A 14-year-old cyclist was killed and a 16-year-old cyclist was critically injured in two separate crashes on city streets this weekend.
According to the NYPD, Mario Valenzuela was riding eastbound on Borden Avenue in Long Island City around 2 p.m. on Saturday when he was struck by the driver of a sanitation truck attempting to make a right turn onto 11th Street. The 14-year-old Astoria resident was knocked unconscious by the impact, police said, and was pronounced dead at the scene.
The boy's distraught mother told the NY Post that her son was going to play soccer with his friends at Gantry Plaza State Park. She said the 8th grader loved riding his bike, “liked to feel free, the air go by flying.”
The driver has not been charged. In a statement, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives noted that both Valenzuela and the truck were moving in the same direction when the driver turned into him, "an apparent blatant criminal violation of the right of way law." A spokesperson for the police department said the incident was still under investigation.
The young boy's death marks the 22nd cyclist fatality on city streets this year, more than double the total in all of last year. A majority of this year's fatalities have involved truck drivers. The private carting industry poses a particularly deadly threat to cyclist and pedestrians; between 2010 and 2018, drivers of these trucks were involved in at least 26 fatalities.
City Council legislation introduced earlier this year that could reduce commercial garbage truck traffic by more than 50 percent has not yet been voted on, and does not currently have the support of Mayor Bill de Blasio.
The driver, whose name has not been released, works for Limited Interior Group. According to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, the company received a slew of violations during an inspection last year, including citations for inadequate brakes and operating without a commercial driver's license. Reached by phone, a representative for the company declined Gothamist's request for comment.
The fatal crash occurred on a notoriously dangerous stretch of Borden Avenue, just a few blocks from where 53-year-old cyclist Robert Spencer was killed earlier this year. Local residents had previously requested additional safety improvements on Borden Avenue, but were rebuffed by the Department of Transportation. A DOT spokesperson did not respond to Gothamist's inquiries.
Hours after Valenzuela's death, a 16-year-old cyclist was hit by a driver while riding her bike on Staten Island. She was taken to the hospital in critical condition. The NYPD did not have additional information about the incident.
In a statement, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to accelerate implementation of his Green Wave Plan, and to support Council Speaker Corey Johnson's proposal to build out a network of protected bike lanes.
"Finally, once again we ask Mayor de Blasio: go to the scene of the crash, console Mario’s family and take the steps urgently needed to prevent others from suffering as they do right now," the group said. "Treat the death and suffering like the unacceptable crisis it is.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor's Office did not respond to a request for comment.