This post has been updated with the victim's name and other information.
Aurilla Lawrence, a 25-year-old bicycle messenger, was fatally struck by a truck driver in Williamsburg on Thursday night. The driver fled the scene, police said, and had not been located as of Friday evening.
Lawrence was riding eastbound on Broadway near Rodney Street at 11:30 p.m. last night, when a gas tank truck driver struck her and drove off, according to authorities. She was pronounced dead at the scene.
Known to friends as "Aurilla Gorilla," Lawrence was part of a tight-knit community of bike messengers, many of whom remembered her as a warm-hearted confidante and fiercely committed rider. On Friday evening, fellow couriers gathered under the Marcy Avenue J/M station to pay respects in front of a makeshift memorial and newly-erected ghostbike.
New followers probably don’t know I worked in a NYC bike shop for years. Last night bike messenger Aurilla Lawrence aka Aurilla Gorilla was killed by a driver who fled the scene. Last time I saw her was smiling in the streets in summer. https://t.co/kjXWBxOYro
— Aaron Stewart-Ahn (@somebadideas) March 1, 2019
"She inspired me. She could be soft and friendly, but she wouldn't take shit from anyone," recalled Kelsey, a friend who said she'd been riding with Lawrence for years. "There are so few woman bike messengers and we do our best to stick together. She was so fucking tough."
Carolina Ruiz, an Alphabet City resident, told Gothamist that she'd run into Lawrence on the Williamsburg Bridge just hours before her death. "I got to talk to her for a minute and give her a big hug," said Ruiz. "I told her to come to East River Bar later, but she never showed up."
Ruiz added, "She was the type of person who made friends with everyone. She was the baddest woman I ever met."
Toni Rodriguez, another bike messenger, said he'd known Lawrence was the victim of the crash even before her name was released, because he recognized her bike from a photo published in the Daily News. "We were just talking yesterday," he told Gothamist. "I saw the bike and I thought, 'That’s Aurilla.' I couldn't believe it."
Several people in attendance Friday expressed anger at the NYPD for their habit of ticketing cyclists after fatal crashes, and about the way Lawrence's death was covered in the press; multiple outlets reported that police were still determining whether the truck driver had realized he'd hit the cyclist.
"My first thought, unfortunately, is that [the NYPD] were going to find a way to make this her fault," said Carla N, a former bike messenger. "She's not a cat, she's a person. You don't just run over a person and not realize it."
Mario Sepulveda, another close friend of the victim, echoed the frustration, adding: "If you get hit at 25 miles-per-hour, there's a very good chance you'll live. But people don't drive the speed limit, and the cops end up ticketing us when it's them who are careless...Lawrence didn't ride crazy like that."
— Kelsey Leigh (@kelsey_leighv) March 1, 2019
The tragedy marks at least the fifth cyclist to be killed this year—compared to 10 cyclist deaths in all of 2018—and the fourth to be killed in Brooklyn. Cyclist injuries appear to up as well: according to data maintained by NYPD, there have been 379 cyclist injuries in 2019, compared to 351 at this point last year.
The stretch of Broadway near the Williamsburg Bridge has long been a dangerous corridor for pedestrians and cyclists. An analysis released last summer by the website Localize.city found that Williamsburg had the highest number of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists in the city; a more recent report found that three of the city's most dangerous intersections for cyclists were in the vicinity of the Williamsburg Bridge.
While the Department of Transportation was expected to make a number of street safety upgrades to the area ahead of the L train shutdown, it's unclear whether those improvements will go forward under the revised plan.
In a statement, Transportation Alternatives Interim Director Marco Conner noted: “Broadway, which lacks protected bike lanes, is far from ideal for traveling on two wheels. When a driver makes one bad move on a street like Broadway, where there's no room for error, people die. This is the sad reality of biking in New York City in 2019. “
“But it doesn't have to be this way," Conner added. “We're calling on Mayor de Blasio to direct his Department of Transportation to guarantee a safe route for all New Yorkers who bike by building out a true, connected network of protected bike lanes with an accelerated timeline for doing so, with a priority on the areas which will be most heavily impacted by the forthcoming L Train service disruptions."
We've reached out to the Mayor's Office, and we'll update if we hear back.