“The city has done some great things, but they’ve done some really terrible things to traffic,” he said. “I say that as someone who drives box trucks and as someone who rides a bike. The whole implementation of [Vision Zero] is laughable.”

Croasdale said he is completely overwhelmed with submissions from all across the city, and that he would be interested in mapping bike lane obstacles to try and figure out where the most hazardous parts of the city are for riders (he noted that Sixth Avenue is a particularly dangerous road). Even on his way back from the Robyn Hightman vigil ride, Croasdale said he was cut off by a taxi in the bike lane.

So, how are cars allowed to block bike lanes so casually and regularly? Last March, de Blasio encouraged drivers to temporarily park in bike lanes for short errands, which is against his own city’s laws. Months after de Blasio said his piece, Australian tourist Madison Lyden was forced to swerve out of a bike lane when she was cut off by a cab. A garbage truck driver hit her and killed her. The cabdriver was not ticketed. The garbage truck driver, who said he had drank two beers before the incident, was fined $1,000.

Those slaps on wrists, coupled with the five summonses Garcia got for truck inspection-related offenses after killing Hightman, should not be surprising. Garcia’s truck reportedly drew 83 summonses over the past five years. The NYPD did not charge or even name the driver of a large truck that ran over Linda Douglas in Flatbush in April because he said he didn’t see her. Oil tanker driver Kenneth Jackson was not charged with fleeing a crime scene after he killed 72-year-old cyclist Chaim Joseph in February because he said he didn’t see him.

Drivers almost never lose their licenses or face criminal charges for killing cyclists. Naparstek recommended implementing a process where drivers can have their licenses suspended or stripped for repeat violations. Former Bicycling editor-in-chief Peter Flax, a tireless crusader for cyclists’ right not to get killed, told Deadspin, “I recognize that these drivers don’t wake up planning to kill someone, so murder charges will be rare unless there is extreme recklessness. But in many cases, drivers have been distracted by phones or dashboard tech, been impaired, been driving too fast, leave the scene of the crash or otherwise behave recklessly or negligently. Most people view cars as essential transportation, but in so many of these cases, where people are negligent, the vehicle becomes a lethal weapon.”

“Only by more aggressively criminalizing dangerous driving will people change their behavior,” Flax, who wrote his own hit-by-car obituary for Outside magazine in 2017, said. “So we need smarter and tougher legal protection, and law enforcement and the judicial system to uphold those laws.”

Drivers do occasionally get charged with crimes when they kill cyclists, though it’s the exception and it usually happens in more extreme cases, such as the 2016 incident where Charles Pickett Jr. was convicted of murder after he ran over five cyclists in Kalamazoo while driving on meth. Brooklyn resident Treasure Liggins was charged with manslaughter, vehicular manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and driving while intoxicated after she ran over Mohammed Abdullah in Brooklyn last month.

While drivers are often being protected, the NYPD also has a baffling habit of responding to the deaths of rider by ticketing cyclists, often for not wearing a helmet, which is not against the law. Sure enough, the NYPD set up shop on the street where Hightman died the next day and gave out tickets to riders. The shift in blame onto the riders themselves was made all the more absurd since it happened in the presence of an illegal 53-foot truck. When Chaim Joseph was killed in February, the NYPD did the same, and de Blasio defended the practice. “We’re going to be enforcing on anybody who we think puts other people in danger, period,” he said, somehow speaking about cyclists and not car drivers.

Officer Carlos Negron also blamed Hightman for their own death, telling Gothamist:

“As far as the female who passed away unfortunately, yesterday, I believe she was riding off the bike lane, you know. It’s sad, but it’s sad that she was off the bike lane, you know? Maybe if she had been on the bike lane, maybe she’d still be alive.”

Goodyear said Negron’s comment was “clueless in the extreme, and very disrespectful to the person who died.”

“It just makes me angry that after what we’ve gone through in the last 15 years, where there’s been this renaissance of public space that everyone agrees is great, there’s still this hostility—it’s baked into the police department. I don’t understand why their resistance to bicycles is so deep and persistent.”

It’s hard to dispute the factual basis for Goodyear’s fury. After bike messenger Aurilla Lawrence was killed by a hit-and-run driver in March, not only did cops ticket bikes where she died, they also showed up to a group ride a month later and ticketed riders again, confiscated some bikes, and even arrested the leader on the pretense of following up a 2015 open container citation.

