Pamela Hawkins was driving her silver Chevy Malibu lakebound on Canal Street about 9 a.m. Monday. She had to pick up a friend and go to the hospital.
But as the traffic light in front of her turned green and she began to cross Jefferson Davis Parkway, she could see a northbound bicyclist pedaling out in front of the oncoming traffic. The baby-blue Buick Park Avenue in front of Hawkins apparently did not see him or couldn’t stop in time.
“Our light was green. So we just kept coming,” Hawkins said. “His light was red. He never stopped. He should have stopped.”
The Buick, which was in the center lane of Canal, hit the cyclist on his right side and continued forward about another 100 feet before coming to a stop in the center of the wide neutral ground that runs down the middle of Jefferson Davis.
The victim was a 45-year-old man. He was pronounced dead at the scene after EMS was unable to revive him, according to New Orleans Police Traffic Cmdr. Anthony Micheu.
“I could see him coming straight across the intersection,” Hawkins said. “I thought he was going to dodge in and out of the cars, but he didn’t stop.”
Jefferson Davis Parkway contains a widely used bicycle path.
After the incident, the Buick’s driver, a 51-year-old woman wearing what appeared to be medical scrubs, sat on the passenger side of the car hugging her husband. He declined to give his name but said he had rushed to the scene when he heard what happened.
On the opposite side of the car, the body lay in a pool of blood, haphazardly covered by a white sheet. Below the Buick’s gnarled fender and crushed left headlight, a blue Cranbrook bike rested on the pavement, mirrors on its handlebars and tire pump in the back basket.
After about an hour, the Buick’s driver was taken away in a police car. Micheu said it was too early to know whether the driver or the cyclist was at fault. He said the driver’s blood was being tested, but there were no signs of impairment.
NOPD evidence technicians photographed tire marks and measured the distance from where the initial impact occurred to where the Buick came to a stop. Micheu could be heard saying that such evidence will help show how fast the car was going when the accident happened.
In 2014, there were three bicycle fatalities in New Orleans, according to the NOPD. Monday’s incident appears to be the first reported bike death of this year.
Micheu implored both drivers and bicyclists to pay attention to their surroundings on the road.
“Motorists are more cognizant of their surroundings and what their laws and rules are, and bicyclists have laws to abide by as well,” he said. “So we all have to share the streets, and hopefully by doing this, we can make it safe to drive our bicycles and cars.”
Fatality investigator Anthony Pontiff is in charge of the investigation and can be reached at (504) 658-6210.
Follow Benjamin Oreskes on Twitter, @boreskes.