A young up and coming Brooklyn artist was tragically killed earlier this month after being hit by a cement truck when she was cycling in East Williamsburg on Bushwick Avenue. This accident marks the third New Yorker to be fatally injured in the span of a week’s time while riding a bicycle in the city.
On Mon., July 1 at about 12:20 p.m. at the intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Boerum Street, 28-year-old Devra Freelander was fatally struck by a United Transit Mix truck driver. The horrific incident was captured on video (warning, the video contains graphic footage) which shows Freelander trying to navigate her bike out of the way as she was driving north on Bushwick Avenue when a blue cement truck going eastbound entered the intersection. The cyclist was thrown from her bike when the two collided.
First responders pronounced Freelander dead at the scene of the accident. According to news reports, the truck driver, identified as 70-year-old Alan Vega, remained at the scene after the crash and was not charged at the time of the incident. Initial findings by police indicate the truck driver had a green light but state the investigation is ongoing. Local news reports indicate surveillance video footage suggests the driver was speeding.
Freelander’s work has been displayed in Times Square, the Socrates Sculpture Garden, and other prominent venues in the United States, and in places as far away as Iceland and Norway. Her work focused largely on climate change. Our hearts go out to the family and friends of Devra Freelander in the wake of this tragic accident.
A memorial was constructed at the site of the accident where mourners have been coming to pay their respects to the late cyclist. A vigil was held two days after the accident and was attended by elected officials, cyclists, and safe street advocates. During the event, two United Transit cement trucks happened to pass by, further heightening tensions between safe road advocates and truck drivers. At least one driver shouted out words that appeared to blame Freelander and other cyclists while another stopped and stepped out of his truck, indicating a sense of remorse stating “we all have families” and noted company members were also hurting after the accident. These tensions aren't eased any considering the day after the accident fleet manager Danny Mastronardi had said there were “too many bikes” on the roads, suggesting cyclists interfere with commercial businesses being able to effectively do their jobs.
In 2018, 10 cyclists were killed by motor vehicles over the course of the entire year. By mid-2019, 15 fatal bicycle accidents have already occurred, indicating the number of cycling accidents in New York are growing and is a problem that needs to be addressed. Ten of this year’s accidents have occurred in Brooklyn, suggesting this area has a significant problem. For instance, this area of Bushwick Avenue is notorious for its hazardous conditions. The scene where this accident occurred is largely residential and is not marked as a truck route. Local residents say, despite this, many trucks speed through this section of the neighborhood and, in the case of the cement company, its trucks drip cement on the road, further creating impediments on the road for cyclists to safely navigate.
"NYC’s streets are busy and are very crowded and busy with trucks, buses, cars, vans, motorcycles, cyclists, and pedestrians. Additionally, put tech into the mix with phones, texting, and music, distracted driving has also substantially increased. Being the city has no ability to physically expand its roads, significant roadway analysis needs to be done to figure out how to use the law to make roads safer." - Howard Raphaelson, NYC Personal Injury Lawyer
Things Other Cities Have Done Include:
These initiatives could go a long way towards fixing the city’s problems.
In the aftermath of this tragedy, calls for changes are being made by cyclists and drivers across the city. Mayor De Blasio responded by vowing to enact changes to the city’s Vision Zero initiative to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities occurring in NYC. De Blasio also said he wants to “redouble” the city's Vision Zero efforts by engineering safer streets and adding more bicycle lanes. A new cyclist safety plan is expected to be completed later this month. It’s unclear if limiting heavy trucks in residential areas will be a part of the changes or if any other additional significant changes to Vision Zero will be made.
In response to this latest accident, the mayor reportedly also ordered the NYPD to “aggressively clear out” bicycle lanes and to enforce drivers to comply with laws associated with speed and failure to yield. A three-week “major” enforcement action is underway. Critics say this is simply a publicity stunt and will not address the root problems with Vision Zero.
If you or a loved one have been impacted by a bicycle or pedestrian accident, you deserve justice for any damages and emotional trauma you’ve suffered. At Raphaelson & Levine, our attorneys offer compassionate and knowledgeable representation for all accident victims. To learn more about bike accidents or to receive a free legal consultation, please call us at 212-268-3222.