A cyclist’s death this week on a dangerous stretch of Ninth Street in Gowanus, Brooklyn, could have been avoided if the city had implemented better safety measures following earlier deaths, residents and activists say.
Sarah Schick, a 37-year-old mother of two, is the fourth person to have died within a half-mile of the intersection with Second Avenue since 2017, according to the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
On Tuesday, Schick was waiting for the green light on Ninth Street at Second Avenue just after 7 a.m. A box truck approached as she began to pedal when the light turned green. As the 39-year-old driver “was overtaking” the cyclist, she veered into the truck’s path, police say. Her handlebars struck the truck and then the driver ran her over. The driver has not been charged and the investigation is ongoing.
While nearby blocks of Ninth Street have a protected bike lane, which was installed in response to a gruesome car crash in 2018, the stretch where Schick died narrows into an unprotected lane where cars and bikes share the road.
On Friday, several people visited a memorial with flowers and Schick’s photo at the intersection where she was killed.
“It’s a scary intersection, I try to avoid it,” said Taylor Aikin, whose children attend the same school as Schick’s. He lit a candle in her memory.
Biking through the intersection on the way to his woodworking shop, Richard Smith, 37, said he usually isn’t too worried about the street. As he spoke two cars sped by, one tailgating the other.
“I think the street is big enough to have a dedicated bike lane,” Smith said. “I think the city would benefit from having more dedicated bike lanes. Not just for safety, but to relieve traffic, to encourage more people to bike.”
Schick is the second New York City cyclist to die less than two weeks into 2023. Tamara Chuchi Kao, 62, was fatally struck by the driver of a truck in Queens while riding a Citi Bike last week.
“While more and more New Yorkers are riding bikes, the city of New York has a duty to keep bike riders safe. These deaths are the tragic and predictable outcome of failing to protect people on bikes,” Transportation Alternatives said in a statement.
The advocacy group criticized Mayor Eric Adams for failing to install 30 new miles of protected bike lanes last year, which is required under a law passed by the City Council in 2019.
Ninth Street was the site of one of the more horrific traffic killings in recent years, prompting the redesign of nearby blocks. In 2018, a driver suffering a medical episode ran a red light, killing two children and injuring a pregnant mother in the crosswalk. The driver died by suicide later that year.
In 2004, two boys were struck and killed by a truck driver at Third Avenue and Ninth Street.
Local members of the City Council are expecting to tour the site with Department of Transportation officials next week to see how the roadway could be improved.
“Every life lost on city streets to traffic violence is an unconscionable tragedy,” wrote DOT spokesperson Mona Bruno in a statement. “DOT will review street design at the location as we do for every crash.”
Mona noted that the city has spent $900 million to improve 1,400 intersections across the city last year.
Last year there were 17 cyclists killed – a number that has trended downward since 2019.