Endless Summer on Brooklyn’s Fifth Avenue

For most New Yorkers the official end of summer is Labor Day which, this year, fell on Monday, September 4, 2006. For astronomers, pagans and Daniel Libeskind’s "Wedge of Light," the end of summer is the Autumnal Equinox, the moment when the sun crosses the celestial equator from north to south. By that measure, Fall begins on Saturday, September 23 at 12:03 am this year. But for those who commute by bike along the northern end of Fifth Avenue in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the end of summer will be the day that New York City’s Department of Transportation creates bike safety improvements along this stretch of avenue recently identified as one of the city’s top three bicyclist fatality areas. At the moment, there is no end in sight.

On June 9, 2005, a 28-year-old pro-bono lawyer named Elizabeth Padilla was killed on Fifth Avenue near Park Place when a truck driver carelessly opened his door into the path of her bicycle (Aside: There’s going to be a memorial 5K run for Liz on October 1 in Prospect Park). Fifth Avenue is a designated bike route and in the aftermath of Padilla’s death, community members, elected officials and bike advocates made repeated calls to DOT asking for safety improvements along the narrower stretch of the avenue between Flatbush Avenue and Carroll Street. On May 19 Councilmember Bill DeBlasio received a letter from Brooklyn Borough Commissioner Joseph Palmieri stating, "We anticipate installation" of Class III Bike Route improvements "to be completed by this Summer."

It hasn’t happened.

We know that the Brooklyn Borough Commissioner’s office lost its Downtown Brooklyn traffic coordinator to a job promotion at the end of July and only just recently filled that post. And we know that DOT has been focused on a larger, citywide, bike safety initiative for the last few months as well. Still, it has been 15 months since the death of Liz Padilla and a commitment is a commitment.

So, why the delay? When can we expect to see safety improvements along this important and heavily-used bike route? We have a call in to DOT’s public affairs office and hope to have a response shortly.

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