District Attorney Decides Not to Prosecute Taxi Driver Involved in CPW Cyclist Death, Despite NYPD Pressure

By Alex Israel

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, Jr. chose not to prosecute the driver whose maneuver into the bike lane led to the death of cyclist Madison Lyden on Central Park West in August, despite pressure from the NYPD.

Madison Lyden, a 23-year-old tourist visiting from Australia, was forced out of the bike lane on her way up Central Park West between 66th and 67th Street when a livery vehicle pulled out in front of her, according to police. As she swerved into the regular traffic lane, she was hit by a construction vehicle, which ultimately killed her.

During a Community Board 7 meeting, Captain Timothy Malin of the NYPD’s 20th Precinct shared some updates around the investigation into the crash.

Malin says Lyden was “following all the rules of the road” when she was forced to swerve out of the bike lane and then struck by a truck. According to Malin, truck driver Felipe Chairez, 44, was arrested at the scene and charged with driving while intoxicated.  Chairez was also given a summons for driving an oversized vehicle on Central Park West. Malin also clarified that Chairez was driving a construction vehicle owned by Mellifont Construction Corp., as opposed to a garbage truck, which was previously reported. Neither the construction company nor Chairez’s lawyer responded to requests for comment.

Despite Chairez’s arrest, Malin believes “the real cause” of Lyden’s death was the cab driver, who pulled out in front of her—and the precinct is disappointed that no action has been taken to prosecute. “We took it to the D.A.’s office. Everyone on the scene wants to arrest. The Collision Investigation Squad wants to arrest. The D.A.’s office didn’t want to prosecute,” he said.

The decision not to prosecute stemmed from an analysis of the situation, which found a lack of contact between Lyden and the cab driver’s vehicle, according to Danny Frost, a spokesman for the District Attorney. “Following this tragic incident our Office confirmed that [the cab driver] was a validly licensed operator, and separately undertook a legal analysis to determine whether any criminal charges could apply,” said Frost in a statement explaining their process.

“The Office determined that New York law does not provide criminal liability for drivers whose illegal standing contributes to a fatality in instances where no contact is made between the illegally standing vehicle and the victim. We would strongly support legislation to address this gap in the law.”

Malin told CB7 that officers in the 20th Precinct took the refusal to prosecute “personally,” and have thus stepped up their efforts in the area, writing 260 summonses over the last 28 days.

NEWS | 24 comments | permalink
    1. Scott says:

      So I guess if she had crashed into the cab, thereby establishing contact, then there would be a prosecution?

    2. geoff says:

      such a strict interpretation would, i suppose, mean that to prevent injury or risk injury with no recourse cyclists should, when confronted by an obstacle in their path within the bike lanes, stop and decide what to do: wait, walk onto the sidewalk, whatever. but, not leave the bike lane.

      • Joe says:

        You’re assuming that the cyclist has the ability to stop without hitting the obstacle. In this case, the car pulled in front of her, and her options were to either hit the car or to swerve around it.

    3. Glitter says:

      Definitely cabs fault

    4. Alison says:

      Speaking of “illegal standing” pedestrians who stand in the street also imperil cyclists who have to swerve around them into traffic. Maybe they could get summonses as well. Jaywalking is a fact of life in NYC but there is no reason to stand in the street waiting for the light to change.

      • George T Finn says:

        Of course you have to stand in the street to see past / around the bikes going 40 mph the wrong way and not in a bike lane, and the 5-lane, 1-way street that is reduced to 1 lane because of all the deliveries, postal trucks, double parking motorists, uber, lyft, MTA omg of course you have to navigate this way. NYC is no place for bikes. Get over it! If these tree huggers insist on making a city of nearly 9M people a bike friendly place, you have to live with what happens when a bike meets a car Wake-up!

        • Joe says:

          There are so many things wrong in your comment that I don’t even know where to start. Bikes are not going 40MPH. The things that you claim (falsely) reduce 5 lane roads to a single lane have nothing to do with bikes. A pedestrian does not need to step into a bike lane to look past bike traffic, because bikes don’t block your field of view. And that’s just a start. Your irrational hatred of bikes would be laughable if it weren’t dangerous. Your outdated and harmful misbeliefs have no place here.

