NYPD: Driver Hits and Kills Cyclist Robert Sommer in Marine Park

Victim Robert Sommer
Victim Robert Sommer

Another cyclist is dead after a driver hit and killed him in Marine Park on Sunday night, police said.

The unidentified 20-year-old male motorist on Avenue U near E. 33rd Street when he hit 29-year-old Robert Sommer as the cyclist tried to cross the avenue at about 8:20 p.m., the NYPD said in a statement.

Paramedics rushed Sommer with severe head trauma to Coney Island Hospital, where he died. Police say the driver remained on the scene. No arrest was made nor any summonses issued. The investigation is ongoing, cops said.

Sommer is now at least the 66th person — and at least the eighth cyclist — killed by a car this year. Traffic fatalities have jumped up 30 percent compared to the same time period last year, according to NYPD data (the city DOT claims the percent increase is lower).

Bike advocates have been fighting for better bike infrastructure throughout Marine Park and other parts of Southern Brooklyn, arguing that protected bike lanes would prevent people from getting killed there. Sunday’s victim is now at least the fourth person on a bike killed in southern Brooklyn this year — another death that could have been prevented if the city did not defer to communities that put parking before safety. 

“That half of the [year’s] fatalities have occurred in southern Brooklyn is the entirely predictable result of the city government and local officials abandoning people on bikes here and never taking serious measures to improve the bike network or cycling safety,” Bike South Brooklyn said a statement. “Across the rest of the borough, it has allowed itself to be scared off by openly-hostile council members and community boards that bear emotional resentment against people that bike. As such, the bike network is almost completely non-existent, and cyclists are injured and killed as a result.”

The area where Sommer was killed, right near the neighborhood’s eponymous park and salt marsh, lacks any bike lane. There have been 89 total crashes along the stretch of Avenue U between Stuart Street and E. 38th Street since May, 2016, causing one other pedestrian fatality and 17 injuries — four to pedestrians and one to a cyclist.

The death comes a few days after city officials told Bay Ridge that it would get a “starter pack” of painted bike lanes rather than protected bike lanes — even though city officials say protected lanes make roadways safer for all users. A community board member had quipped that he was pleased no parking spaces would have to be removed.

Transportation Alternatives also noted the timing of the death and the shortcomings of the Bay Ridge plan.

The group’s advocacy director Tom DeVito said:

At a community board meeting in Southern Brooklyn last week, a representative of the Department of Transportation explained succinctly why the agency would not install safe protected bike lanes in the area: it would inconvenience people who choose to drive cars. “Basically any protected lanes would involve reduced traffic flow or reduced parking,” the representative said. Three years ago, the Department of Transportation cowed out of plans to install protected bike lanes in the very area where Sommer was killed. We have no doubt that if this cyclist was afforded even a sliver of safe protected space on the street, they would be alive today.

To prioritize the convenience of one population over the survival of another is grossly unfair, and strikingly unethical. Transportation Alternatives calls on Mayor de Blasio to end the two-class system of parking over safety, which encourages the Department of Transportation to regularly place the pleasure of drivers well-above the survival of people walking and people on bikes.

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