Cyclist group calls for Flatbush bike lane after fatal crash

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A day after an 18-year-old Kensington cyclist was dragged and killed by a driver on Flatbush Avenue, bike advocates called on the city to put a bike lane on the heavily traveled thoroughfare.

“[A Flatbush Avenue bike lane] is definitely something worth serious considerat­ion,” said Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell. “It’s a dangerous street for bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists as well. It would definitely be a design challenge, but that’s what we have traffic engineers for.”

Norvell said a bike lane stretching from the tip of the Manhattan Bridge in Downtown all the way to the Gil Hodges Memorial Bridge in Marine Park 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.

Despite the daily dose of aggressive motorists and half-crazed dollar van drivers, more and more bicyclists have been seen trying their luck along Flatbush Avenue.

But that decision proved fatal for Jake McDonaugh, who was struck by a charging minivan and then dragged for several feet near the corner of Flatbush Avenue and Beverly Road on Wednesday morning.

Motorist Michael Oxley, 29, was arrested and charged with criminally negligent homicide for allegedly zipping around a slower car and blowing through a red light before striking McDonaugh.

Such behavior is a typical of a dangerous “highway mindset” that overcomes many motorists on Flatbush Avenue, according to Norvell.

“That kind of driving behavior is contagious,” he said. “Even when they leave Flatbush Avenue, they carry that with them for several blocks in every direction.”

Flatbush Avenue is currently not mentioned in the city’s Bike Master Plan, which hopes to double two-wheeled commuting in the five boroughs by 2015.

A Department of Transportation spokesman said a bike lane for Flatbush Avenue isn’t needed, since there are already several bike lanes that “essentially run parallel to it.”

Of course, no street is parallel to the diagonal Flatbush Avenue, but the city does provide bike routes on Jay Street, Dean Street, Bergen Street and Carlton Avenue serve bicyclists that funnel cyclists to the Manhattan and Brooklyn bridges. South of Prospect Park, bicyclists are served by a lane running along Bedford Avenue.

And a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue would be a likely non-starter for Borough President Markowitz, who slammed Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan earlier this week as an anti-car zealot.

Markowitz opposes a plan for a two-way bike lane on Prospect Park West, which would cut one of the three lanes for cars.

“We just disagree on certain instances where I’m acutely aware that she wants to make it hard for those who choose to own automobiles,” Markowitz said. “I really believe that … she would like to see more people stop car usage and use their bicycles or walk.”

But the death may have changed things. When approached about creating a bike lane for Flatbush Avenue in light of Wednesday’s fatality, Markowitz softened his tone.

“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.

Transportation Alternatives is not actively campaigning for a bike lane on Flatbush Avenue, Norvell said. Yet, looking at similar streets in the city, he surmised that Flatbush Avenue would need more than a painted bike lane.

“When there’s more traffic, paint doesn’t do the job. Streets that carry a lot of traffic like this is a different animal,” he said, adding that jersey barriers may have to be installed “to provide physical protection from the moving lanes.”

Such barriers were installed on Tillary Street near the Brooklyn Bridge.

In the end, the most-important barrier may be motorists. The idea of bringing a bike lane to Flatbush Avenue has already rankled some, who think it will only upset the chaos already found on the roadway.

Dollar van drivers were especially perturbed as they foresaw continually blocking the bike lane as they went about their business.

“In our industry we’re moving in and out to drop off people,” said Winston Williams, who has been driving a dollar van up and down Flatbush Avenue since 1992. “A bike lane will cause a lot more summonses.”

Updated 5:17 pm, July 9, 2018: Updated with more more more.
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Reasonable discourse

tracy from prospect heigts says:
i avoid riding my bike on flatbush avenue at all costs. i'm surprised that more pedestrians and cyclists aren't killed. if you want to witness the craziness first hand, watch the intersection of flatbush & bergen for several traffic light cycles. the red light camera takes a photo of a red light runner very frequently. this one camera must be raking in lots of money.
April 16, 2010, 8:15 am
Dave from East New York says:
I'm acutely aware that Marty Markowitz wants to make it hard for those who'd like a non-idiot to occupy the Office of the Brooklyn Borough President.
April 16, 2010, 8:47 am
Mike from Park Slope says:
Gee, a transportation commissioner who wants to reduce the amount of car usage within the that such a bad thing?
April 16, 2010, 9:09 am
ch from bh says:
someday, we will have a new borough president.

and there will be much rejoicing.
April 16, 2010, 9:55 am
Nell from Wyckoff says:
Sadik-Khan is a bicycle zelot who hates cars: not the best mind set for a NYC Transportation Commissioner.
April 16, 2010, 10:47 am
Fourth Estate from DUMBO says:

You should check out the intersection of flatbush and fulton/nevins. This is the most insane intersection in the city. No red light cameras when the broke city could make a mint there.
April 16, 2010, 11:15 am
Alvin M. Berk from Flatbush says:
As one who crosses Flatbush Avenue when I bicycle to work, I can attest to the "highway mindset" Wiley Norvell speaks of. It's why I shun Flatbush Avenue as much as possible.

But as chairman of Community Board 14, in which this tragic death occurred, I also can attest to the difficulty of placing bike lanes on Flatbush Avenue.

Meanwhile, I'll use alternative routes, wear my helmet, watch out for crazies, and hope for the best.
April 16, 2010, 2:19 pm
Janice from Marine Park says:
I used to commute to work along Flatbush Avenue from Marine Park to Downtown Brooklyn in the 1970's. I have still used the route to access the Brooklyn Bridge and into Manhattan. The cars still scrape their sidewalls on the curb stones. The road has lots of pot holes and patches and dips due to underground water. Still, it is the most direct route through the spine of Brooklyn, and I would like to remind everyone that there are riders from beyond the Slope and the Burg. Brooklyn is bigger than the new transplants would like to admit, and we're tired of being ignored, so a suitable bike lane would be a plus.
April 16, 2010, 6:41 pm
Den Dennis from Carroll Gardens says:
The fact is, though, that this kid wasn’t riding on Flatbush, he was crossing Flatbush and was broadsided by an antisocial jerk who thought getting through an intersection a minute faster was worth risking the safety of the public at large. Until the city starts doing what they did in this case more often-bringing appropriate charges (criminally negligent homicide) to psychotic drivers who break the law and consequently kill someone-it won’t matter how many bike lanes DOT stripes. It needs to be broadcast to the far corners of this city that if you kill someone in this manner, it’s not an “accident.” You gambled with the lives of strangers for an inconsequential gain – and you lost.
April 17, 2010, 8:26 am
jay from pslope says:
Funny. the person zipping through the light is usually a person on a bike, and its usually a person on a bike putting the safety of pedestrian at risk when they do things like ride on the sidewalk, run red lights, ignore crossing signals, and ride the wrong way on a one way or even two way street. I guess most cyclists can't read?
Den, I don't see you saying anything about holding cyclists accountable. Figures, so shove it in your forth point of contact.
Yes Mike from park slope it is a bad thing because a lot of people who use cars actually do need them and live in places where they don't have a reasonable option, but of course as a bike fascist, I sure you could not possibly comprehend that someone may have a different kind of life and/or not want to live like you. As per instructions to Den, shove it in your fourth point of contact as well.
April 22, 2010, 8:02 pm

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