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Recent SVA graduate and filmmaker, Derek Lake, was the bicyclist killed by a truck at Houston Street and Laguardia yesterday. And while initial witness accounts pointed to Lake trying to squeeze between a truck and construction site, Transportation Alternatives says that a metal construction plate, a familiar site along gutted Houston Street, may have had something to do with the accident. From their press statement (PDF):

The metal street plate is in violation of the City DOT’s “Highway Rules” governing the specifications for construction plating in the street.

Specifically, the plate is not “sufficiently ramped to provide smooth riding and safe condition,” nor does it have “a skid resistance surface equal to or greater than the
adjacent existing street or roadway surface” (NYC Department of Transportation Highway Rules, Section 2-11 (e 10)).

In addition to not having the required skid-proof surface and ramping, the 2-inch high street plate was partly covered with loose gravel and construction debris. These violations may have caused the cyclist to slip and fall into the path of the truck that fatally struck him.

Lake was "crushed beneath the wheel of a tractor trailer" yesterday morning. Another truck driver saw the accident and said Lake did "wobble" on the plate before going under the truck, telling the NY Times, "The bike went right, and he went left." Another driver told the Daily News, "The bike was shaking. He lost control and he fell down into the big truck. [The truck] was going like 5 MPH."

Seven other mismatched metal plates were found last night. It's unclear what the Department of Transportation will do, but we hope its inspectors will be on Houston and taking note of all roads with metal plates on them.

Lake's father said, "Our understanding is that this is a terrible, terrible accident....He was an artistic young man at the beginning of his life and the beginning of his career. Very dedicated to his film." Lake's senior thesis film, San Penitence, was about American soldiers during World War II.

Photograph from Transportation Alternatives