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Vigil held for fallen cyclist killed by hit & run driver

Maria Ruiz grieved (front, c) with other family members during the May 1 vigil.
Bronx Times
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On Tuesday, May 1, a ‘ghost bike’ was placed near the Cross Bronx Expressway southbound entrance ramp on Webster Avenue.

A white-painted bicycle adorned with yellow flowers, chained to a pole, stood tribute to yet another fallen cyclist who was killed by a hit and run driver just one week earlier.

Carlos Vasquez, known by friends and family as ‘Lito,’ was riding his bike westbound on Webster Avenue, like he usually did during his free time.

It was a hobby Vasquez did after a hard days work, according to his 42-year-old mother, Maria Ruiz.

Around 10:30 p.m., as he approached the intersection at Ittner Place, next to the entrance ramp for I-95, a truck hit Vasquez as the driver made a quick maneuver to enter the highway and kept going, according to police.

“He was a hard working person,” continued Ruiz as she clutched her 6-year-old son, one of Carlos’ two younger brothers who do not fully understand why their brother was no longer with them.

Ruiz said the brothers have not stopped asking where Carlos is and refuse to go to school because they keep looking for him.

“I lost my son, but in the future it could be anyone,” added Ruiz.

His mother explained Vasquez worked for a professional moving company and was not known for staying out late.

Now his family and the community are not only calling for justice, but for safer streets for bikers.

As fellow cyclists gathered with Vasquez’s family and other community leaders to mourn the death of their beloved Lito, they called on law enforcement and the city to add safety measures like speed cameras and bike lanes to address the safety of streets where speeding and reckless driving are prevalent, like along Webster Avenue.

“So many hit-and-run drivers are getting away with murder and the NYPD is not doing enough to investigate and track down those killers,” said Transportation Alternatives executive director, Paul Steely White.

“I’m heart broken and still lost for words,” said the victim’s friend Michael Torres as tears rolled down his face.

Torres said Vaquez inspired him and fellow friends to be better people, because of the type of person he was.

“Drivers need to be more careful. Look out for bikers, no matter the time of day,” Torres added. “They’re brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, fathers, mothers.”

NYC Department of Transportation plans to review the fatal intersection to determine what safety enhancements are warranted, such as installing speed cameras, according to a DOT spokesperson.

In 2013, the DOT implemented safety treatments along Webster Avenue as part of the Select Bus Service project.

“We’ve sent a message that it’s okay to kill someone as long as you do it in a vehicle,” said Councilman Ritchie Torres as he called for stricter enforcement of traffic laws.

“In the Bronx, we deserve the same standard of safety that’s available in the wealthiest parts of our city,” he continued.

Over the ‘ghost bike’ fellow cyclists hung balloons that spelled out ‘Lito’ and a white-colored sign with a bicycle painted inside a heart that read, “Cyclist Killed Here. Rest in Peace.”

Reach Reporter Sarah Valenzuela at (718) 260-4584. E-mail her at svalenzuela@cnglocal.com.
Updated 5:15 pm, July 9, 2018
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