In the best of circumstances, to ride a bike is to be free. It does not require gas, it does not require a MetroCard, it does not require deference to schedules. It does not hurt anyone, or pollute the air. It is, somehow, often the quickest way to get around. It makes you strong. It is the closest you can get to flying in everyday life, which Robyn Hightman knew better than anyone. Croasdale told me that they had made the journey from Virginia to New York on their bike.

Hightman’s former pro team shared an excerpt from their ambassador application on Instagram this week:

As a homeless youth deeply entrenched in the trappings of poverty and parental abuse and neglect, my first bicycle offered a way to seek respite from the horrors of my surroundings and human experience, if only for a few glorious minutes. My bicycle established a sense of independence, strengthened my ability to be self sufficient, and provided me with the confidence necessary to advocate for myself, my rights, and my needs in public space. My bicycle enabled me to leave our encampment every day to access education, seek out food, and fulfill my basic needs. Eventually, my bicycle allowed me to provide for myself when I began working a full time job at the age of fourteen. My bicycle provided me with the socioeconomic mobility necessary to escape. My bicycle saved my life.

And so, let us consider the forces aligned against Hightman on that final ride on June 24.

An experienced, professional-level rider set out into a city making an honest, albeit misguided effort to keep them safe. That rider traversed bike lanes in-name-only that were too often clogged with cars and other obstacles. They had to navigate around drivers who didn’t know or didn’t care that they were there, drivers who have little legal incentive not to hit cyclists. They were protected by a police department more interested in keeping cyclists in line than the people that kill them.

It might not be possible to save every life, especially in a city as dense and chaotic as New York. But that doesn’t mean the city doesn’t owe more to its riders. “You’re probably never going to eliminate deaths completely,” Croasdale said. “It’s tragic, but I think making deaths the exception as opposed to the norm is where we should be headed.”

I reached out to the NYPD to ask how they knew Hightman was to blame for getting struck and killed by a truck, and all I received was this statement: “The preliminary investigation revealed that the bicyclist and the truck were traveling northbound on 6 Avenue when they collided.”

That statement made this week’s comments from NYPD Chief of Department Terence Monahan all the more surprising. At a press conference on Thursday, Monahan said of the ticketing strategy, “We’re looking at that strategy and it’s something that we’re looking to adjust. It’s something we want to take a look at, how we’re responding to it. What sort of enforcement we’re going to do. We’re speaking with [NYPD Chief of Transportation Thomas] Chan about how to respond after a fatality accident.”

That’s noncommittal, and presupposes plenty more accidents and deaths, but it’s at least an admission that cracking down on living riders does nothing to prevent them from becoming dead riders. City Councilor Carlina Rivera successfully introduced a bill that forces construction companies to build temporary bike lanes when they block the street, and that bill went into effect last month. There may not be a future out there where nobody dies on a bike in New York City ever again, but there can be a future where it’s a significantly more rare occurrence.

In May, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson rolled out an ambitious “master plan” for NYC streets, which includes five- and ten-year benchmarks that would rapidly expand the city’s bicycling infrastructure and make every intersection in the city ADA compliant. When asked about Hightman’s death, he sent the following statement:

The death of cyclists in cities is a crisis. In New York, we are working really hard to promote biking as an alternative mode of transportation to break our car culture. But we need to protect cyclists too. All 21st century cities have to design transit infrastructure with pedestrians, cyclists, and mass transit users in mind. We especially have to keep in mind the safety of each of those groups. Sadly in New York City right now, our bike infrastructure is just not good enough and cyclists are paying the price with their lives. We know the solution to this is to build an interconnected network of protected bike lanes, we just have to get it done.

People are not going to stop riding their bikes, even in Manhattan. The subway system is disintegrating in real time, the planet is dying, and a cheaper or more convenient mode of transportation still doesn’t exist. “Bicycles are the future of cities and, as such, smart city leaders need to embrace safe streets for cycling,” Doug Gordon wrote in an op-ed for the New York Daily News in the wake of Hightman’s death. “How many more people should die before this inevitable reality arrives? Let’s hope the mayor agrees that the answer is zero.”

Slightly improved policing and community anger aside, there are no guarantees anything gets better without change on a systemic scale. After all, Hightman wasn’t even the most recently killed cyclist in New York City for a period of a week.

Only hours after Hightman’s vigil ride, 57-year-old Ernest Askew was killed in Brooklyn. The car driver was not charged.