Family of Killed Cyclist Will Seek $100M For City Negligence in Crash
The family of a slain cyclist is suing the city for $100 million, claiming municipal negligence led to her death last month, when she was run over and killed by a truck driver on a portion of Ninth Street that had not been made safe, despite five previous deaths on the corridor in less than two decades.
Sarah Schick, a 37-year-old mother of two, died on Jan. 10 when the driver struck her as she biked east on an industrial section of Ninth Street near Second Avenue, where cyclists are forced to share the lane with cars and trucks — and where city officials have long known about safety concerns for cyclists, her family charged.
“They knew and did nothing,” Schick’s widowed husband Maxime Le Munier said on Monday as he announced the notice of claim against the city, the first step in a wrongful death suit. “They have a responsibility in Sarah’s death and the previous deaths as well, and it needs to change.”
The city Department of Transportation added protected bike lanes to much of Ninth Street in 2019, but left the strip unprotected for cyclists west of Third Avenue — despite pressure at the time from advocates to ensure that the improvements cover the complete stretch between Prospect Park West and Smith Street.
Extending the bike lane west could have prevented Schick’s death, her lawyer Sam Davis said on Monday, adding that the family is seeking “an enormous amount of compensation” because the city failed “to do what is their responsibility to do: that is to study what’s a safe street, to design it as a safe street, to bring it up to date to what the current needs are, to respond to the multiple fatalities and injuries and collisions.”
Schick’s death was just the latest tragedy on Ninth Street in several years to spur calls for a redesign.
In 2004, 11-year-old Victor Flores and 10-year-old Juan Angel Estrada were struck and killed by a trucker on Ninth Street at Third Avenue, while walking home from school. Fourteen years later, Dorothy Bruns hit and killed 1-year-old Joshua Lew and 4-year-old Abigail Blumenstein. Blumenstein’s mother, actress Ruthie Ann Miles, who was injured in the crash, also later lost her unborn child.
At the time, in 2018, advocates had met with DOT officials about the need to add safety measures to all of Ninth Street, not just between the park and Third Avenue. The local community board even sent a letter to then-DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg demanding it come back to the civic panel with a “plan to extend safety improvements west of 3rd Avenue.” But DOT didn’t budge.
Le Munier, the bereaved widower, said he learned of the previous fatalities on Ninth Street only after his wife’s death, and was horrified.
Now, he said, the city — nearly 20 years later — must finally add protection for cyclists on all of Ninth Street. DOT last month updated the signal timing at the intersection to what’s called a Leading Pedestrian Interval, which gives pedestrians and cyclists time to cross before cars and trucks get a green light.
“It’s unacceptable,” Le Munier said. “She died respecting every rule of the road, so the city needs to be safer for the cyclists. That particular intersection and many others across the city need to be made safer, and we don’t want to see another tragedy like this.”
Schick’s mother Evelyne recalled her daughter as a wonderful mom to two kids, 6-year-old Lena and 9-year-old Manon, and a leader at work at her finance firm, which according to her LinkedIn, assessed “community immediate and long-term needs for major infrastructure projects.”
“Sarah was so proud about her daughters,” said Evelyne Schick. “She was really busy with her job, she worked a lot of hours a day, she was so close to her daughters. She was incredible because she can have a call with her job and she was making apple pie with them trying to do everything altogether.
“Every day, every second she’s in my mind. I think about her, I dream about her. There are no word to describe,” the mother added.
The family’s pending suit follows a “die-in” by local activists late last month, in which dozens of cyclists and allies laid down on the road to protest the city’s failure to make the area safer.
City DOT responded by committing to redesign that portion of the roadway — nearly two decades after its dangerous conditions were first observed by the agency. But mere promises are not good enough, according to Davis — who called on the city to take immediate action.
“Paint is not a protection. And promises don’t save lives. So what’s different this time?” said Davis.
The city said in a statement to Streetsblog that it is reviewing the claim.
“Every life lost in crashes on city roads is precious and our thoughts are with the victim’s family,” said a DOT spokesperson.
And DOT previously told Streetsblog that it is working “24/7 to change the culture to redesign the street, to hear from the community.” The agency says it will present a redesign of the roadway to the local community board in the spring.