    5. Confused says:

      If the cab driver “pulled out in front of her” to cause the accident then it seems that the vehicle was no longer “standing” but “moving”.

      • Woody says:

        The cab, as well as any parked car or operating bus, has to cross the bike lane to get back into the traffic lanes. There’s no way around it and it shouldn’t be an issue that a vehicle stopped to pick someone up. No one has mentioned what the distance was between the cab and the cyclist – she could have seen his pulling out from a distance and swerved into traffic early. Or the cab could have pulled out without warning just a few feet from her. Without that info, all you Perry Masons should take breather from deciding who’s at fault.

        I’m not convinced that the police advocated for prosecution for the right reasons. I have yet to see any police officers ticket the multitude of vehicles that routinely block bike lanes in NY but now they’re expected to be saviors.

        • Michael Hobson says:

          This is a bad outcome. Therefore, Lyden’s family must pursue civil damages for negligence, illegal intoxication, Mellifort’s permissive use of non authorized vehicles, etc. First causes are usually controlling is that not the premise. The livery driver and his company need to be sued for negligence, and what other contributing issues relate at their fault. I believe the tort feasor here, is but for this, that would not have occurred. That is to say, the livery van, its driver and owners for reasonable liability lawsuit. Therefore but for the livery truck and its intoxicated driver, the cyclist would NOT have been forced into traffic; full stop. And therefor the cyclist would not have needed to maneuver out of the bike lane and into harms way caused by Mellifont Construction Corp.’s driver, Felipe Chairez, and thereafter unfortunately into a truck and a taxi that apparently were unable to avoid fatally striking the cyclist. Sue the s–t out of Mellifont.

    6. StevenCinNYC says:

      We need to remove the an unprotected bike lane on Central Park West which is unsafe and totally unnecessary. There are protected lanes on Amsterdam and Columbus as well as protected paths in Central Park and Riverside Park. CPW is a two-way street that is too narrow to support a bike lane. The simple solution is to eliminate it. Just because someone made the stupid decision to put it there doesn’t mean we’re stuck with it. Remove it immediately. It’s just paint. Erase it.

      • Woody says:

        Cyclists headed uptown will not go all the way to Amsterdam for a protected bike lane. If you remove the CPW lane, cyclists will go back to taking up a whole traffic lane the length of CPW to get uptown. That’s what I do on 8th Avenue when people crowd the protected bike lane. Either pedestrians respect the bike lanes or vehicles will have to put up with cyclists riding in a traffic lane which is their right. And if you’re in a cab riding behind a cyclist on CPW, you’ll quickly change your tune.

        • StevenCinNYC says:

          So your argument is that cyclists can’t be bothered to use a protected bike lane that’s two blocks away and therefore would irresponsibly and unsafely ride on CPW with no bike lane? And everyone else be damned? Therefore, the DOT, pedestrians, drivers, passengers, and police officers should just cater to cyclists to avoid their bad behavior? Wow. I guess I missed how much more important a person on a bicycle is than everyone else. Thanks for explaining.

          • Woody says:

            Why should cyclists have to be inconvenienced to go out of their way just to ride in a bike lane on Amsterdam? Cyclists have the right to ride in a regular traffic lane if they choose to. That’s what they did on CPW and Amsterdam, too, before there were bike lanes. CPW is the most direct route heading uptown for cyclists coming off 8th Ave. There isn’t another uptown bike lane until one gets to the far East Side. The road in Central Park is not comparable as a viable bike route.

            People have no problem telling bikes to go out of their way. But look at all the screaming about the temporary closures of a few CPW subway stations that cause people to walk a little further to get on a train. How many of those people don’t mind being inconvenienced to use the subway stations on Broadway instead? And that’s only for a limited amount of time after which they’ll return to improved stations. No shortage of hypocrites here.

    7. KENNETH ROOD says:

      I live at 65 CPW where this tragic accident occurred.
      Since the accident, the number of taxis, Ubers and tour buses that block the bike lane in front of Tavern on the Green/CPW is a serious hazard. I’ve witnessed three other bikers perform the same maneuver as this girl to avoid the blockage of the bike lane . It is only a matter of time before another accident occurs. BRAVO the police enforcement!!!!!!!!!

