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Rash Of Cyclist Deaths Ties 2019 Death Toll With 2018 Total

Bloody medical materials left in the street after Saturday's crash.
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Bloody medical materials left in the street after Saturday's crash. Jake Offenhartz/Gothamist

Three cyclists are dead after drivers struck them in separate incidents in Brooklyn this week, in Crown Heights, Borough Park, and Marine Park.

According to the NYPD, 22-year-old Kenichi Nakagawa was biking south on Brooklyn Avenue around 5:20 p.m. on Saturday. Police say the light at the intersection with Dean Street changed from green to red as Nakagawa approached, and investigators say he was in the intersection when he was he was truck by the driver of a Toyota Sienna heading east on Dean Street.

Police say the unnamed 66-year-old motorist had the right of way when he hit Nakagawa, who was transported to Kings County Hospital in critical condition.

Nakagawa succumbed to his injuries on Tuesday. The driver, who stayed on the scene, has not been charged.

The NYPD did not provide details on the driver's speed at the time of the collision, and told Gothamist that the department has not obtained video footage from the crash.

On Wednesday evening, the driver of a car parked on 17th Avenue, near 53rd Street in Borough Park, opened the door as 16-year-old Yisroel Schwartz was riding toward it around 5:30 p.m. According to police, Schwartz swerved out of the way, but not far enough: The door knocked him off his bike and into the path of an oncoming van. The van's driver did not stop in time to avoid hitting Schwartz, who was subsequently pronounced dead at Maimonides Hospital.

A third cyclist, Robert Sommer, died when a car hit him as he crossed Avenue U in Marine Park on Sunday. All told, 10 cyclists have died in the first five months of 2019 alone—the same number of bike fatalities reported in all of 2018.

In a statement, Transportation Alternatives Senior Director of Advocacy Thomas DeVito pointed to that figure as proof that the mayor's Vision Zero plan to end traffic injuries and fatalities "is in a state of emergency."

"It is abundantly clear that the scattershot, one-off approach to Vision Zero has reached a point of diminishing returns, and New Yorkers are dying as a result," DeVito said. He called for a "new" and more expedient approach to infrastructural redesigns that do not prioritize drivers, but instead make streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians with "a complete network of protected bike lanes," improved lighting on corners, and more aggressive policing of the kinds of reckless driving practices at play in Wednesday's fatality.

While it is illegal to "door" a cyclist, the city does not often ticket drivers under the Right-of-Way law, although according to attorney Steve Vaccaro, it could. "Police officers think that it's just as much the fault of the cyclist as of the doorers, which is not the law," Vaccaro previously told Gothamist. "I don't think police officers are taught the law about opening doors unsafely."

The NYPD also has a history of inaccurately attributing blame in cyclists' traffic deaths—Dan Hanegby's; Lauren Davis's; James Gregg's; Jack Koval's—to the bike riders' own actions, rather than drive negligence. Although no arrests have been made in any of the aforementioned cases, the investigations are reportedly ongoing.

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