A bike messenger was killed yesterday morning when he fell headfirst from his bike in midtown after a deliveryman opened a truck door and knocked him down, 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."
The cyclist was not wearing a helmet.
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."
Rules of the road
Here's what state laws say about who has the right-of-way when bikes and cars meet:
IF YOU'RE IN A CAR
Open parked car doors only when they won't interfere with the movement of other traffic, including bicycles.
Exit running cars, such as taxis, only on the side out of traffic
When crossing a bike lane, whether to turn or seek parking place, yield to bike traffic
IF YOU'RE ON A BIKE
Do not carry anything that prevents you from keeping at least one hand upon the handle bars