City to enhance safety along Coney Island Avenue in response to cyclist death

Deadly scene: Police released the 18-year-old driver who smashed his white Dodge Charger into another car, which then fatally struck 52-year-old cyclist Jose Alzorriz at the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Avenue L in Midwood on Aug. 11.
Photo by Steve Solomonson

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a plan to enhance traffic safety along Coney Island Avenue in response to a deadly crash that claimed the life of a cyclist in Midwood earlier this month.

“This was a heartbreaking tragedy, and we’re taking action to make this corridor safer for everyone,” de Blasio said. “Starting immediately you’ll see enhanced NYPD enforcement of reckless driving, while DOT accelerates the installation of nearby bike lanes and other safety measures. We will not rest until we reach Vision Zero.”

As first reported by AM New York, de Blasio ordered the Department of Transportation to install pedestrian islands and new left turn signals, in addition to lengthening pedestrian crossing times at intersections along the bustling north-south thoroughfare between Park Circle and Brighton Beach Avenue, according to mayoral spokesman Seth Stein.

Transit officials will pay special attention to intersections at avenues L and C, Dorchester and Quentin roads, and Ditmas and Crawford avenues, each of which will benefit from at least one of the aforementioned safety enhancements, Stein said.

In the near term, both police and transit workers will step up enforcement along Coney Island Avenue, while the mayor’s office also promises to install new, unprotected bike lanes within the next two years somewhere nearby Coney Island Avenue and Avenue L, according to Stein.

A spokeswoman for Department of Transportation did not immediately respond to questions regarding where the new cycling paths would be placed, or explain how the new proposal differed from the Green Wave bike lane expansion de Blasio announced in July, which already lists the area near the deadly Midwood crash as a priority zone.

The rapid safety push comes in response to the death of Park Slope cyclist Jose Alzorriz, who was stopped at Avenue L when 18-year-old Umar Mirza Baig blew through a red light and T-boned another car there, which then smashed into the biker.

Police cuffed Baig on Aug. 21, and he was indicted on a laundry list of charges that include reckless manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, and two-counts of assault, court documents show.

One transit advocate slammed hizzoner’s proposal for not going far enough, saying the city must install protected bike lanes that separate cyclists from traffic using parked cars, bollards, or other forms of physical barrier.

“It’s absolutely outrageous to look at a street that’s designed like a highway and then throw up your hands and say we can’t do anything to make it safer for the most vulnerable,” said Thomas DeVito, a spokesman for advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.

The city has given southern Brooklyn the shaft when it comes to cycling infrastructure, according to DeVito, who said it’s high time in the wake of Alzorriz’s death that transit officials extend additional bike routes into the borough’s southern reach.

“[Coney Island Avenue] runs through neighborhoods that have borne the brunt of cyclist fatalities this year, southern Brooklyn has experienced it the worst,” he said.

The city previously upgraded the bike lanes on Ninth Street in Park Slope to include buffers and parked cars between bikes and traffic last year after Staten Island motorist Dorothy Bruns ran a red light and struck and killed two children who crossing Fifth Avenue a few months prior.

Reach reporter Kevin Duggan at (718) 260–2511 or by e-mail at kduggan@cnglocal.com. Follow him on Twitter @kduggan16.

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