Fifth Avenue fatality shows that this road needs to be safer

Fifth Avenue fatality shows that this road needs to be safer
On Fifth Avenue, bikers are sometimes forced to take drastic measures.
The Brooklyn Paper / Tyler Waugh

Everyone on Fifth Avenue agrees that the struggle among cars, trucks, buses, bikes and pedestrians is ridiculous — but over the weekend, it again turned deadly.

A 72-year-old bicyclist was struck by a van and killed last Saturday at the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Dean Street after he apparently went through a red light.

The accident was two blocks from where Liz Padilla was killed in 2005 — a death that convinced the city to add bike lanes to Fifth Avenue in the first place.

Now that another cyclist has died, another re-design of the avenue is in order, some say.

But others argue that the bike lane is what should be eliminated.

Carlton Ballen, who manages the Black Sheep tavern on St. Marks Place, is on the side of letting bikers stay — if the roadway is reconfigured for cars.

“Make it a one-way,” he said. “Get rid of the parking. Have one lane for bikes, one for cars and buses [and] one for deliveries.”

Of course, even Ballen admitted that this wasn’t perfect for pedestrians and the delivery drivers, too.

“Someone’s gonna get screwed,” he concluded.

The main problem on two-way Fifth Avenue is traffic: Delivery trucks often double-park, forcing cars, busses and cyclists to swerve into the oncoming lanes.

The results can be fatal, as the still unidentified 72-year-old rider discovered on Saturday.

A week before that fatal crash, the Fifth Avenue Business Improvement District was already calling for the elimination of the bike lane, arguing that cyclists and trucks can’t safely share the road.

“When [trucks] double-park, they have to park outside the bike lane and that brings traffic to a dead stop,” said Irene LoRe, director of the BID and the owner of Aunt Suzie’s restaurant.

But in the wake of the cyclist’s death, some truck drivers said the Fifth Avenue BID’s proposal goes too far.

“We need commercial no-standing zones on every corner,” said Kermyt Padilla, a mover who was unloading his double-parked truck between St. Mark’s and Prospect places (he is not related to Liz Padilla). “Otherwise, we’re in the middle of the street and everyone’s pissed off trying to get around us.”

For now, the Department of Transportation is saying that it will look into it, but its spokesman, Seth Solomonow, recently told The Brooklyn Paper that the agency is fond of a bike lane that typically serves close to 900 cyclists in a 12-hour period.

Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the pro-biking group Transportation Alternatives, also argued that the problem with Fifth Avenue is not the cyclists, but the illegally parked cars and trucks.

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