OPINION: Community Boards Must Share the Blame for not Demanding Safe Streets

"Our streets don’t need tinkering, they demand a safety overhaul," argues neighbor Paul Kelterborn.

This is a common sight near Graham and Metropolitan Ave intersection. By Paul Kelterborn.

Paul Kelterborn is a resident of Brooklyn Community Board One and a regular bicycle commuter.   

The death of Adrian Coyotl De Los Santos, a bicyclist killed on December 23 when an MTA bus driver mowed him down at the dangerous intersection of Graham Avenue and Metropolitan Avenue in East Williamsburg serves as one more example of the way the de Blasio administration has failed to keep us safe. Mayor de Blasio touts “Vision Zero” rhetoric but his talk is meaningless without the kinds of action needed to stop these tragedies.

Three years ago this month, another bicyclist was killed at this same spot. This would lead me to expect that the DOT must be fast-tracking safety improvements to the Metropolitan corridor to prevent further senseless tragedies. Sadly, all we hear from DOT is crickets and excuses when it comes to the kind of safety improvements that our streets demand. Where bike lanes have been installed, like along nearby Grand Street, a busy corridor for bicyclists, they are mostly useless. On my daily commute, cars swerve in and out of the bike lanes on this street. They idle their cars and park as if unaware that they are in one of the city’s “protected” bike lanes and putting lives at risk. It’s deadly and irresponsible to permit this chaos on our streets.

As much as I blame de Blasio’s inaction for Adrian’s death, much of the responsibility also falls on the deaf ears of my representatives on the community board, BK CB 1. I have attended enough community board meetings to see first-hand how the narrow interests of people with cars, who demand to be able to park wherever they please (for free!) overrides any argument for large scale street safety improvements.

Our streets don’t need tinkering, they demand a safety overhaul. There needs to be separation between multi-ton vehicles and bicycles and electric scooters. But this will require trade-offs. Sadly, until community boards put aside their parking fetish and proactively advocate for safe streets, nothing will change. Adrian won’t be the last bicyclist to die at this intersection. The city will continue along the path of least resistance, slow-walking safety improvements, promising not to remove a single precious parking space and hiding behind the shouting of the car-owning minority. We need to recognize that as long as we tiptoe around the entrenched entitlement of drivers, our streets will continue to claim lives and devastate families.

Paul Kelterborn is a resident of Brooklyn Community Board One and a regular bicycle commuter.   

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  1. Is there a petition to sign? Or a legal agency that might support this issue? How can we take action on this (besides reaching out to the Mayor?)

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