic changes.”

But for now, the only tangible change brought on by the horrific accident is that cyclists are well aware the cards are stacked against them, said the Lefevre family’s lawyer.

“What’s occurred is that families of crash victims have learned that you can’t just sit back and assume that the police are going to investigate crashes,” said Vaccaro.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.
Updated 9:15 am, October 20, 2012
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Reasonable discourse

T from Slope says:
Nothing has changed. Thanks for this sensitive look into Mathieu's death and the NYPD's indifference.
Oct. 19, 2012, 6:34 pm
Rick from Pk Slope says:
I feel terrible that anyone would be killed while riding a bike....But I do alot of driving all around Brooklyn and I would say 99.9% of bikers do not STOP for RED lights. Can some biker refute this or tell me why cyclists do not STOP for Red lights? I love to hear your side of this behavior of not stopping for Red lights.
Oct. 20, 2012, 1:45 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
mike from GP
Good luck with that. I've been posting here for years. Much longer that than the months ago both of you moved here from Ohio. Family in Brooklyn since before the revolution. Time to move back to CuldeSackie transplant.
Oct. 20, 2012, 5:30 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
BTW transplants,
Did our Fauxhimion Artist pass 2 vehicles , on the right, at night, without a helmet, dressed in black, after a night of drinking or not? Yes or no? Oh, another transplant without an answer. Silence from the hipster contingent.
Oct. 20, 2012, 5:35 pm
Jo from Park Slope says:
Whoopie damn do, Swamp yankee. Who care how long you've lived in Brooklyn. My family has been here 150 years. Who cares? Hardly a sign of virtue. You are pathetic and a bore. Get a life.
Oct. 20, 2012, 5:38 pm
T from Slope says:
What is wrong with the Brooklyn Paper's comment section? What a degenerate person.
Oct. 20, 2012, 7 pm
BrianVan from Gramercy says:
The problem with the comments section here is that Brooklyn Paper, most days of the week, intentionally cultivates the level of conversation present here, even though this one particular article expresses far more thoughtfulness and empathy than the usual "Mean Streets" coverage here. You can thank Gersh Kuntzman for creating this environment from both the editorial side (as the previous editor who directs the coverage) and from the technical side (as an executive at the network who oversees online comments that are more abuse than comments).

But I'm willing to forget all of it if they'd just write more articles like this and be more diligent at letting the trolls know they're not welcome here. There are lives at stake, and this is a bigger problem for the citizens of NYC than most things that newspapers fixate on. The majority political support exists to make the changes necessary to make streets safer (and enforcement more strict), and the newspapers need to stop pandering to people obsessed with self-righteousness and free parking.
Oct. 20, 2012, 7:48 pm
mike from GP says:
Thank you, Eli Rosenberg, for this article.
Oct. 21, 2012, 7:49 am
Avi from Park Slope says:
I've been living in Brooklyn for 5000 years, right around the time scott from park slope started throwing minorities out of their homes so he & his family could live with other untalented, whining,useless,racist, anti-semitic, black-frame glass wearing pigs. Scott is known for his virulent anti-semitic nazism, hatred of African-Americans & boasting of committing a hipster kristallnacht on both of those defenseless communities. Let him wallow in his unimportant self-importance. Like Hitler, he is desperate for attention & will continue to spew the big lie until all of his ilk are in line.
Oct. 21, 2012, 12:50 pm
SwampYankee from ruined Brooklyn says:
Will no one defend Mathieu Lefevre's ART?

Everybody has something to say about my posts but not a single one of you can defend his art. Will no one defend Mathieu Lefevre? Please tell me why this is art?

http://www.angellgallery.com/artists/?work=1864
Oct. 21, 2012, 4:29 pm
Chris O'Leary from Bushwick says:
SwampYankee, you are a pathetic human being. This is an article about someone's death, and the bungled NYPD investigation of a blatant hit-and-run. The same way this truck driver cowardly drove off after killing Lefevre, you cowardly hide behind an anonymous username so you can make outlandish ad-hominem attacks that disrespect the dead.

Seek some psychological help, because you obviously need it.

And Jesus Christ, can we please find a way confiscate the computers of people who feel the need to comment like this? Or at least ban them from making comments? They're obviously sick in the head.
Oct. 22, 2012, 8:45 am
F from Brooklyn says:
Shame on The Brooklyn Paper for not moderating comments that call for violence against other humans. You have the ability to ban people by IP address, so do it.
Oct. 22, 2012, 9:33 am
Mordicai from Brooklyn says:
"You agree not to post any abusive, obscene, vulgar, slanderous, hateful, threatening or sexually-oriented material or any material that may violate applicable law; doing so may lead to the removal of your post and to your being permanently banned from posting to the site."

Two words: Ban SwampYankee.

Or is that three words? Either way.
Oct. 22, 2012, 9:55 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Matt drew nice straight lines. He glued nice stuff on canvas.

How's he selling?

