Sunset Park

Sunset Park bike rider dies in New Year’s day ‘dooring’ crash

After cyclist dies, advocates demand more bike lanes

January 2, 2019 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Transportation Alternatives leaders charge that there aren’t enough protected bike lanes in New York City. The bike lane logo pictured is located on the roadway on Sixth Avenue near 74th Street and is unprotected. Eagle photo by Paula Katinas

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 advocacy group peopleforbikes.org.

Garcia, 26, was riding an electric bike north on Third Avenue near 28th Street shortly before 6 a.m. when the driver of a parked 2009 Toyota taxicab suddenly opened the door, knocking Garcia into the path of oncoming traffic in an act termed “dooring,” 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.

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In an email to the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday, Transportation Alternatives Communications Director Joseph Cutrufo explained “dooring” as “when a driver or passenger opens a door of a vehicle (ostensibly without looking) in the path of an oncoming bicyclist.”

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.

In an eerily similar incident, a bike rider was killed in a “dooring” crash on a street in Long Island City on May 29, 2018. In that incident, the bicyclist was traveling on 21st Street near 46th Avenue when the door of a truck suddenly swung open, knocking the bike rider into the path of oncoming traffic, were he was struck and killed.

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

The fact that Garcia was riding an electric 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 would be required to install safety measures, like protected bike lanes, whenever a street is repaved.

Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez (D-Washington Heights) is the bill’s main sponsor. Rodriguez is also chairman of the council’s Transportation Committee. Other sponsors of the bill include Brooklyn Councilmembers Robert Cornegy Jr. (D-Bedford-Stuyvesant) and Jumaane Williams (D-Flatbush).

“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.

At press time, DOT officials did not offer a response to the call by Transportation Alternatives for more protected bike lanes.

A DOT spokesperson told the Brooklyn Eagle 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 4th Avenue.  We expect to complete the section that includes 28th Street this summer, and plans for a protected bike lane on 3rd Avenue are in the works,” the spokesperson 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,” the spokesperson added.

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  1. Tony Giordano

    Strange thing how Transportation Alternatives now wants a protected bike lane. I approached the director three years ago with a plan for a protected bike lane along 4th Avenue – they loved it and set up a conference call to discuss it (I have emails between us on this). But when they found out that our Councilmember was vehemently opposed they stopped all further discussion. The Councilmember – Carlos Menchaca – an avid biker – refused to even consider the possibility of a protected bike lane – (again, i have a series of emails proving this) – purely out of local political infighting with me. I finally got it approved and the city is now working towards it and both Carlos & TA are bragging about their support. I understand Carlos playing politics – but TA is a disgrace considering its noble origin when they were the only force speaking on behalf of bikers – it seems they have gotten too comfortable being liked by politicians.