Police bias against cyclists in accidents is all too real for commuters, messengers, and leisure cyclists. It is well known in the community that cyclists are often wrongfully blamed for crashes. Police officers can be quick to judge, choosing the side of the motorist. Therefore it is important to know what to do in case of an accident that you know was not your fault.
This past spring Lauren Davis was wrongfully accused of riding against traffic when she was hit and killed by a motorist on Classon Avenue. NYPD prematurely judged the scene, releasing a crash report stating that she was biking the wrong way down the street. It took a witness account and media attention to prove that she had been in the right of way. The NYPD updated their report to admit that she was hit while biking the correct way down the street.
This is just one of the many examples of police bias that happen every day on New York City streets. If you are involved in a crash where you know you had the right of way then preparedness can save you. Here is what you can do if you have been wrongfully accused in an accident with a motor vehicle.
1. Stay calm: Keep your cool while speaking with the driver and the police. Yelling or cursing can later be used as evidence that you were not in control, which in turn will hurt your case.
2. Know your rights: Stay up to date on driving and biking laws in NYC. Many motorists and even police officers are not aware of bike laws. It might come down to your ability to defend yourself at the scene and possibly in court.
3. Write to the police officer’s superiors: If the motorist and the officer maintain that you were in the wrong then don’t give up. An attorney can help you write a letter to the officer’s superiors explaining the accident. Include if the officer mishandled the incident or any information.
4. Contact an attorney: If you have been wrongfully blamed in an accident then it is important to contact an attorney right away. They can help you collect facts and support your case in court if need be.
Although the streets are not always safe for cyclists, New York has made progress in the past few years. Not long ago the NYPD only investigated traffic accidents involving fatalities. This left many cyclists who were hit by motorists feeling left injured and forgotten.
In 2013, Vision Zero was started as an initiative by Mayor Bill de Blasio to commit to a 10 year goal of eliminating all traffic deaths and serious injuries. As a part of Vision Zero the Mayor has reduced maximum speed limits, initiated civil penalties for hit and run drivers, and initiated training for local precincts to conduct thorough investigations in all traffic crashes. Hopefully these new standards can improve conditions and reduce bias against cyclists in New York.