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Fifth Avenue fatality shows that this road needs to be safer

for The Brooklyn Paper
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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.

Updated 5:13 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Listen to Kermyt Padilla -- he makes deliveries for a living and he knows: Fifth Avenue needs dedicated commercial no-standing zones on every block.
July 2, 2009, 12:09 am
sid from Boerum Hill says:
double parking while actually unloading is not illegal. I am for no standing zones for trucks but they should have limited hours as they do in Chinatown(before 10 am...before noon on fifth avenue would be fine and would still preserve the spots for cars and shoppers at other hours). It would mean the truckers would have to alter deliveries to accommodate fifth avenue but can be done easily...all it take is a mind set change.

But how did does this prevent people going against the rules?...because the biker if the report is accurate crossed against the light. TA should do more to require the bikers to follow the law too.
July 2, 2009, 8:43 am
Mike from Ft Greene says:
Incredibly sloppy reporting here -- the question of removing the bike lane is completely tangential here, given that the section where this happened, at Dean Street, doesn't even have a bike lane. The bike lane only exists south of Carroll.

Fifth Ave needs an experiment with designated loading zones -- which are cheap and easy to test -- before anything else is done.
July 2, 2009, 8:52 am
freddy from slope says:
whatever the future setup of 5th avenue is...

this isnt the reason to change it. if the biker ran the red, the biker needs to change, not the roads.
July 2, 2009, 8:52 am
Lucien from Park Slope says:
I'm sorry for his family's loss - but I smell an axe grinding here. The real story was in the first two paragraphs - bicyclist runs red light, gets hit by oncoming traffic.

The rest of the article is a thinly-veiled editorial screed. Bike lanes, double parking, etc - none of them has any relevance to the story.
July 2, 2009, 9:15 am
Sue from north slope says:
Mike, take a walk and look at the street markings. The bike lane goes well past Carroll to at least Bergen.
July 2, 2009, 9:59 am
Mike from Ft Greene says:
Sorry, Sue, but you're wrong.

The bike lane runs from Carroll Street to about 23rd Street.

North of Carroll, there are Class III bike markings (aka "sharrows"), but those are not a bike lane. They're just a suggestion about where to ride.
July 2, 2009, 10:01 am
Brian from Park Slope says:
Lucien is right. The story is unrelated to the bike lanes. A biker ran a red light, got hit. That has nothing to do with lanes.

But if you want to talk about lanes, Kermyt has the best idea I've heard so far.

Between this shameless "journalism" and the horribly shortsighted and idiotic editorial a few weeks ago, I have come to question the integrity and leadership of the Brooklyn Paper. What a rag this thing is.
July 2, 2009, 12:12 pm
ana from Park Slope says:
And that's what happens when you run the RED light ......
Let this be an example to all the bikers who do the same.
July 2, 2009, 1:17 pm
Gabe from Park Slope says:
ooooo I'm quivering ana. I've really learned a lesson. No more biking for me, I'm trading my two wheels for an SUV.
July 2, 2009, 1:30 pm
Bob from Parkslope says:
Biker has a attitude problem like never stops for red light, or flashing red lights of yellow school buses, going wrong direction, if you blow the horn for sefty they always giving the fingers for everybody, so we all say NO BIKERS IN THE CITY!!!!!
July 2, 2009, 2:05 pm
Gabe from Park Slope says:
Hahaha. Keep it up Bob. Good luck with that.
July 2, 2009, 2:07 pm
anon from park slope says:
Gotta agree with the people in the article who point out that the private cars lining both sides of the street are at the core of this problem. I LOVE this solution: "Make it a one-way. Get rid of the parking. Have one lane for bikes, one for cars and buses [and] one for deliveries."

The city should really try this experiment, and I say this as a person who has a car in Park Slope. This free-for-all on 5th Ave has to end.
July 2, 2009, 2:28 pm
Fred from Park Slope says:
We shouldn't even be having this conversation; this shouldn't even be an issue. Bikes are toys meant for children. An adult on a bike is like a clown on a tricycle. Roads are for cars, they are bigger then bikes and if a biker punk gets hit then he deserves it.
July 2, 2009, 2:51 pm
D from Queens says:
If bikes are toys meant for children, then cars are merely toys meant for adults. Your logic makes little sense and fails to address the realities of 21st century life.
July 2, 2009, 2:56 pm
D from Queens says:
And Fred, your 'he' should be 'he or she'.
July 2, 2009, 2:57 pm
Sam from Park Slope says:
HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA

Observation: most cyclist seem to be not only sensitive but extremely agro.

Relax ! !

Go ride your bike or something and don't forget to take those red light.
July 2, 2009, 3:33 pm
David from Park Slope says:
The problems are:
1) Double-parked vehicles giving other vehicles and cyclists nowhere to go
2) Bicyclists not following the laws - note that the fatality above was of someone who ran a red light

And while we're on the topic, dear bicyclists: get off the sidewalk. You're not supposed to be riding on the sidewalk. You're a menace. If you want sympathy from pedestrians, stop endangering us. You belong in the street unless you're walking your bike.
July 2, 2009, 5:28 pm
Colette from Crown Heights says:
Crown Heights is part of Brooklyn too.

What does one have to do to make sure this up and coming community gets coverage in your paper
July 2, 2009, 5:44 pm
Judah Spechal from Bed-Stuy says:
Yeah Colette, I agreE with you I am always on this site. The majority of the stories here are all Park Slope, Clinton Hills, Forte Greene, Prospect & Brooklyn Heights, Dumbo. Not great for a paper that calls itself the Brooklyn Papers. What gives, can you venture out of your new diggs further into Brooklyn? Promise Bed-Stuy, Flatbush, Crown Heights, Brownsville, E.New YORKERS WON'T BITE.
July 3, 2009, 11:52 am
Tarrah from Boerum Hill says:
I think biking can be a safe and easy mode of transportation plus it's great exercise and great for the environment. But, it requires knowledge about the rules of the road and a lot of common sense. Streets are for cars, sidewalks for pedestrians and bicyclists need these bike lanes. But, the bike lanes serve as a general guideline for bicyclists and cars. For example in Boerum Hill, cars have to drive through the bike lanes on alternate side parking mornings. Drivers have no other choice and bicyclists have to be on alert.... they can't just bike along without a care in the world. According to the story, this 72 year old man was also not wearing a helmet. I don't know if it could have saved his life or not but he should have been wearing one. Since moving to this part of Brooklyn last summer I've noticed a huge number of irresponsible bicyclists in the area who seem to not mind gambling with their lives.
July 3, 2009, 5:08 pm
Al from Park Slope says:
Bottom line, Bikes and cars cannot exist together on the streets the way they are. Especially when I drive on 6th Ave. There are NO bike lanes on 6th Ave and when bikers are present, it really makes for a situation where the cars can only go as slow as the person riding their bike.

Taking parking away is not the answer either. As much as we in Park Slope would love to have everyone on a bike just like the video's we've seen from china years ago, we are not going to change the culture of the car.

I do however feel there should be a loading zone on Every Block for the massive amounts of local deliveries, which is a sign of the continued success of our neighborhood and it's shops.

I would love to bike around town however I end up walking a lot because atleast walkers DO have their own designated areas where cars (rarely) ever get in the way......
ALTHOUGH THE GRIDLOCK ON THE SIDEWALKS FROM EVERYONE WITH THEIR CLIPBOARDS AND THEIR CAUSES IS BECOMING QUITE THE ANNOYANCE!!!!!
July 6, 2009, 4:59 pm

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