Dead biker’s mom joins call for Flatbush bike lane

One day after this fatal crash on Flatbush Avenue, bike advocates are talking about a bike lane on the frantic strip.
Photo by Tom Tracy

The grieving mother of a bicyclist run down on Flatbush Avenue has vowed to not let her son die in vain, joining a nascent campaign by cycling advocates for a bike lane on the chaotic thoroughfare where her son was killed.

“I don’t see how anyone could object [to a bike lane],” Laraine McDonough said, just days after she and her family held a memorial service for her son, Jake McDonough, who was on his way to class at Brooklyn College on April 14 when he was struck by an impatient motorist who ran a red light at the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Beverly Road.

Motorist Michael Oxley, 29, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for allegedly zipping around a slower car before striking McDonough, who was dragged several blocks and died at the scene.

Laraine McDonough said her son biked all over the city, even though she often feared for his safety.

“[Bike riding] is dangerous in this city,” she said. “I didn’t want my son riding a bike, but he was 18 and able to make his own decisions. He told me that he was going to be safe, but you can’t guarantee what others are going to do.”

That’s why “bike advocates should be listened to,” she said. “Bicyclists need a lot more considerations.”

There’s currently no active campaign for a bike lane stretching from the tip of the Manhattan Bridge in Downtown to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in Marine Park, but Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell said one would not only help calm traffic, but “link the borough together” for bicyclists.

“It’s a critical corridor — if it was made safe for cycling, it would be utterly transformative,” he said.

But first it would be an engineering nightmare. Though more and more bicyclists can be found pedaling along the seven-mile stretch, Flatbush Avenue is famous for its aggressive motorists and dollar van drivers, as well as the fleet of buses and delivery trucks. Jersey barriers like the ones installed on Tillary Street near the Brooklyn Bridge may have to be installed to save bicyclists from motorists, Norvell said.

The Department of Transportation said that there are no plans to put a bike lane along Flatbush Avenue, since several other streets that run parallel to it already have them.

Yet a bike lane request for Flatbush Avenue could get the blessing of Borough President Markowitz, even though he recently opposed one for Prospect Park West.

“I’ve supported the creation of many bike lanes in Brooklyn and am certainly open to considering the merits and feasibility of any such proposal,” he said.

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