Last Tuesday, 30 year-old artist Mathieu Lefevre was killed by a truck while riding his bike in East Williamsburg. The driver left the scene. When he was finally tracked down by the police, the driver claimed that he didn’t see Mathieu and was not aware that he had hit anyone. It looks like the driver has been exonerated and will not face any charges. Meanwhile, the NYPD has been much less than forthcoming with any details about the incident, even with the victim’s family, who flew in from Canada a week ago and have been trying to find out what exactly happened.
There was a rally today in front of 1 Police Plaza to call on Mayor Bloomberg and police commissioner Ray Kelly to show leadership in curbing the near daily carnage that happens in the streets. Paul Steely White of Transportation Alternatives spoke about the prevailing attitude of the NYPD in regards to traffic fatalities: “Accidents happen.” The fact is, many of these “accidents” are the direct result of dangerous and sometimes illegal driving. White pointed out that a car collision is the only way you can kill someone in New York City where “I didn’t see him” is a perfectly acceptable excuse.
Bike Snob addressed this same attitude in a recent typically on-point post:
It’s fascinating how readily we’ve come to accept this notion that we must have respect for a car’s “power,” as though it’s some force of nature beyond all human control. Sure, someone who goes into the wilderness, starts poking grizzlys with a stick, and then gets eaten should maybe have a little more respect for the power of the bear, but that’s a different scenario. Oddly though, if a bear is just doing its bear thing and kills somebody we’ll go out of our way to destroy the bear. Yet if a human being kills somebody with a car we just charge them $42 and blame the victim.So why is this? Why does something made by human hands that we pay lots of money for and register with the government and obtain a license in order to operate suddenly become this unstoppable beast once it’s out on the open road? And more importantly, why are we so accepting of this, as though it’s an inevitability, and as though it’s common sense that a human being in a car should be afforded all manner of privileges and protections that another human being is not, and that everybody else should just get out of the way?
Today’s rally was attended by Mathieu’s parents, friends and family. Mathieu’s mother also addressed the media, eloquently describing her frustration with the fact that the police seems to have divulged more information to the media than to the family of the victim. There is something very wrong when a grief-stricken mother is stone-walled by the NYPD in trying to find out the circumstances of her son’s death.
There needs to be real leadership on this issue from the city. The goal should not be to vilify drivers in every incident, but traffic fatalities must not continue to be treated as “just another accident”. There needs to be serious scrutiny of every incident, and enforcement of laws on dangerous/negligent driving that are already on the books. And there should certainly be someone from the NYPD responsible for paying victim’s families a bare modicum of respect by being forthright and responsive about what actually happened.