08 July 2019

How Many More?

This year is only half-over.  Here in New York City, more cyclists have already been killed by motorists than met such a fate in all of 2018.

The fifteenth and latest such victim is 28-year-old artist Devra Freelander.  A week ago, she was riding on Bushwick Avenue when a cement truck hit her.  

Devra Freelander

I am very familiar with Bushwick Avenue, a 10 kilometer long thoroughfare that cuts through the center of Brooklyn, from Greenpoint in the northwest to East New York in the southeast.  It is perhaps most famous for being part of Robert F. Kennedy's walking tour, which is said to have changed his politics prior to his 1968 Presidential campaign.  Today, it serves as a conduit for hundreds, if not thousands, of people--mostly young--who pedal to their jobs or clients in Manhattan.  

It also is, unfortunately, a prime route for trucks like the one that struck Devra Freelander.  While gentrification, in one degree or another, has taken hold in the neighborhoods (with the exception of Brownsville) along Bushwick Avenue, there are still industrial areas near the ends of the avenue--in East New York and East Williamsburg, where Ms. Freelander met her unfortunate fate.

Bushwick Avenue, for most of its length, has two lanes in each direction.  Because it's a major thoroughfare, traffic is usually heavy and there isn't much room to maneuver--especially for vehicles as large as cement trucks.  Worse yet, most trucks don't offer their drivers good sight lines, especially on narrow city streets.

What exacerbates the problem is that the city does little to enforce regulations on trucks or other commercial vehicles.  As a result, truck drivers frequently hurtle along at well above the speed limit--as the driver of the truck that struck Devra Freelander did.  Also, trucks are often operated outside of their legally-designated routes.  The NYPD's 90th Precinct, which covers the area where Ms. Freelander was killed, has issued only five tickets in 2019 to truckers operating outside their legal routes:  something--you guessed it--the driver was doing at the time he struck Ms. Freelander.

I don't want to make light of this situation, but there is a "You can't make this up!" aspect of the story.  Devra Freelander, the artist, made sculptures and video art that examined climate change, geological time and technocapitalism.  And she was killed by a cement truck while riding her bicycle.  

The year is only half-over, and more cyclists have been killed by motorists than in all of 2018. Devra Freelander is the latest.  How many more must meet her fate before my city gets serious about enforcing its regulations on trucks?


  1. i know that the problem isn't limited to NYC, but just when in g-d's name will the police begin enforcing traffic controls? All the regulations and traffic laws in the world are meaningless without proper enforcement, and the local police have shown no interest in doing that essential part of their job.

  2. Mike—You are absolutely right. In addition to regulations on trucks, rules or laws about pulling in or out of, or parking in, bike lanes aren’t enforced. Neither are regs about texting, or other distractions, while driving.

  3. I just google mapped Bushwick!!! You'd have to be insane to ride on that street!