    8. Woody says:

      If all anyone here wants to do is whine about how TLC-licensed vehicles violate traffic laws and cause accidents, then nothing will ever change. But everyone has an opportunity to do something more about it by going online and filing a complaint against the vehicle with the TLC. Next time you see a TLC vehicle blocking a bike lane or crosswalk, take a picture and follow up with the complaint. It’s a simple process and you’ll be helping to attack the problem. The driver will get a notice from the TLC and will more than likely just pay a fine unless he decides to go to a hearing. But he won’t be so quick repeat the same behavior. You will receive updates on the progress and disposition of the complaint process. I’ve done it a few times with success. Although not necessary, it’s good to tell the driver that he’s doing something wrong and when he gets the summons, he’ll remember what he did.

      Use these links for either Yellow Cab or FHV (Uber, Lyft, etc) complaints:
      https://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/2599/yellow-taxi-complaint
      https://www1.nyc.gov/nyc-resources/service/2465/car-service-limousine-or-ambulette-complaint

    9. Pat says:

      I was heartbroken upon learning of the death of this girl, especially since I bike daily. I often ride along CPW and prefer it when traveling north because with Central Park on your right you have very little cross traffic. Cars and pedestrians in the bike lane are a constant bother but trouble can be avoided by simply stopping until you have clear passage. There is no need to eliminate the lane.

    10. This is a bad outcome. Therefore, Lyden’s family must pursue civil damages for negligence, illegal intoxication, Mellifort’s permissive use of non authorized vehicles, etc. First causes are usually controlling is that not the premise. The livery driver and his company need to be sued for negligence, and what other contributing issues relate at their fault. I believe the tort feasor here, is but for this, that would not have occurred. That is to say, the livery van, its driver and owners for reasonable liability lawsuit. Therefore but for the livery truck and its intoxicated driver, the cyclist would NOT have been forced into traffic; full stop. And therefor the cyclist would not have needed to maneuver out of the bike lane and into harms way caused by Mellifont Construction Corp.’s driver, Felipe Chairez, and thereafter unfortunately into a truck and a taxi that apparently were unable to avoid fatally striking the cyclist. Sue the s–t out of Mellifont.

    11. Been There says:

      This is a tragic story, but there’s one thing that I, as a bike rider, a pedestrian, and a driver on the UWS, I just don’t understand.

      Why couldn’t the bicyclist just have stopped when the cab pulled in front of her?

      Here’s the key: in an unprotected bike lane, ride slowly enough to be able to stop for an emergency or unforseeable obstruction. If you have no choice but to swerve, you’re riding too fast.

    12. B.B. says:

      Cannot recall if it was part of this forum or elsewhere online, but never the less comment was accurate.

      As laws currently stand (and have been interpreted by the courts, including the highest) operators of motor vehicles largely get a pass when it comes to deaths caused by their actions behind a wheel.

      https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2012/07/05/how-new-york-traffic-laws-let-hit-and-run-killers-drive-away-scot-free/

    13. Lesly levy says:

      This is an ongoing problem. Bike lanes are for bikes not for deliveries or temporary parking. I see this all over Central Park west and along 77th or 78th Street (the two wide street around the museum). Why are trucks and Cars allowed to block bike lanes? This is the underlying issue. If the police were more on top of this and ticketed those parking here with high ticket prices maybe cyclists would have a rightful place to ride.

    14. Adam Cherson says:

      The DA’s decisions doesn’t preclude a wrongful death action in civil court.

    15. Capt. Malin says:

      To clarify, the police officers did not write those 260 summonses because they were disappointed at the decision not to prosecute. They did it because they were saddened and upset by the unnecessay loss of life, and want to do their best to ensure there is not a repeat of this awful tragedy. Even though they don’t live here, I think quite a few would be surprised how many of the cops in the 20th Precinct feel really invested in the community.

    16. Capt. Malin says:

      Also, I must add, we don’t “pressure” the DA. We gather evidence and present a case. But we’re not lawyers. The District Attorney’s Office examines what they are presented, conducts a legal analysis, and decides whether to prosecute. Whatever their decision may be, we except it and act accordingly. In this case, we issued six moving violations and one parking violation after learning the case would not be prosecuted. We also notified TLC of our actions.