A cyclist says he was struck by an off-duty MTA worker while riding through Park Slope last week—and the driver then slapped his phone out of his hands multiple times, pushed him, and left the scene of the incident. "I didn't want anything from the guy, I was just trying to tell him to use his mirrors before he switches lanes, but this incident happened," cyclist Courtney Francis said. "I'm grateful the worst that happened to me was a broken bike and a cracked iPhone screen, but it could have been worse."
Francis, 22, says the incident happened on July 24th, around 5:40 p.m., as he was biking near 8th Avenue and Garfield Place in Park Slope. "This man was making a left turn and didn't see me," Francis, an East Flatbush resident, told Gothamist. "He cuts me off, I flip over his car and ask why would you do that, then he starts cursing, saying it wasn't his fault and he tried to leave." He started recording the second the man got out of his car: "To be honest, I took out my phone out of fear."
"When I tried to stop him, he pushes and slaps my phone out my hand," he said, which is what you can see in the first part of the clip below. Francis says the man slapped his phone out of his hand 4-5 times, "repeatedly slamming it to the ground trying to stop my from getting his plate." While doing so, he was "making the gesture to punch but not actually striking."
Francis says they had a back-and-forth for about five minutes "where he [kept] pushing and trying to fight me, but I [kept] my cool as I'm just trying to stay in one piece and he eventually gets tired of harassing me and hops in the car to take off." You can see the driver flee the scene in the second part of the video below.
Police and paramedics arrived soon after. Francis says he suffered scrapes and bruises in the incident; he later went to a clinic "for some whiplash and a minor headache. My doctor recommended I do an MRI for the headaches but I don't think it's that serious." He has filed a police report, and turned his videos over to the NYPD. Leaving the scene of a crash is a misdemeanor.
Since he reported the crash, Francis discovered the car is registered to the driver's partner, not the driver: "So he's home free and my insurance has to pick up the tab."
Francis added, "I sent this in because 17 cyclists died this year already and I could have been the 18th."
Since Francis first contacted us, an 18th cyclist has died: the 30-year-old victim was killed in Sunset Park on Monday morning, after she was hit by a truck driver while attempting to avoid being doored by a parked car. There have now been eight more cyclist deaths this year than the total deaths in all of 2018, and the highest year-to-date total since Vision Zero launched five years ago.
In response to the string of tragedies, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled a new plan last week aimed at protecting cyclists. The initiative will accelerate the installation of protected bike lanes and increase enforcement at deadly intersections—particularly those where cyclists are often forced to mix with trucks.
Last month, the MTA said it was investigating an off-duty bus driver who was allegedly driving drunk when he nearly collided with a cyclist in Fort Greene.
Update 4:40 p.m.: MTA spokesperson Shams Tarek said in a statement that the MTA is investigating the matter with the NYPD: "This is a very disturbing video and while we don’t know who this person is or whether they’re an MTA employee, this is under investigation and we will continue to work closely with the NYPD to get the facts."