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Residents saddened by cyclist’s fatality

In the wake of a shocking fatality involving a cyclist and a truck on Nassau Avenue this weekend, North Brooklyn transportation advocates are calling for more safety improvements to one of the most dangerous intersections in the borough.

On Sunday, December 13, at 12:02 PM, Greenpoint resident Solange Raulston, 33, was struck by a flatbed truck barreling westbound down Nassau Avenue near McGuinness Boulevard. She was taken to Bellevue Hospital where she was pronounced dead. Police have made no arrests in the case and do not suspect criminality.

“Seldom does a week pass without flowers being laid in someone’s memory at this dangerous crossing,” says Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives. “No one should underrate the necessity of making the most dangerous intersection in North Brooklyn safer. Now is the time for the City to act.”

According to Department of Transportation statistics, there were 34 crashes involving bicyclists and pedestrians at the intersection of McGuiness and Nassau between 1995 and 2005, and two fatalities.

“Someone is always getting killed on this corner trying to cross,” said Community Board 1 member Tish Cianciotta. “I don’t know what can be done, Maybe there should be a three-way light. This is just a very bad corner, one of the worst corners around. How long is this going to continue?”

In November 2008, Community Board One’s Transportation Committee implored the DOT and the Department of Design and Construction (DDC) to adopt comprehensive safety designs for a federally stimulus funded Nassau Avenue street reconstruction project. When city officials came back to Community Board 1 this year for feedback without the traffic calming measures members asked for, the Transportation Committee reiterated its refusal to support the project, and sent a letter on November 23 explaining its reasoning.

“It is the board’s position that the DDC does not appreciate the urgency of the situation at the intersection and that the NYCDOT has not sufficiently intervened, despite our requests,” said the letter, signed by CB1 Chair Christopher Olechowski. “At this time, we believe that our approval of a design that does nothing to prevent additional pedestrian injuries and fatalities at the intersection is a direct statement to our community that we don’t care about the lives that have been lost here. We will not make such a statement to our neighbors, families and friends.”

Community Board 1, as well as Transportation Alternatives and Neighbors Alliance for Good Growth are asking the city to extend curbs into the street on all corners of the intersection, install wider refuge meridians on McGuiness Boulevard, removing one parking spot on each corner, and add more crossing time for pedestrians walking over McGuinness Boulevard.

“The North Brooklyn community has long been asking the city to make safety improvements at this hazardous intersection,” said Lacey Tauber, Chair of NAG’s Transportation Working Group.“This tragic incident is a grim reminder that the City needs to rethink its street designs to give priority to the most vulnerable users.We ask the City to address the community’s concerns as quickly as possible, before another tragedy occurs here.”

The accident happened just hours before cycling activists led by Times Up! held a mock funeral procession for the city’s removal of a portion of a bike lane in Bedford Avenue. Barbara Ross, a cyclist who attended the ride, said she was saddened by the accident and urged better traffic enforcement of streets heavily used by cyclists and commercial traffic.

“I feel the ride, even though it was a theatrical ride, was a serious ride about the safety of cyclists on our streets,” said Ross. “It was ironic that the NYPD came out in full force for this peaceful ride in the freezing rain yet the NYPD is not enforcing the existing laws regarding bike lanes.”

DOT spokesperson Scott Gastel said, “Safety is our top priority, and we will continue to look at ways to enhance this location.”

DOT data shows 20 reportable accidents, 14 pedestrian injuries and one cyclist injury, with zero fatalities, at this intersection since 2005.

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