Brooklyn’s Third Avenue Demands Serious Solutions After a Second Bicyclist Is Killed on This Deadly Corridor in 2019

Statement of Transportation Alternatives Deputy Director Ellen McDermott in response to the 18th person killed while riding a bike on New York City streets in 2019:
Joseph Cutrufo -
(646) 873-6027

“30-year-old Em Samolewicz was killed while riding a bicycle on Third Avenue in Sunset Park, Brooklyn this morning. She is the eighteenth person to be killed while biking on New York City streets to date in 2019, the twelfth in Brooklyn, and the second on Third Avenue. Everyone at Transportation Alternatives sends their sympathy to her family.

This crash took place just eight blocks from where Hugo Garcia, the first person killed while biking in 2019, was struck. The details of this most recent death are similar to that of Garcia’s: both were caused by people who carelessly opened car doors in the bicyclists’ paths.

Third Avenue, which has eight lanes for cars and zero for bikes, is a product of a bygone era when transportation decisions were made with the sole intention of moving as many vehicles as possible through our neighborhoods, without regard to the people living and working in those neighborhoods. The danger is compounded by the Gowanus Expressway looming overhead, and the poor visibility at intersections caused by the elevated highway’s support structures and the acres upon acres of land beneath where people store cars and trucks. Dangerous driver behavior in this neighborhood shouldn’t be surprising; the environment suggests that this corridor belongs to the cars, and if you must ride a bike on this street, you do so at your own risk.

Streets like Third Avenue are incompatible with Vision Zero. To eliminate traffic deaths, these deadly corridors which are dedicated 100 percent to moving and storing vehicles must not be allowed to exist in their current form. We cannot make excuses for so-called “level of service” while saying that eliminating death and serious injury is a top priority. We simply cannot have it both ways.

This crash follows another Brooklyn crash in which a cyclist was doored, and then harassed by the NYPD officers who responded to the incident. Dooring, which caused the deaths of Garcia, as well as Yisroel Schwartz on May 15, is expressly prohibited by New York State law. The NYPD could use more training on this issue.

Now that we have seen two tragic cycling deaths and one pedestrian death on Third Avenue in 2019, we expect the Department of Transportation will take swift action to amend the new Green Wave plan to include a redesign of this deadly corridor. But we must not stop there. Serious problems -- like people dying on our streets -- demand serious solutions. This city and region need to have a serious discussion about removing the elevated highways that create such lethal car-dominated environments.”