My first New York ghost, who still haunts me, is Craig Murphey. He was 26 years old when he was killed by an oil truck in 2007.
He was a food justice activist and worked at the West Harlem Action Network Against Poverty. I was 22 in 2007, and had only recently moved to New York.
I rode a rusted bike my roommate found in the garbage everywhere because I was broke and really could not easily afford a Metrocard.
I always told myself when I had a more stable income I would get involved in social justice. I was waiting for my life to begin, unaware how quickly and quietly it could well end.
When I read about his death, I was on a lunch break at the clothing store where I was working.
The truck driver was not charged. An early report said he was biking in the wrong direction, but a friend later rebuked that account saying there was no reason he would have been riding against traffic. He had no reasons to head in the opposite direction from home.
That moment, reading about his death on a local blog in the backroom of a clothing store, changed my life.
I looked at the picture of this man who could have easily been my friend and realized two things: I could die at any moment, and that even a tragic death would likely not result in any justice.
That the only thing I could count on was the work I was doing in my life to bring justice and meaning, and not to anticipate the system working out to honor me. I joined a neighborhood activist group shortly after that, but the reminders that our deaths don't matter did not stop.
In 2011, Matthieu LeFevre was killed. He was a similar age, a similar life. The story I read about him sounded eerily familiar.
LeFevre was a 30-year-old artist, originally from Alberta, Canada, but had been living in New York City. He was killed while riding his bike on Morgan Avenue.
The truck that allegedly struck him was found legally parked and unattended a block from the scene, and at the time it wasn’t clear if the driver had known they even struck anyone. It was believed that he was biking next to the truck when it made a right turn and hit him.
As his case drifted into obscurity and the police and others blamed him for being irresponsible, his family did not buy it. They investigated the NYPD and accused them of withholding information.
Erika LeFevre traveled to City Hall from her home in Canada to urge legislators to end a policy of lax enforcement of traffic fatalities after a truck driver faced no criminal charges for striking her son, Mathieu, in Williamsburg on October 19 and leaving the scene.
To be honest, these hit-and-run, no-attempt-at-justice deaths, horrifically, have become commonplace to me. But they still make the hairs on my neck stand up. New York sometimes requires a hardening of the heart, but good God, it shouldn't be over this.
Every year, late at night, a cyclist is killed by a speeding truck. The cyclist is blamed, journalists find that actually they were not at fault, everything gets stalled, we get distracted, we move on, and then another death.
The sweet picture of our latest victim, Neftaly Ramirez, has shaken me awake again.
Trucks need to be held accountable for their speed and their driving. Truck traffic needs to be better patrolled at night. And we need to stop blaming cyclists for their tragic ends.
Let us make Ramirez the last, the very last, hit and run we tolerate. Families can only fight for their slain loved ones so hard. It's going to take more of us. It's going to take all of us. We need to commit to this, and do it now.