BY LINCOLN ANDERSON | Police have located the CitiBike rider who fatally plowed into Priscilla Loke in Chinatown on Sept. 5, The Village Sun has learned. However, police are neither publicly identifying him nor releasing police-camera surveillance video that might prove definitively that the rider blew through a red light.
Loke was crossing Grand Street at Chrystie Street, heading from east to west, in the northern crosswalk, around 10:30 a.m., when she was hit by the cyclist, who was traveling northbound in the two-way bike lane, coming from the direction of the Manhattan Bridge, according to police.
Family members of and advocates for the 69-year-old Chinatown Head Start preschool teacher met with police on Sept. 22 to discuss the deadly incident. They want to know, among other things, why the man — who was riding a heavy, 65-pound white electric CitiBike — was allowed by police to leave the scene, without their recording his name or information. The man actually spoke to police at the scene and reportedly tried to prop up or help the fallen senior.
The Committee to Support Priscilla Loke had requested a meeting with Police Commissioner Edward Caban. Instead present at the meeting were Caban’s assistant commissioner for community affairs, as well as Deputy Inspector Tao Chen, who is the Fifth Precinct’s commanding officer, and a precinct community affairs officer.
Elizabeth OuYang, a civil rights attorney and good friend of Loke, who attended the meeting, said that, knowing Loke as she did, it’s hard to believe the veteran teacher would have done anything to put herself in danger. She also said police, so far, are refusing to say who had the light — Loke or the cyclist. If the cyclist blew through the light, it could potentially establish liability — for Lyft, which operates CitiBike, for the cyclist and possibly also for the New York Police Department and New York City.
The incident is still under investigation, police told the group.
“Nobody in their reasonable, right mind would have been in the street without the light,” OuYang said. “Nobody’s talking about who had the right of way. We are of the firm belief that Priscilla would not cross the street unless she had the right of way. There is one bike lane going one way and another going the other way. She’s very responsible. Given that it’s a busy intersection and she’s 69, she would not have.”
A telling video posted by Channel 7 Eyewitness News shows traffic on the southbound side of Chrystie Street north of Grand Street having come to a stop at a red light — yet the cyclist at the same time coming through the intersection and slamming into Loke.
“I watched that video 1,000 times,” OuYang said.
That video was taken by a surveillance camera attached to the side of a building on the west side of Chrystie Street north of Grand Street that Wellington Chen, director of the Chinatown Partnership Business Improvement District, arranged to have installed after the brutal stabbing murder of Cristina Yuna Lee, 35, in her home on Chrystie Street in February 2002.
OuYang said that two police cameras on a light pole at the northwest corner of Grand and Chrystie could likely show even more of what happened during the fateful incident.
The Village Sun observed the intersection on Tues., Sept. 26, in midafternoon, and it was clear that the traffic lights along Chrystie Street on both the north and south sides of Grand Street are synced — they turn red at exactly the same time — as is the bicycle traffic light at the southeast corner of Grand and Chrystie that northbound cyclists face as they approach the intersection. So, in other words, the cyclist should have stopped at the red light at exactly the same time as northbound and southbound car traffic on Chrystie had stopped.
However, southbound traffic on Chrystie Street is given about 10 seconds to turn left onto Grand during this period — and, the Grand Street northern crosswalk, correspondingly, has a red hand (“don’t walk”) showing during this time.
Even in the possibility Loke was starting to head off the curb a bit to cross the street while the pedestrian light was still red during that 10-second period, it seems clear — at least from The Village Sun’s observation — that the cyclist blew the red light on his end.
“It’s a very dangerous intersection, where you have two bike lanes going opposite directions,” OuYang said. “She would not have crossed without having the right of way. Cars were stopped — you can tell from the Channel 7 footage.”
OuYang and Loke become good friends during the court-martial trials of Army Private Danny Chen’s tormentors. Chen, who took his life in 2011 as a result of brutal, racist bullying by fellow soldiers, attended preschool at the Chinatown Head Start. OuYang said it was Loke who gathered signatures to demand an investigation into Private Chen’s death, then later gathered signatures for a co-naming street sign in his memory at Canal and Elizabeth Streets.
“We want to know what happened,” OuYang said of Loke’s death from being struck by the e-CitiBike. “The e-bike situation is so out of control here. There have been so many accidents. We want Chinatown streets to be safer. The bottom line is the family wants answers. We don’t want Priscilla’s death to be in vain.”
The city’s bike lanes in Manhattan — although built out for pedal-powered bikes — are now vastly dominated by e-bikes, most of them ridden by app-delivery workers rushing food orders to people.
A worker at a nearby cafe on Chrystie Street said she was in the back of the place when Loke was hit, so didn’t see what happened. She said the intersection is extremely dangerous due to the bike lane.
“The bicycles,” she said. “They pass like crazy. We have to stay on the sidewalk. The electric bikes and the other bikes, sometimes they don’t respect the lights. That’s the problem.”
Loke’s niece, Weng Wai Ho,who was very close to her, spoke at a meeting of the E-Vehicle Safety Alliance (EVSA) on Wednesday night Sept. 27 in Kips Bay. At the meeting, Councilmember Robert Holden touted a bill of his, Intro 0758-2022, to require license plates for all e-bikes — including e-CitiBikes — in New York City. The bill currently has 28 sponsors, a majority of the New York City Council. However, Council Speaker Adrienne Adams is not a co-sponsor of the bill, so six more co-sponsors are needed in order to force a vote on it by the full City Council.
Of Manhattan’s 10 councilmembers, as of now, only three support Holden’s bill — Erik Bottcher, Keith Powers and Julie Menin. Currently not supporting the bill are Carlina Rivera and Christopher Marte.
After this article’s publication, Rivera and Marte told The Village Sun the reasons why they are not backing Holden’s legislation. To read their responses, click here.