Brooklyn Boro

Why are so many cyclists dying on southern Brooklyn streets?

May 23, 2019 By Scott Enman, Paul Frangipane, Lawrence Madsen
10 cyclists have been killed throughout the city so far in 2019, already matching the total number killed all of last year. Eagle file photo

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A map of bike lanes around the borough shows that only a few roads in southern Brooklyn are bicycle friendly. Infrastructure, a prominent car culture and a politicized process of approving street safety equipment are all contributing to cyclist deaths in the area, according to bike advocates.

“There have been almost no changes in the past 10 years,” Brian Hedden of Bike South Brooklyn told Brooklyn This Week. “Where there have been changes, it really hasn’t connected one neighborhood to another, it might be a lane on a few blocks of one street. So as such, it doesn’t surprise me, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that half of the fatalities this year have been in southern Brooklyn.”

Hedden is familiar with the resistance against proposed changes. The Department of Transportation hesitates, Hedden added, to proceed with any project without approval from community boards.

“Up until recently pretty much all the boards and all the councilmembers in southern Brooklyn have been extremely hostile to bikes,” he said.

Echoing his concerns is Dulcie Canton, an organizer with Transportation Alternatives and a hit-and-run survivor.

“The DOT probably has a lot of good ideas that they’d like to present, but there’s a lack of political will sometimes,” Canton said, adding, the community boards tend to be car-centric and would prefer not to deal with the inconvenience of a new bike lane.

“Sometimes you have members on there for 10, 15, 20 years, and they’re thinking that ‘I drive, I drive, I drive’ and ‘I want to park my car’ and ‘I don’t want a new bike lane.’ And this is unfortunate because lives are lost,” she said.

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Councilmember Antonio Reynoso has proposed limiting the back and forth between community boards and DOT to expedite the bike lane approval process.

“We know the money’s in the budget for the construction of new bike safety and pedestrian safety upgrades and infrastructure,” Reynoso said. “So our problem is that the DOT is extending the process by returning to the community boards.”

  • Interview with Brian Hedden at 1:23
  • Interview with Councilmember Reynoso at 6:35
  • Interview with Dulcie Canton at 9:40

Brooklyn this Week‘s host Lawrence Madsen is a native New Yorker. He attended Columbia University, and volunteers with the disaster relief group Team Rubicon.

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