New York's Citibike Suffers Its First Fatality

Citibikes at Grand Central

A 36-year-old man is killed and it is not an accident.

For some time we have been writing stories about how safe bike share programs are, with headlines like Ideas why 0 bikers have been killed on bike-sharing bikes, or the question Not a single American has died using a bike share. Why not?

Alas, we cannot write this anymore. Yesterday Dan Hanegby of Brooklyn Heights was killed while riding a Citibike on 26th Street in Manhattan. It is not yet known what actually happened. Police initially blamed the victim, saying that he was "riding between a bus and a parked car outside 250 W. 26th St., near Eighth Avenue, when he lost control of his bike and fell to the street."

This was revised to say that he was "was riding alongside a charter bus on 26th Street near Eighth Avenue when the two collided." The operator of the bus and Hanegby both swerved at the same time to avoid hitting something, causing them to strike each other, according to a police source.

Eyewitness News felt it important to note:

"A man in a suit and tie was killed in what is believed to be New York City's first fatality involving a Citibike Monday...Officials said the 36-year-old cyclist, Dan Hanegby, was riding between a private bus and a parked car when he lost control and was struck by the bus."

The New York Times has yet another version, saying "he swerved to go around a parked van, struck a bus next to him that was traveling in the same direction, tumbled off the bicycle and fell under the bus’s rear tires."

The Bike Snob wonders about this in Transportation Alternatives, noting:

Inasmuch as the victim was a trained athlete, experienced cyclist, and IDF [Israel Defence Forces] sergeant, all of the above accounts imply a sort of haplessness on his part that seems spurious, and at the risk of jumping to conclusions this sounds a lot more like being sideswiped by a speeding bus.

Citibike and the city commented:

“This morning a rider on a Citi Bike bike was involved in a fatal crash,” said company spokeswoman Dani Simons. “Together with the City of New York, we wish to express our heartfelt condolences to the rider’s family and loved ones on this terrible tragedy.”

“The City shares its condolences on this day. Like with all fatalities, we will review the area of the crash,” said Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel.

We do not know what actually happened here and may never know, given the conflicting stories. A year ago we wrote that "differences in bicycle design tend to encourage a slower, more conservative riding behavior among bikesharing users." We also noted that "in dense urban environments with lower roadway speeds and higher levels of pedestrian activity, motorists are more readily looking out for pedestrians and bicyclists." Here we have none of those conditions.

But certainly Doug Gordon has a point: there is room for separated and safer infrastructure here. Buses and bikes don't mix.