Widowed Husband of Slain Cyclist Says Ninth Street Redesign ’Falls Short’
The city’s proposed changes to a dangerous stretch of Ninth Street in Gowanus do not go far enough to make the street safer, the widowed husband of a cyclist killed there earlier this year charged on Wednesday.
“What we want is to guarantee everyone’s safety, and it seems like it’s going to fall short,” said Maxime Le Munier, whose wife Sarah Schick was killed by a truck driver on Ninth Street near Second Avenue on Jan. 10.
“It doesn’t seem like it’s going to be an extremely safe area, at least with this part of the improvements. I see them trying, which is great, but it might just fall short of actually making it safe.”
DOT’s initial redesign concept unveiled last month would have made room for a five-foot buffer-protected bike lane in each direction of Ninth Street, by removing parking between Second Avenue and Third Avenue. The protected lanes would then continue west of Second Avenue until Smith Street, where today the strip has green-painted lanes that leave people on bikes dangerously exposed to auto traffic.
Officials on Wednesday presented a revised plan to members of Community Board 6 that they said address calls from the board to think more boldly, but little about the proposal had changed — the most significant shift was the addition of jersey barriers to separate cyclists from moving traffic, though those will skip over private driveways.
“At the event that Council Member Hanif hosted last month, I think there were just lots and lots of things that are not in this proposal that I feel like could be done with the tools you have available now,” CB 6 Transportation Chair Doug Gordon told DOT officials on Wednesday.
Schick, a 37-year-old mother of two, died after being struck by a truck driver while biking east on an industrial section of Ninth Street near Second Avenue, where cyclists must share the lane with cars and trucks — and where city officials have long known about safety concerns for cyclists.
The young mom was the sixth person to die on Ninth Street in 18 years. In 2004, 11-year-old Victor Flores and 10-year-old Juan Angel Estrada were struck and killed by a trucker at Third Avenue while walking home from school. Fourteen years later, in 2018, Dorothy Bruns hit and killed 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein. Blumenstein’s mother, who was injured in the crash, lost her unborn child as a result of the injuries she suffered.
The 2018 crash led to the installation of a protected bike lane on Ninth Street between Prospect Park West and Third Avenue. City officials declined to go further west despite a letter from Community Board 6 at the time demanding the city create a “plan to extend safety improvements west of 3rd Avenue.”
DOT’s latest plan is insufficient amid the continued carnage, Gordon said.
“We had asked for DOT to investigate north-south streets with the goal of expanding pedestrian islands and other safety features, including the possibility of raised intersection treatments — that’s not in this proposal — and that DOT consider bicycle signals along the corridor, that’s [also] not in this proposal,” Gordon chided.
My take as a neighbor is that “redesigning” two blocks of 9th St. w/o network connection is COMPLETE BULLSHIT.
— Kathy Park Price (@KathyParkPrice) May 18, 2023
Schick’s family members and their attorney sued the city earlier this year for $100 million. They claim that municipal negligence led to her death, which could have been prevented if DOT had redesigned the entirety of Ninth Street in 2019.
DOT has not committed to a firm timeline for the new redesign. Board members on Wednesday urged the agency to get the changes done this summer.
“I don’t want to just approve the plan, I want it to be implemented this summer,” said Jerry Armer, the chair of CB6’s public safety committee.
The two committees unanimously approved DOT’s latest proposal for Ninth Street with several conditions — that the city add another Leading Pedestrian Interval crossing Ninth Street at Second Avenue, extend the time cyclists have to cross, add signage informing cyclists that they can take advantage of the LPIs, add green hash marks at the driveways and intersections, add more traffic calming measures to slow drivers down — and come back again soon with a more holistic plan for all of Ninth Street.