Drunken Driver Kills Rider on Bicycle Path, Police Say
By NICHOLAS CONFESSORE and KATE HAMMER, The New York Times
Published: December 3, 2006
A drunken driver mistakenly turned onto a Hudson River bike path in Manhattan and drove nearly a mile before killing a 22-year-old bicyclist Friday night, the police said yesterday.
The driver, Eugenio Cidron of East Fourth Street, left a party at the Chelsea Piers sports complex and drove his silver BMW down the bike path, hitting the cyclist, Eric Ng, around 9:40 p.m., according to the police.
Mr. Ng was hit near the intersection of West Street and Clarkson Street. The force of the impact mangled his bicycle and sent one of his sneakers into the air. He was pronounced dead at the scene.
Mr. Cidron, 27, was arrested and charged with vehicular manslaughter, reckless endangerment and driving while intoxicated, the authorities said. When reached by phone, Mr. Cidron declined to comment.
Mr. Ng was active in Time’s Up, a New York-based environmental group that promotes cycling as an alternative to driving. He was at least the second cyclist struck by a vehicle and killed this year on the path, a popular route for the city’s riders, and one that pedestrians and motor vehicles from several city departments also use.
In June, Dr. Carl H. Nacht, a 56-year-old physician, died after being struck by a police tow truck as he rode on his bicycle along the path near West 38th Street.
The path is intersected at many points by roadways that connect the West Side Highway to sites including the sports complex, a city waste transfer station and a police impound lot.
Mr. Cidron traveled south along a cobblestone access road after leaving a Chelsea Piers parking facility and apparently meant to turn onto the West Side Highway, park workers said yesterday morning.
But he cut his turn short and ended up on the bicycle path instead.
To do so, he had to drive over or around a narrow, three-foot plastic pylon mounted south of where the bike path intersects the Chelsea Piers access road. The park workers repaired the pylon yesterday.
It was the only physical barrier visible yesterday anywhere along the section of the path where Mr. Cidron had driven.
Though Mr. Cidron’s wrong turn appeared to be accidental, some cyclists who frequent the path — one of the quickest routes for cyclists to travel in Manhattan — say they have been dismayed at what they described as a recent increase in vehicles traveling along it.
“I have seen passenger cars, limousines, taxis and contractor’s vehicles including those of the Police, Sanitation and Parks Department,” said Philipp Rassmann, 38, a member of Time’s Up. He complained that the pylons placed along the path are often removed by workers and left on the side of the path.
Mr. Rassmann also said that the area around Chelsea Piers was especially dangerous because of an array of crisscrossing car, bus and taxi lanes with few signs.
Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives, which advocates measures to make cycling safer, said that the bike path was one of the safest in the city, which sometimes “lulls people into a false sense of security.”
Mr. Ng was an avid biker and often participated in group bike rides known as Critical Mass, his friends said. Until recently, he rode an old bike handed down from his father, but in August he purchased a brand-new bike, painted it silver and blue, and named it Adeline.
Reached at home in East Brunswick, N.J., Mr. Ng’s father, Tony Ng, said he was “a great son” who had worked hard in school and found joy in his budding career as a teacher. He had recently graduated from the Department of Education’s teaching fellow program and had been substitute teaching at Automotive High School in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, while waiting for permanent placement, his friends said.
“He loved the kids. He had a rapport with them,” Tony Ng said.
The police said that Mr. Ng’s new bike had been equipped with reflectors, but that they could not tell if it had bike lights. Both are required by city law.
Mr. Ng’s father said he had installed the reflectors on his son’s new bike personally, and had urged him to wear a helmet — optional for riders 14 and over — when riding. The police said that Mr. Ng was not wearing a helmet when he was hit.
Mr. Ng graduated this year from New York University, where he majored in math, friends said. He lived with friends in Greenpoint.
“He was just a real joyous, smart, sweet, good person,” said Ryan Nuckle, 25, a friend and fellow cyclist. “He was always smiling, and I was always happy to see him.”
Cara Buckley contributed reporting.