THE truck driver who fatally struck Australian tourist Madison Lyden while she was cycling near Central Park has briefly appeared in court charged with drunk driving.

Ms Lyden, 23, died on Friday afternoon in Manhattan when she swerved out of the way of an Uber and in front of the garbage truck.

Police arrested the driver, Felipe Chairez, 44, after seeing empty cans of beer in the cab of his truck, and charged him with driving under the influence.

He admitted drinking two beers with lunch before leaving work at a downtown construction site to dump garbage in the Bronx.

The driver’s blood alcohol level was between 0.04 and 0.06, according to court documents.

But his lawyer said in court the beers would not have impacted his driving because of the food he had eaten.

“If he had a chicken salad sandwich, the alcohol may have been absorbed by the lunch he had,” said attorney Kenneth Ware, according to the New York Post.

Chairez was released on bail after being arraigned on the misdemeanour charge of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. It’s not clear if he will face more charges.

Ms Lyden had been riding a rental bike when an Uber pulled into the bike lane and she swerved to avoid the car, veering into traffic, sources said.

As she swerved around the livery car, the woman was struck by the garbage truck, the sources said.

According to witnesses, Ms Lyden was not wearing a helmet. This is not unusual for city cyclists in New York as wearing a helmet while riding a bicycle is not a legal requirement in Manahattan.

She was rushed to the Roosevelt Hospital, where she could not be revived and she died.

The Aussie tourist had been riding her bike with a friend, heading north up Central Park West before the accident occurred. They were on holiday in New York.

“An investigation revealed that the female was riding a bicycle north bound on Central Park West, in the bicycle lane, when a black Toyota livery vehicle pulled out into the bike lane from a stopped position,” the NYPD spokesman said in a statement.

“The bicyclist swerved and was struck by a private carting truck, which was also travelling north bound on Central Park West.”

Witnesses said that Ms Lyden’s friend had tried to help her after the accident.

“She was shouting, ‘Baby, baby, baby, wake up,’” the witness reportedly said.

Police Captain Timothy Malin said the truck driver was tested for DUI after several beer cans were found in his cabin.

“Our preliminary investigation has found that the actions of the bicyclist did not contribute to the collision,” Captain Malin told a local news website.

The tragedy was quickly slammed as preventable by transport advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

“Madison Jane Lyden is dead because her bike lane was blocked. It’s tragic, yes, but all the more unconscionable because this was a crash waiting to happen,” said Executive Director Paul Steely White.

“Every day in this city, bike lanes meant to protect people on bikes are used as drop-off lanes, parking lanes, and idling lanes for lazy and entitled drivers. As a city we should be ashamed, because this death could have been prevented.”