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Safety Advocates: Biker’s Death Could Have Been Prevented

The bizarre “dooring” crash that killed a man riding an e-bike in Sunset Park early New Year’s Day could have been prevented if the de Blasio administration had installed safety features on the street where the fatal smash-up took place, according to transportation advocates.

Ellen McDermott, co-interim director of the group Transportation Alternatives, called for the installation of more protected bike lanes around the city in the wake of the horrific crash that took the life of Hugo Alexander Sinto Garcia on Third Avenue early Tuesday morning.

“This morning’s deadly crash, in which a 26-year-old bicyclist was killed after being doored and launched into traffic, could have been prevented,” McDermott said in a statement issued on Tuesday. “Brooklyn’s Third Avenue has not been redesigned to safely accommodate all users regardless of their mode of transport. On the stretch of Third Avenue where this crash occurred, there is no dedicated right of way for people on bikes, just three wide lanes for moving cars and trucks, and one lane for storing them.”
Protected bike lanes are designated lanes that are separated from vehicular traffic by barriers such as planters, posts or parked cars, according to the website www.peopleforbikes.org.

Garcia, 26, was riding an electronic bike and was traveling north on Third Avenue near 28th Street shortly before 6 a.m. when the driver of a parked 2009 Toyota taxi cab suddenly opened the door, an act known as “dooring,” knocking Garcia into the path of oncoming traffic, according to police.

A second car, a 2013 Nissan driven by a 53-year-old man, struck Garcia, police said.

Police arrived at the scene and found Garcia lying unconscious on the roadway with trauma to his head and body. He was rushed to NYU Langone Hospital – Brooklyn, where he was pronounced dead.

Both the cab driver and the Nissan driver remained at the scene. No charges have been filed against either driver. The NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is looking into the crash.

“Dooring is what happens when a driver or passenger opens a door of a vehicle (ostensibly without looking) in the path of an oncoming bicyclist,” Transportation Alternatives Communications Director Joseph Cutrufo told this newspaper in an email.

Cutrufo contended that protected bike lanes prevent dooring “as does better driver/passenger behavior.”

The New York Daily News reported that Garcia was an immigrant from Guatemala and was on his way to his job as a delivery man for Bagels by the Park, a bagel shop in Carroll Gardens, when he was killed. Police said he lived a block away from the scene of the crash.

Garcia was the first person to die in New York City as the result of a bike crash in 2019.

There have been six fatal crashes involving “dooring” in New York City since 2012, including two fatalities in 2018, www.nycstreetsblog.org reported in May.

The fact that Garcia was riding an electronic bike makes no difference in how Tuesday’s crash should be viewed, McDermott said.

“Reports indicate that the person killed this morning was using an e-bike, which underscores the fact that it makes no difference how a bicycle is propelled where bicycle traffic is not separated from car and truck traffic. People who use e-bikes are just as vulnerable to the dangers of doors being opened in their path as people who ride regular bikes,” she stated.

Transportation Alternatives has endorsed a City Council bill introduced in 2018 that would establish a “Vision Zero Street Design Standard.” Under the bill, the Department of Transportation (DOT) would be required to install safety measures, like protected bike lanes, whenever a street is repaved.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, a Washington Heights Democrat, is the bill’s main sponsor. Rodriguez is also chairperson of the Council’s Transportation Committee. Other sponsors of the bill include Brooklyn Council Members Robert Cornegy Jr. , a Bedford-Stuyvesant Democrat, and Jumaane Williams, Flatbush Democrat.

“Without comprehensive arterial road design, New York City simply cannot achieve the goal of eliminating traffic deaths and serious injuries,” Transportation Alternatives Legislative and Legal Director Marco Conner testified at an emergency City Council hearing in August.

“New York must fundamentally shift how we view our streets and allocate space for different modes of travel,” Conner said in his testimony. 

Legislation to create the Vision Zero Street Design Standard “should be a top priority for the City Council this year,” McDermott stated.

A DOT spokesperson told this newspaper that the agency is determined to make streets safer.

“After record-low traffic fatalities in 2018, DOT grieves at this first traffic fatality of the new year. We strongly agree with Transportation Alternatives about the need for protected bike lanes, which is why we have in recent years created a record number of them. In 2018, we began the construction of major north-south protected lanes along four miles of Brooklyn’s Fourth Avenue. We expect to complete the section that includes 28th Street this summer, and plans for a protected bike lane on Third Avenue are in the works,” he said.

“In the meantime, we remind all drivers and passengers that they should always look behind them before opening car doors into traffic. You could quite literally save a life,” he added.

 

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