New York City was sadly reminded of the ongoing traffic safety crisis after 20-year-old professional cyclist Robyn Hightman was fatally struck by a truck driver who initially fled the scene on Monday, June 24, 2019.
Hightman, who preferred they/their as their pronouns, was working as a bike messenger and traveling northbound on Sixth Avenue near 24th Street when the fatal crash occurred. The driver of the truck, a man named Antonio Garcia, initially fled the scene, but later returned after apparently learning that he had been in an accident.
Garcia later told a reporter from CBS New York that “he didn’t see the bicyclist and she must have hit the back of his truck.” He also claims that this is the first accident he’s been in during his 14 years as a professional driver, and that he was traveling around 15 to 20 mph when the accident occurred. A witness, however, estimated that the truck driver was going closer to 45 mph. Garcia was issued several summonses related to his vehicle, rather than his driving, and was not charged with a crime.
Our hearts go out to the loved ones of Robyn Hightman during this trying time.
Although every traffic death is a sad story, it is particularly heart-wrenching to consider Hightman’s status as a young, professional ambassador for bicyclists, particularly those “who identify as women, trans, non-binary, and/or gender variant.” In a moving Facebook post, Hightman’s cycling team called them a “strong, beautiful and gutsy rider,” somebody who “worked hard as a bike messenger, and pushed to foster inclusivity in cycling.” To see such an experienced rider killed in this way must be unsettling for other cyclists in the city.
2019 has been an extremely dangerous year to be a cyclist in New York City. After Hightman’s tragic passing, there have now been more New York City cyclist fatalities in 2019 (11 or 12, depending on which source you use) than there was in all of 2018, when there was 10 deaths. Considering that we are five years into Vision Zero, such a drastic rise in cyclist fatalities is unacceptable.
Traffic safety for vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists need to a be a leading priority for the city. The impact of neglecting these issues is too great. The number of New Yorkers who ride bikes has risen sharply in the past decade and with the continued success of CitiBike, that trend isn’t going anywhere. New York City cannot neglect this growing demographic.
We hope that Robyn Hightman’s tragic death can lead to tangible changes that help make New York City a safer place to ride a bike. This includes continuing to add protected bike lanes, educating drivers about how to share the road safely, and taking legal action when a motorist’s negligent behavior leads to a serious or fatal crash. Tragic deaths in preventable traffic accidents can never be undone, but hopefully we can learn something from why the accident happened, and how it can be prevented moving forward.
If someone you love has been seriously injured or killed in a preventable traffic accident, call 212-736-5300 to receive a free, no-obligation legal evaluation of your case.