FINALLY: DOT Says it Will Redesign Unprotected Portion of Ninth St. as Cyclists Stage ‘Die-In’
Dozens of cyclists staged a “die-in” on Friday at the dangerous unprotected stretch of Ninth Street where a truck driver killed a woman cyclist 10 days ago, an event that culminated in a promise by the Department of Transportation to redesign that portion of the roadway nearly two decades after its dangerous conditions were first observed by the agency.
After cyclists laid in the street to protest what they called the city’s failure to keep people like 37-year-old Sarah Schick safe, DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said the city will unveil in the next few months a redesign of the unprotected portion west of Third Avenue. The city will also immediately change the signal timing to give pedestrians and cyclists time to cross before cars and trucks get a green light, a timing known as a Leading Pedestrian Interval.
“We are here to say that we are working 24/7 to change the culture to redesign the street, to hear from the community,” said Rodriguez, who likened the preventability of traffic violence to gun violence. “We are making immediate signal adjustments to improve safety in this area. We are also committed to delivering a design solution that makes this stretch of Ninth Street safer for cyclists. We will come to the local community board with a proposal.”
The agency could not yet say what exactly the changes will look like, but said that it has an “expanded toolbox” from which to pull from.
Schick, a mother of two, died on Jan. 10 at about 7:20 a.m. after she was overtaken and run over by the 39-year-old driver of a 2022 Freightliner box truck as she headed east on Ninth Street near Second Avenue. She died on the scene, according to police, who have not issued any summonses to the driver.
Advocates say her death could have been prevented had the city followed through on redesigning the entirety of Ninth Street, not just between Prospect Park West and Third Avenue as it did in 2019, despite pressure at the time from Community Board 6 to extend the improvements to Smith Street.
Schick’s death is now the sixth in 18 years on Ninth Street. In 2004, 11-year-old Victor Flores and 10-year-old Juan Angel Estrada were struck and killed by a trucker on Ninth Street at Third Avenue, while walking home from school. Fourteen years later, Dorothy Bruns hit and killed 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein. Blumenstein’s mother, actress Ruthie Ann Miles, who was injured in the crash, also later lost her unborn child.
At the time in 2018, advocates had met with DOT officials about the need to add safety measures to all of Ninth Street, not just between the park and Third Avenue. But DOT didn’t budge.
“We know that his corridor has ben unsafe for far too long and promises had been made after death after death almost the last 20 years,” said Council Member Shahana Hanif, who represents the area, standing alongside State Sen. Andrew Gounardes, Assembly Member Jo Ann Simon, and a representative from the office of newly elected Rep. Dan Goldman. “We are committed to holding the DOT to account to making sure this Ninth Street corridor is no longer known as an unsafe corridor.”
And now, five years later, a close friend of Schick’s told community members and pols just how anguished he and her family are, especially after learning that the city could have done something to prevent his friend’s death.
“I want to thank you all for being here. We are devastated obviously,” said Juan De La Torre. “Nothing is going to bring us Sarah back. It’s been very hard times for the family and the close friends. What I’m learning here is this seems to be avoidable and the city just dropped the ball … and now we have to be here for our friend.”