Mayor under pressure to protect city cyclists following week of carnage

Truck driver fatally strikes cyclist in Williamsburg: NYPD
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Cycling advocates accused Mayor Bill de Blasio of failing his own Vision Zero street safety initiative — a citywide mandate to prevent any traffic-related fatalities — in the wake of back-to-back fatalities that claimed the lives of two Brooklyn bikers in the last week.

“New Yorkers on bikes are being killed at a record rate,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Marco Conner in an emailed statement. “It is clear that Vision Zero is in a state of emergency and Mayor de Blasio is in denial about his signature program faltering under his neglect.”

The safe-streets advocates at Trans Alt are leveraging the recent cycling fatalities to promote a package of bike-friendly bills, which include Council Speaker Corey Johnson’s plan to add 50 miles of protected bike lanes a year until 2023, in addition to clearing parking near intersections to improve visibility or “daylight” the junctions, according to Conner.

The Trans Alt spokesman also demanded action on Park Slope lawmaker Brad Lander’s bill to boot or impound cars that have five or more traffic violations, as well as a planned bill by Brownsville Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel that would initiate a pilot program to test cameras to catch idling cars that block intersections.

De Blasio — who’s currently running for President of the United States — released a statement saying he will step up police enforcement against motorists and that he has tasked the Department of Transportation to come up with a new cyclist safety plan, adding that he would have to ramp up efforts to ensure his five-year-old Vision Zero initiative achieves its goal of no traffic deaths.

“We are seeing a dangerous surge in cyclist deaths on our streets, and we are taking action,” the mayor said in the prepared statement. “I have directed the NYPD to immediately launch a major enforcement action that will encompass every precinct and crack down on dangerous driving behavior like parking in bike lanes. At the same time, I have charged the Department of Transportation with developing a new cyclist safety plan to make biking in our city safer.”

The Police Department’s chief announced Tuesday that it just launched a three-week enforcement blitz of misbehaving drivers with the aim to reduce bike-related injuries and fatalities.

“The NYPD will work with all of our city partners to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate bicycle fatalities,” said NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill in a prepared statement. “The NYPD vigorously supports Vision Zero, and enthusiastically promotes safety for everyone on our city’s streets.”

The new plan will focus on violations including speeding, running lights, not yielding to bikers and pedestrians, parking in or otherwise obstructing bike lanes, and double parking, while also offering educational outreach to drivers, bikers, and pedestrians from July 1–21.

In Brooklyn’s most recent cycling tragedy, 28-year-old Devra Freelander was pedaling east along Boerum Street at 12:19 p.m., when the 70-year-old driver of a United Transit Mix cement truck struck the biker as she crossed Bushwick Avenue, cops said.

Paramedics pronounced Freelander dead at the scene, according to police.

A surveillance video obtained by WABC shows Freelander crossing Bushwick Avenue on the crosswalk as the truck hit her.

Cops have not cuffed the driver, who remained on the scene following the collision, and the investigation remains ongoing, according to the department spokeswoman.

Freelander is the 15th city cyclist killed by motorists this year, compared to 10 in all of 2018, with two more slain just last week, including one in Brownsville and another in Manhattan.

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