Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Member Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brownsville) and State Sen. Zellnor Myrie (D-Brownsville) yesterday demanded the de Blasio Administration put as much attention on bicycle safety and his Vision Zero program into communities of color as he does in Brownstone Brooklyn.
The lawmakers made their remarks before, during and after a vigil yesterday for 57-year-old cyclist Ernest Askew, who was struck killed by an 18-year-old driver last week between Chester Street and Sutter Avenue. The event’s attendance at the accident site included multiple bike riders, pedestrian and cyclist activists, and elected officials to advocate for protected lanes and streets for low-income communities of color such as Brownsville and East New York.
Vision Zero, a program the de Blasio Administration created, intends to reduce and eliminate traffic deaths and injuries through criminalizing drivers, speed limit reduction, and more repair for traffic signals and signs.
“Vision Zero cannot be a bumper sticker, it has to be a reality. As we were preparing to gather Monday evening to mourn Ernest Askew, a cyclist who was killed in Brownsville last Thursday, we heard that yet another cyclist, Devra Freelander, was killed in Bushwick. These losses are tragic and preventable. But they take political will. Safe streets conversations can’t only be in Park Slope, Cobble Hill, and Manhattan. Brownsville and East New York deserve the same level of attention on street redesigns and safe cycling infrastructure. We grieve these deaths, and will resolve to redouble our efforts to make streets safer for everyone,” said Adams.
Myrie said the uptick in bicyclist deaths has not discriminated by age, race, or gender but that certain communities have protected bike lanes, and others do not.
“This was a grave tragedy that compounds the built-in racism and classism that is our transportation system as it exists right now. In Brownsville we have subway stations that don’t have elevators, we have buses that are still using diesel fuel. We do not have the public transportation options that we deserve and when we encourage people to utilize bicycles and alternative forms of transportation, they are taking their life into their own hands every time they get on that seat,” said Myrie.
Ampry-Samuel said the de Blasio Administration is focussed too much on development and not enough on developing sensible infrastructure including for cyclists.
Specifically, Ampry-Samuel pointed to the seven-way intersection where Howard, East New York and Pikin avenues and Kings Highway all meet in Brownsville.
“I have stood on the corner with Families for Safety and called on the DOT (Department of Transportation) to come in and do a revisioning of that intersection and possibly create a traffic circle, which is also near a new development going up,” said Ampry-Samuel. “But HPD (Department of Housing Preservation and Development) is not working with DOT on these related issues. We need a better job collaborating efforts across all agencies to make sure we have a real community development plan and not just affordable housing.
Advocates at the vigil said since January 2019, there has been a record of 15 fatal bike crashes in the city. In all of 2018, there were 10.
Advocates noted that currently, low-income neighborhoods like Brownsville and East New York have one shared road space for cyclists and drivers, causing the frequency in crashes.
John Santiago, a survivor of a severe bike crash years ago, gave a testimony on his experience with the trauma suffered from the accident alongside his children.
“When I was in my coma, my parents were preparing my funeral arrangements,” said Santiago, wrestling with sadness. “This accident, this crash, is an egregious inaction by the city government”.
Cyclists held up their bikes in the air to commemorate the fallen victims of bike crashes in a moment of silence including Askew.
Askew died of his injuries sustained from the bike crash last Thursday at Brookdale Hospital. His memorial and plaque is placed near the sight of the crash.