Three Bicyclists Were Killed This Week In Brooklyn

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A cyclist holds a sign calling attention to the death of Aurilla Lawrence who was killed on her bike. (Todd Maisel/Bklyner)

CROWN HEIGHTS/MARINE PARK/BORO PARK – While Mayor Bill de Blasio is out campaigning for U.S president, cyclists are continuing to die in his city. The total number of cyclists who have died this year so far now totals 10. Meet 22-year-old Kenichi Nakagawa, 16-year-old Yisroel Schwartz, and 29-year-old Robert Sommer– all cyclists that were killed by vehicles just this week in Brooklyn.

On Saturday, May 11, at about 5:20 p.m., Nakagawa was biking on Dean Street and Brooklyn Avenue in Crown Heights. A 66-year-old man driving a 2012 Toyota Sienna was traveling eastbound on Dean Street, approaching the intersection of Brooklyn Avenue. The car’s front bumper struck the young man, forcing him to fall on the roadway. Cops blame the cyclist, who died from his injuries on Tuesday, May 14.

“The 22-year-old bicyclist disobeyed the steady red traffic light while riding southbound on Brooklyn Avenue, at the same intersection,” the NYPD said.

The driver remained at the scene and no arrests were made.

Then, a day later on Sunday, May 12, Robert Sommer was biking and crossing Avenue U near East 33rd Street in Marine Park at around 8 p.m. when a driver driving a Toyota Highlander struck the cyclist. The 29-year-old Sommer landed in the street with head trauma and was pronounced dead at the hospital.

The driver remained at the scene and no arrests were made.

On Wednesday, May 15 at about 5:40 p.m., 16-year-old Yisroel Schwartz was biking north on 17th Avenue near 53rd Street in Boro Park. He was “doored” by driver getting out of a car, knocking him into the street and where he was struck by a 2013 Econoline E350 heading north. He was taken to Maimonides Hospital and was pronounced dead.

Both the van and car drivers remained at the scene and no arrests were made.

According to Hamodia, Schwartz was a tenth grader attending Yeshivas Novominsk. According to the Daily News who spoke to the driver of the van, he was very shaken. “I didn’t see him, to be honest,” the driver told the Daily News. “It was an accident.”

The three deaths bring the number of cyclists who have been killed in the city to 10 – same number that were killed in all of 2018, say activists from Transportation Alternatives.

Just two months ago, 25-year-old bike messenger, Aurilla Lawrence was killed by an 18-wheeler who struck her and left the scene in Williamsburg. In April, 26-year-old Pedro Tepozteco was riding his bike on 47th Street in Boro Park when a truck’s rear tires struck him, killing him in the process. 

In fact, just the first week of 2019, brought two cyclist deaths in the borough. 26-year-old Hugo Garcia was the first biker that was killed in 2019. He was riding his bike when a taxi driver opened the car’s door in his path. Hugo was thrown into oncoming traffic, where a 2013 Nissan hit and killed him. On January 4th, 41-year-old Hector Ayala Jr. was riding his bike just a block away from his home when a van struck and killed him.

“While the City’s approach to reducing fatalities has yielded real results over the past five years, it is abundantly clear that the scattershot, one-off approach to Vision Zero has reached a point of diminishing returns, and New Yorkers are dying as a result. We need a new, systemic approach to Vision Zero that makes safety a matter of course, not subject to the whims of parochial community board politics,” Thomas DeVito, TransAlt’s Senior Director of Advocacy said.

“Every time a simple street redesign takes two years to implement — like Amsterdam Avenue in Upper Manhattan — it is a leadership failure. Every time a safety improvement is removed or indefinitely delayed — like Dyckman Street or Queens Boulevard — or is preemptively watered down — like the recently announced Bay Ridge bike plan — because of fears over blowback from a small group of drivers, it is a leadership failure. And New Yorkers pay for these failures with their lives.”

DeVito then called on the City Council to pass the Vision Zero Street Design Standard and called on the Mayor to “ensure that standard is met every time a street is redesigned.”

“This means a complete network of protected bike lanes, “daylighted” corners at every intersection, ensuring more visibility and fewer vehicles obstructing pedestrian and bicyclist right of way,” DeVito said, “and a pilot program with more automated enforcement cameras to shield bike lanes from dangerous double parking, protect intersections from chronic blocking, and ensure that pedestrians who are using the crosswalk are not impeded upon by reckless turning vehicles.”

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6 COMMENTS

  1. The advocates of cycling in New York City have more blood on their hands. New York City was not designed for cyclists and it will never be safe for cyclists. Period.

  2. I’d say, rather, the advocates of motorized vehicles AND the design to get as many folks behind a wheel as possible, is the paradigm that truly create so pilled blood. Perhaps up to half of all people who drive motorized vehicles are NOT competent to do so. THEY are all potential killers. But as long as it’s good for business to have as many drivers on the roads as possible, and as long as there are mental midgets who don’t have a clue what’s the reality – like RJ – plenty of people will continue to die.

  3. RJ, no cities older than 50 years were designed to be bike friendly, but riding bicycles has been shown over and over again to provide many benefits. It reduces traffic, improves air quality, improves community health, the list goes on and on. It makes sense to change our designs and infrastructure to make it safer. Separated bike lanes do make riding a bike in NY much, much safer and enjoyable.

  4. As long as we prioritize the privileged few who drive over the majority who don’t, people will continue to die. Cars are fundamentally incompatible with urban life and its absolutely horrendous that we’ve ceded our shared space to them. Dead children and neighbors is just the “cost of doing business” around here apparently.

  5. Chris, in fact there are millions of people in this city who rely, for various reasons, on motorized transportation. Most are in the outer boroughs, most are not privileged, most don’t have adequate alternatives. We should be moving away from cars, radically, I agree, but to conflate a deeply entrenched feature of our society with malicious intent is why people who drive–again, mostly working stiffs–is wrong and does the whole movement no favors. Bikes cannot get us all the goods and services we need in a city of 8+ million, so we need to figure this out together, not fling emotionally salient invective. I speak as a cyclist who has seen and benefitted from the hard-fought improvements to bicycle infrastructure of the last 15 years, and who wants to convince our electeds we need more.

  6. Hi Will,
    over 60% of Brooklynites do not have cars. Those that do are, on average, twice as wealthy as those who do not. Of course we do need commercial vehicles to function as a city. But we don’t need free parking on every street. There are a million small things we could do to reduce the number of cars and the amount of traffic violence but the political will is not there.

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