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Cyclist Killed By Driver Opening Door In Morningside Heights

The intersection near where Juan Pacheco was fatally doored.
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The intersection near where Juan Pacheco was fatally doored. Google Maps

A cyclist has died of his injuries after being struck by a driver who was opening the door of a parked car in Morningside Heights.

According to an NYPD release, 57-year-old Juan Pacheco was riding his bike east on La Salle Street near Broadway last Friday at around 9:40 p.m., when he was hit by the driver's side door of a parked 2007 Nissan Quest. The driver, a 40-year-old man, remained on the scene. Pacheco, who lived just a few blocks away, died of his injuries on Monday.

An NYPD spokesperson said that no summonses or citations have been issued in the case, but that it is still being investigated by the Collision Investigation Squad.

"Dooring" someone, as it's known in the cycling community, is illegal under state and city law.

Steve Vaccaro, an attorney and safe streets advocate, adds that the city's Right-of-Way law may also apply in the case of a dooring, though he added, "I am not aware of a single instance of a Right-of-Way law to be used in this case."

An NYPD spokesperson said that the department does not keep track of how many cyclists are killed by drivers and passengers who open car doors. Pacheco is the fourth cyclist to be killed in the city in 2018; that number was the same at this point in 2017, a year that eventually saw the deaths of 26 cyclists, an increase of 44 percent from 2016.

In 2012, a judge tossed out the conviction of a driver who opened her car door and killed cyclist Krystal Francis, on a technicality.

Vaccaro says that the NYPD is reluctant to issue Right-of-Way tickets to people who injure cyclists with car doors because of a "fundamental misunderstanding by the police about the rights of cyclists to travel with the flow of traffic."

"Police officers think that it's just as much the fault of the cyclist as of the doorers, which is not the law," Vaccaro said. "I don't think police officers are taught the law about opening doors unsafely."

In an attempt to reduce dooring incidents, the DOT in 2012 issued tens of thousands of decals to cabbies that urged taxi passengers to "LOOK!" before opening their doors. And for cyclists, Bicycling Magazine has some defensive safety tips for traveling in the "door zone."

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