Family, friends and city officials came together last week for a vigil in memory of Danny Vidal, a delivery worker who died after being run over by a driver near the Bushwick/Williamsburg border.
Vidal, 30, was starting his morning driving down Morgan Avenue on Aug. 4 when police say he fell off his scooter in the bike lane, and a truck turning left from Meadow Street subsequently ran over him. Vidal, a member of local organizing group for delivery workers Los Deliveristas Unidos, was pronounced dead upon arriving at Elmhurst Hospital.
“You can still see his blood,” said Vidal’s father, Miguel Naula, pointing to a patch of dark streaks on the bike lane’s green pavement. “He was only 30.”
Naula himself recalled having a similar accident on his bike at the same intersection only a few years ago.
“Three or four years ago, I was turning left from Meadow Street when a car hit me,” he said at the Aug. 11 vigil. But unlike his son, Naula was able to leave the scene alive.
The two-way Morgan Avenue corridor running through the industrial neighborhood has a history of lethal crashes with trucks.
Another flatbed truck driver hit and killed 30-year-old Canadian artist Mathieu Lefevre who was riding a bike just three blocks away at the intersection of Meserole Street in 2011.
Morgan Avenue has a pair of bike lanes but they are unprotected from vehicle traffic, with just painted markings bordering the car lanes. There have been a staggering 126 crashes on six blocks of the avenue between Meserole Street and Grand Street, injuring 158 people since 2011, according to city stats collected by Crash Mapper.
“The city knows this is a dangerous street,” said Councilmember Sandy Nurse. “We have had multiple accidents on this street. It is a failure of our city government to protect these lives.”
As councilmembers spoke, just one block south of the corner where Vidal was killed, a line of Gotham Ready Mix cement trucks could be seen parked in the bike lane waiting their turn to fill up.
Local Councilmember Jennifer Gutierrez, who represents the area, remarked that the industrial nature of the area may cause some to think these types of incidents are inevitable.
“Just because this is Bushwick or an industrial area does not mean we can turn a blind eye to what happened,” she said.
Attendees had multiple suggestions to improve the safety of the intersection and of bike lanes in general. Some suggested a light at the intersection or speed cameras.
Antonio Martinez, a member of Los Deliveristas Unidos, suggested a barricade to protect the bike lane and its users from car traffic. “The infrastructure has to change,” he said. “We need barriers for bike lanes.”
Hildalyn Colon, another member, said she thinks separate bike lanes are unsafe. “It has to be an inclusive lane, not exclusive,” said Colon.
Despite varying suggestions, all attendees agreed something has to be done to improve safety along the corridor — and across the city.
“Safety in our streets is really workplace safety,” noted Ligia Guallpa of the Workers Justice Project. Guallpa referenced the thousands of delivery workers who spend the majority of their day riding through the city’s streets with only a helmet to protect them.
“This is a commitment that the city has taken on,” said Danny Harris, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “No one on their way to work or school should have to fear or think twice that their loved one won’t come home because they crossed the street.”
“My heart is broken, and I’m angry because I keep going to these things,” Harris added.
“Nothing will bring my son back,” Naula said as he covered his face to hide his tears.
Additional reporting by Kevin Duggan