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Pols and Neighbors Call For a Safer Franklin Avenue After Killing of Cycling Advocate

A cyclist crosses the intersection where Adam Uster was killed on Monday. Photo: Julianne Cuba

The city must do a better job of protecting cyclists on Franklin Avenue, a local council member said in the mournful aftermath of Monday's death of 39-year-old cyclist Adam Uster at the hands of a truck driver on the crucial Brooklyn route — where neighbors will hold a vigil and rally on Friday.

“On this particular corridor where we’ve just seen so much vehicular violence I think definitely having a protected bike lane would help save lives,” said Council Member Crystal Hudson (D-Fort Greene). “This is a tragic loss that could have been avoided. I hope his death does not go in vain.”

According to police and family, Uster — a cycling advocate and member of Transportation Alternatives with a passion for photography — was heading home from Wegmans with his bike trailer filled with groceries when he was struck by the driver of a flatbed truck at the corner of Franklin and Lexington avenues at about 11:30 a.m. Police, who did not release the driver’s name nor issued any summonses, said the investigation is ongoing.

Adam Uster on a trip to Venice in 2012. Photo: Uster family
Adam Uster on a trip to Venice in 2012. Photo: Uster family

But the driver was clearly at fault, according to video of the crash obtained by Streetsblog. The footage (below) shows Uster being struck by the truck as the driver made an abrupt right turn onto Lexington Avenue without signaling.

“You turn your blinker on, and the last thing you do is you look in your mirror before you make that turn — he didn't do any of that. You can tell from the video, because if he had slowed down and looked, he would have seen Adam,” Amy Ko, who lives across the street from where Uster was hit, said through tears.

Ko said she rushed out of her apartment after hearing Uster call for help, and stayed with him, trying to calm him down before paramedics arrived. Uster was lucid enough to remember his wife Frederique’s cell phone number, Ko said, which another Good Samaritan at the scene dialed up, telling her what had happened and to rush over.

Frederique pedaled over, arriving no more than a minute after the ambulance showed up, according to Ko.

WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO BELOW

“It was a passion of Adam’s and of Frederique’s, the whole biking movement and what the organization represented, they were big supporters,” said Uster's mother, Annie Goldner, who was visiting her son at the time from Oregon. The family was set to ride the Five Boro Bike Tour on Sunday.

And according to Goldner, Uster was even able to say his daughters’ names — Erika, who will be 3 in August, and Marceline, who will be 6 in December — before losing consciousness. He was then rushed to Methodist Hospital, where he underwent surgery to stop the bleeding, but could not be saved.

Ko said she and several of her neighbors will gather Friday at the same time Uster was killed to demand change at the intersection. Uster is now the 13th cyclist to die on the streets of New York City so far this year — the highest death toll since the start of Vision Zero in 2014.

“People just need to know, we're all just going be at the corner and say a little prayer for Adam and his family. We’re gonna make signs that say, ‘Slow down,’” said Ko. “The community is really affected by this. It's just sad, he was just doing a routine run like any one of us do, and he didn't come home.”

The area is a notorious deathtrap, according to Ko and other cyclists, with no traffic calming measures save for two turn-calming speed bumps that did nothing to slow down the truck driver who killed Uster. And it's not clear that the driver should have even been on Franklin Avenue as it's not a designated truck route, according to the Department of Transportation.

On the less-than-a-mile stretch of Franklin Avenue between Lafayette Avenue and Fulton Street, there have been 111 total reported crashes since 2020, causing one pedestrian fatality and injuries to 15 cyclists, 14 pedestrians and 33 motorists, according to city data compiled by Crash Mapper. And the number of cyclists injured so far this year has jumped more than 16 percent compared to last year, according to the NYPD.

“The amount of years I’ve lived here, I've seen so many accidents. The city needs to do something more than put a bike lane in," said Ko. "People come flying down Franklin all the time. They're not cognizant that this is a walking city.”

And Council Member Chi Osse (D-Bed-Stuy), whose neighboring district is in the midst of its own battle with putting a bike lane on Bedford Avenue, called Uster's death a "tragedy" that could have been avoided.

"My heart breaks for Adam and his family. This was another preventable tragedy in our neighborhood, caused by a failure to build safe bike infrastructure and an epidemic of reckless driving. We can’t let it continue," said Osse in a tweet. He declined an interview with Streetsblog.

The DOT said in a statement to Streetsblog that it will "evaluate upgrades to Franklin Avenue."

“Monday’s fatality was an awful tragedy that hit home to the cycling community, and we mourn this loss of life. We are currently presenting the Bedford Avenue protected bike lane to the community, and as we build out the full citywide protected bike lane network we will evaluate upgrades to Franklin Avenue," said spokesman Scott Gastel.

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