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Call for change after cycling tragedies

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While downtown Brooklyn is more bike-friendly than ever before, more must be done.

That was the cry of bike advocates last week after two bicyclists were killed in separate incidents in Park Slope and downtown Brooklyn.

“Incidents like these prove that we can’t take all of the progress that the city has made for bicyclists for granted,” explained Wiley Norvell, a spokesman for the bicyclist group Transportation Alternatives, who are pushing for more dedicated bike lanes in the borough as well as throughout the city.

Police said that back on September 6, young Alexander Toulouse, a resident of Warren Street was killed when he was hit by a mail truck near the corner of Boerum Street and Livingston Avenue. A parent was riding through the neighborhood with him when the accident took place.

The tragedy was followed up with another death on September 10, when 50-year-old Jonathan Milstein, a resident of Sackett Street, was struck by a school bus as he pedaled past the corner of Eighth Avenue and President Street.

Milstein was rushed to New York Methodist Hospital where he died of his injuries.

No charges had been filed against either driver. Both deaths have reportedly been ruled as accidental.

Bike advocates, however, said that the two locations where the accidents took place did not have bike lanes, although Community Board 6, where one of the accidents took place, boasts having more “bike lanes to road miles than any other district in the borough and perhaps the city,” according to District Manager Craig Hammerman.

While there are no bike lanes on Eighth Avenue, Hammerman said that the board had previously contacted the Department of Transportation (DOT) about putting one there.

“We asked [the DOT] to engage us in a conversation about Eighth Avenue and Prospect Park West back when a bike lane was put on Ninth Street,” said Hammerman. “At the time, DOT was not ready to get into a conversation about it and we don’t know if they’re any more ready now. But we’re ready to have that conversation when they’re ready.”

Yet currently the DOT does not engage community boards when they map out bike lanes – probably because of the stalwart opposition they’ve received from other, non-bike lane friendly boards.

Just this past summer, the DOT, as a courtesy, alerted Community Boards 2 and 6 that they would be painting exclusive bicycle lanes on Congress Street between Columbia and Clinton streets, Kane Street between Clinton and Columbia streets, Hoyt Street between Schermerhorn and Dean streets, Henry Street between Old Fulton and Clark streets, Smith street between Bergen and Fulton streets and Jay street between Fulton and Tillary streets.

“The paint on these lanes is still drying,” Hammerman said.

Still, bike enthusiasts said that more bike lanes should be added, particularly along heavily traveled areas in Boerum Hill and Brooklyn Heights, where Toulouse was killed.

“We’ve made some huge strides, but the streets are still unsafe for children and the majority of bike riders,” Norvell explained. “We still need more protected spaces for bicyclists and until we have that on our most dangerous streets, we’re going to have more accidents.”

“The streets haven’t caught up to the diversity of users who are on them,” he said.

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