Last weekend, the New York Times printed an Op-Ed provocatively titled “Is It Ok to Kill Cyclists?” While that title seemed transparent in its attempt to draw in readers (which, no big deal; we all do it!), it also seemed obviously rhetorical, because, no! Of course it’s not ok to kill cyclists! It’s not ok to kill anyone, right? Actually, wrong! As we learn more and more every day, it’s totally fine to kill or seriously injure someone as long as your weapon of a choice is a car. What a world.
Gothamist reports today that the “Manhattan DA’s office has decided against prosecuting the cab driver who struck a cyclist and jumped the curb outside Rockefeller Center last August, hitting a British tourist on the sidewalk and severing her leg.” Even though the driver, Mohammed Himon, had “a checkered driving record ” and “had been cited for speeding and running a red light, and was involved in an accident in 2010 in which one person was injured,” Himon is not being prosecuted because it doesn’t appear that there was sufficient intent behind his actions that day—actions which resulted in the loss of a woman’s leg.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the only case where a driver hasn’t been charged with a crime after seriously injuring—or even killing—pedestrians or cyclists. In fact, it has long been almost a rule that cases such as these don’t get prosecuted. However, as more cyclists join the city landscape, and advocacy groups continue to speak out against this tradition of drivers literally getting away with murder (even if it is unintentional), it’s possible that there will be a prosecutorial sea change, and that reckless driving—even if it occurs when the driver isn’t impaired due to alcohol or drugs—will be addressed legally. One recent example of that is the charges brought against a driver who was driving the wrong way down a one-way street and jumped a curb in Fort Greene, killing a 9-year-old boy and injuring his 5-year-old brother and another woman. Considering that out “of 189 traffic fatalities through Sept. 1 of this year, drivers were arrested in 20 cases and given summonses in 58 others,” and that most of those arrests were due to the presence of alcohol or drugs, it’s amazing that charges were even brought at all.
It’s hard, though, to applaud to hard when the right thing is done in a case like this—after all, prosecuting criminally negligent behavior should have been the MO all along. And as Charles Komanoff, “a transportation expert and a founder of Right of Way, a group that seeks to reduce traffic injuries in the city,” tells the Times, “It’s certainly not a turning point, but it’s definitely positive; it’s different.” Which is all we can hope for now, it seems. Meanwhile, cyclists and pedestrians should continue to be as aware of their surroundings as possible, because you never know who is behind the wheel of the car right next to you. After all, it could be Mohammed Himon, who is back to driving a taxi cab once again.
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