We trust that his employer will extend the same respect to his family by providing the benefits due to his dependents.
We hope that this incident will highten public awareness of the dangers that all bike messengers face every day. Such an awareness would be a step toward improving our work conditions, enhancing the safety of all urban cyclists, and helping prevent tragic accidents like yesterday's." -offical statement of the NYBMA.
Routine Risk in Midtown Traffic Costs a Bike Messenger His Life
By JAMES BARRON
Published: November 19, 2004
The dance plays out day after day in Manhattan. Big trucks lumber by like circus elephants, pausing when they want, where they want. Bicycle messengers dart around them with moves more daring and more complicated than anything a Balanchine could dream up. A tiny miscalculation, a nanosecond of bad timing, and the dance goes wrong.
Yesterday, a 42-year-old bike messenger tried to slip between a food delivery truck that was double-parked and a police van that was passing it on Eighth Avenue near 49th Street in Midtown. The messenger, whose name was not released by the police, was thrown to the pavement and killed.
What happened in the moment the bicyclist pedaled between the truck and the van was not clear. The two vehicles blocked the view from both sides of the avenue. So even if employees in the hotel or the parking garage on the east side of the street had been watching - which they said they were not - they could not have seen what caused the bicyclist to lose his balance and fall. That left midday crowds to speculate as the police questioned the two food supply employees in the truck and emergency medical workers removed the messenger's body.
The police said that the employee in the passenger seat opened his door, and that the cyclist struck it and fell to the pavement.
But Steve Manning, a vice
president of the food supply company, Vesuvio Foods of Edison, N.J., challenged
that sequence. He said he was told by his employees that the bicyclist first
hit the truck, and was already down when the employee in the passenger seat,
who is known as a helper, opened the door. "Our helper's saying no, he
never opened the door until after the impact," Mr. Manning said, "so
that instead of our door throwing him into the path of the van, it was the van
that threw him into our door."
The police said that an autopsy would be conducted and that they were investigating the accident. The driver of the van received a summons for an equipment violation, the police said last night.
The delivery truck was on a routine run, loaded with eggs, mozzarella, black pepper and carbonated water, among other things, and bound for Ciro Trattoria at 813 Eighth Avenue. The truck stopped in front of the restaurant around 10:40 a.m. Mr. Manning said the driver may have been waiting for a parking space to open up around the corner on 49th Street, where the restaurant has a gate leading to a side door. At the scene, the driver, who would not give his name, said, "The truck was standing still" when the accident occurred.
The police van, which carries prisoners, was empty except for the officer driving it, police officials at the scene said They also said the messenger had been riding with one hand, and carrying coffee and a muffin. Keeping the bicycle under control when the truck's door opened would have been difficult, they said, adding that the police van had nothing to do with the accident.
Other messengers who passed by after the accident said they recognized the red bike and said the rider was a regular in the mailrooms and lobbies that their rounds take them to. They said that when he pulled between the delivery truck and the police van, he was doing what any messenger would do when a double-parked vehicle was on the horizon.
"This is the risk bike messengers take," said Eddie McCormick, a former messenger who now does home renovation and demolition work. "I know. I used to be one. I quit after I almost got run over by a taxi. This guy was following all the rules, going with the traffic, not against the traffic, and look what happened."
By Daryl Khan and Joshua Robin
Newsday, November 19, 2004
A bike messenger was killed yesterday morning when a deliveryman opened a truck door and knocked him down in midtown, police said. But officials from the truck company blamed the accident on a police van they say hit the cyclist and threw him into the truck.
At 10:45 a.m., the messenger, Dell Covington, 42, of Woodhaven, was riding north on Eighth Avenue near 49th Street. He tried to negotiate a narrow space between a double-parked delivery truck and a police prisoner transport van while holding a cup of tea in one hand and a large muffin in the other, police sources said. That's when he slammed into a door opened by one of the deliverymen in the truck, according to the police account.
It's a phenomenon known to bike messengers as "dooring," an unfortunate and common - but not usually fatal - part of life while knifing through the city on a bike.
After the accident, the tea and muffin lay on the street beside him. The cyclist was the 14th killed in the city this year. While police blamed the death on the truck's door, an official from the Vesuvio Foods Co., the company that owns the truck, said his driver says the police van hit the cyclist.
Steve Manning, a Vesuvio vice president, said his drivers did not open the door until after they heard a thump on the side of the truck. They looked out and saw Covington lying in the street, blood pouring from his head, he said.
"His door was shut," Manning said, speaking from his office in Edison, N.J. "He heard an impact on his door - a bang, a clang, a crash. He opened the door and he found a bent up bicycle and a bicyclist lying in the street." According to his driver and his helper, it was the police van moving at a high rate of speed that threw the cyclist into the door. Manning said Vesuvio would continue to investigate.
A police official said that after a thorough investigation by both the Accident Investigation Squad and Internal Affairs, police discovered fresh marks on the truck's passenger door consistent with the dead cyclist's bike. "They went over the PD vehicle and there were no fresh marks on it whatsoever," the official said. "I am confident in the investigation, it was thorough. It appears to be an unfortunate accident caused by the door of the delivery truck."
After three hours of questioning, the police let the drivers make their delivery of Pellegrino water, eggs, oil and vinegar to Ciro Trattoria, a nearby restaurant. Police did not issue a summons for double parking, but did issue a ticket for a slash in one of the trucks tires. The ticket will be squashed if the tire is repaired in 48 hours.
In the wake of the accident, more than a dozen messengers stopped to bear witness to the loss of one of their own. "It's a tight-knit community," Ken Stanek said. "Even though no one really knows this guy it still affects all of us because that could be any one of us."
"They just don't care," said bike messenger Robert Brennon, 32, of the cars and trucks in the city. "It's a dangerous job, man."