There! That's nice isn't it!
Oct. 22, 2012, 10:48 am
Ben from Greenpoint says:
one think has been change more crazy careless bikers on the streets....way to many.....
Oct. 22, 2012, 12:09 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Before I get into why I think you should not look a gift horse in the mouth, I want to state that I wish Ty and his aliases would stop imposturizing me on this website. I say this b/c I find myself always reading stuff that I puportedly wrote yet I can put myself at another place at that time. Again, I have stated my claim, and things such as Article 23 of the FEIS, on the claim that rebuilding the Twins is still an active option on the table, and Women's Baskettball Online, for WNBA attendance figures, are not things that I just came up with one day let alone write those myself, these are figures that support my claim unlike others who just repeat what they already mentioned or act very defensive. Their result is that if they can't disproove me, they demand that my statements be censored, and threaten a ban if I try to appeal my case. As for some streetsbloggers like Ty, he slammed my with the most offesnive replies that I won't reapeat, and called me a conspirator despite the fact that I have prooven my claim with actual facts. Maybe he goes by that name b/c he is known to explode when he gets mad, which is what happens to hydrogen gas when exposed to fire. Another forumer that wasn't very respecting was Other Michael who is known for making a policy that all arguments must only be from those living in Brooklyn, and he had deleted posts and locked threads that didn't adhere to that pointless rule that created the artificial barrier on valid arguments from outsiders. I did hear that Ty hasn't been posting on Streetsblogger since the section was taken when he was the mod of that section, which I found similar to how Adolph Hitler to became the next chancellor of Germany. There are even other fourmers on streetsblogger and brooklynpaper who are very defensive when it comes to bike lane projects and defend them like exterme nationalist. I tend to think of them as if they were pointing a gun in that they want us to think like them or get shot instead. Back to the issue. While I send out my condolences to the family of the deceased, the body of evidence suggests that his death was entirely his own fault due to carelessness. Let this be a warning to all those streetsblogging zealouts who think they own the road. I can't help but think most problems would be solved if bikers would only stick to parks and get off the streets intended for the motorist majority.
Oct. 22, 2012, 2:39 pm
ty from pps says:
That is one of the most mentally unstable comments I've read in a long long long time... I *really* hope this is one of Tal's "imposturizers" because, otherwise, he really needs some help.
Oct. 22, 2012, 6:46 pm
Jon from Manhattan says:
I will defend Mathieu, he actually was wearing his helmet if you followed the case in the wall street journal and all articles at the start of this tragedy said the strangest part of all is that NYPD would not give the family his helmet, also you can clearly see a light on his bike in the video, next if you followed the case you know that NYPD originally said Mathieu ran a red light but that was later proven to be untrue, he was riding on the right and there is a law in NY that says you can go on the right when there is room for 2 lanes of traffic, and there was ample room if you look at the video, the driver also didn't signal and did not exercise due care. Just because his art is different than most is no reason to bash it as not art, it's unique and different from any other artist, that's the idea as an artist is to stand out and not be like the rest and that's what he does!
Oct. 23, 2012, 10:01 am
beth from greenpoint says:
Hey Rick, just wanted to address your question. I am a cyclist, and I sometimes run red lights. Now, I never BLOW through them, so I can't speak to that behavior... bc I don't support it and do not consider it safe, respectful cycling. But I do sometimes slow down for reds and then proceed when the street is clear, and also proceed through a red after stopping, again when I know things are clear. I do this for a few reasons:

1. I am safer ahead of traffic rather than next to it. Too many times when I have stopped at a red and then started going on a green, the car to my left will attempt an unsignalled right turn in front of, or into me, because they are not looking out for me -- even though I am in a bike lane and 100% following traffic laws. If I can get ahead of that danger by a little bit, everyone is safer.

2. When bikes stop at reds, it takes them longer than cars to speed back up. It's important to keep a decent speed on your bike if only because drivers get VERY ANGRY if you're not going quickly enough and they perceive you to be slowing them down. Just this morning I was in my bike lane after a red light, and I was on the receiving end of some serious road rage after the lady driving in the lane to the left of me wanted to make a right turn which she felt like I was blocking because I was not going at the same speed as her car was. If I had been going more quickly I wouldn't have "gotten in her way" and I wouldn't have been at (the same) risk of her hitting me. But my speed was pretty slow because I had just stopped. This speed issue becomes much more serious when there ISN'T a bike lane, because as a bike you are more likely to be "blocking" faster car traffic -- even though we both have the right to be on the road.

I could continue the list but those two points feel like they suffice for now! Basically for me when I run reds, it is generally to keep me safer --- since I am not inside a vehicle I have to be way more vigilant about my personal safety.
Oct. 26, 2012, 3:34 pm
Hugo Furst from Bay Ridge says:
Translation of Beth:

"I make up the rules as I go. I get indignant that the rest of the world doesn't understand me. I'm a good person in my mind."

Visit Beth here: http://ghostbikes.org/
Oct. 26, 2012, 6:35 pm

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