Two Deaths in Under a Week — and Calls for Charter Bus Changes in Chelsea

On June 17, Michael Mamoukakis was struck by a bus making a right from Seventh Ave. onto W. 29th St. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

BY JACKSON CHEN | Another cyclist died after being struck by a charter bus in Chelsea on Sat., June 17, less than a week following a similar incident a few streets south.

At around 1:30 p.m., Michael Mamoukakis, an 80-year-old Chelsea resident, was traveling south on Seventh Ave. when he was struck by a charter bus making a right turn onto W. 29th St., according to police.

Police added that responding officers found Mamoukakis on the ground with “severe body trauma” before he was transported to Bellevue Hospital and declared dead. According to police, the driver remained on the scene and the NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad was handling the ongoing investigation.

Michael Mamoukakis. Photo via Facebook.

The death of Mamoukakis follows a Mon., June 12 incident where a Brooklyn resident riding a Citi Bike was also killed by a charter bus. Dan Hanegby, a 36-year-old investment banker from Brooklyn Heights, was swerving to avoid a parked van when he collided with a charter bus and was run over by the rear tires, according to police. Hanegby was Citi Bike’s first fatality since its start four years ago.

With similar cases happening just days apart, Councilmember Corey Johnson is rallying for more attention to the issues. On the same day as Mamoukakis’ death, the councilmember released a statement calling for an emergency meeting to include the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT), the NYPD, elected officials, Community Board 4 (CB4), and representatives from charter bus companies operating in Chelsea and West Midtown. According to the councilmember’s chief of staff, Erik Bottcher, the meeting is tentatively scheduled for Mon., June 26.

“I am angered and heartbroken to learn of a second cyclist fatality tonight in my district,” Johnson said in his statement. “Both fatalities were caused by charter buses and both incidents took place in the West 20s near Seventh Avenue.”

Dan Hanegby was the first fatality with Citi Bike when he collided with a charter bus on W. 26th St., less than a week before Mamoukakis was similarly killed. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

Christine Berthet, CB4 Transportation Planning Committee co-chair, pointed out that in both cases, buses should not have been on certain streets as they are not designated as truck routes. While the charter bus that struck Mamoukakis was traveling on Seventh Ave., which is a truck route, it attempted to turn onto W. 29th St., which isn’t.

CB4 has brought the issue of charter buses skirting the truck restrictions with a letter addressed to the DOT in February, but only received a “boilerplate language” response, Berthet said.

As pedestrian and cyclist safety remains a top priority, CB4’s Transportation Planning Committee planned to address improving the area’s safety at their monthly meeting (Wed., June 21, 6:30 p.m.; held as this paper went to press). One day prior to the Mamoukakis incident, an email alert from the committee noted its first agenda item would be dedicated to “biking and pedestrian safety issues.”

“Safety is our top priority,” Berthet said. “In fact, every time there has been a proposal for a bike lane, we’ve been asking for more safety than proposed by the DOT.”

In her other capacity as a member of the pedestrian safety advocacy group CHEKPEDS, she said the group is working on getting the DOT to install more protected crosstown bike lanes, strictly enforce offending buses, and have signals for mixing zones — where vehicles trying to make a left turn have to mix into a bike lane at intersections.

When asked if the two recent deaths would draw attention for better protections, Berthet said she hoped so.

“It’s depressing that you have to wait; that people are killed and you have to have martyrs and people pay attention,” Berthet added. “It’s horrible.”

CB4’s Christine Berthet pointed out that in both recent cases of a bicyclist killed while riding in Chelsea, charter buses were traveling on roads that restricted trucks. Photo by Scott Stiffler.

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