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‘Death Waiting to Happen’: North Brooklynites Call for Safer Morgan Ave

The avenue is a key, but deadly, link in north Brooklyn.

Photo: Kevin Duggan|

Cyclists on Morgan Avenue had to weave around heavy truck traffic at a Nov. 11 group ride to push for a safer bike lane.

The city must install safer bike infrastructure on Morgan Avenue, where truck drivers have killed two people in less than two years, advocates said on Saturday, but the Department of Transportation claims it "must" accommodate large trucks on the roadway.

The road links industrial parts of Bushwick, Williamsburg and Greenpoint, and, thanks to the state-built Kosciuszko Bridge bike path, bring cyclists to and from Queens. The Department of Transportation held feedback sessions in the spring to improve safety, but officials have remained mum on upgrades for the corridor ever since, even after a cyclist was struck and killed by a trucker in May. 

“It’s just so scary for people that are coming to biking for the first time,” said Kate Nicholson, a Greenpoint resident. “It’s really dangerous and it’s just a death trap waiting to happen.” 

Nicholson joined a group ride on Saturday to raise awareness about Morgan Avenue's dangerous design hosted by Transportation Alternatives, which has launched a petition for improvements.

“How many more deaths, how many more crashes, how many more injuries from people walking through this street, biking through this street, do we need for the DOT to do something about it,” said Juan Serra, a volunteer with the group, who regularly rides on Morgan from his home in Bushwick. 

A community bike ride on Nov. 11 called attention to the unsafe bike lanes on Morgan Avenue. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Some 30 cyclists took to the street from Johnson Avenue to Meeker Avenue Saturday afternoon, with advocates highlighting the dangers of the two-way street running through a very industrial part of the borough.  

DOT installed curbside, unprotected bike lanes in 2018 between Grattan and Grand streets, but they downgrade north of Grand, and then disappear entirely closer to the elevated Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and the bridge bike path.

Morgan's painted bike lane turns into just sharrows near Grand Street. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Big rigs barreled down the street next to the nearly three-dozen cyclists, and one cement truck turned into a lot and forced riders to weave around and graze the oncoming lane. 

A safe bike path would link up to incoming protected bike lanes DOT is working on at Meeker Avenue below the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, and on McGuinness Boulevard — if the Adams administration doesn’t bail even further on the latter road’s redesign after already caving to local business interests and watering down that revamp

Morgan Avenue could close that gap between the incoming bike lanes on Meeker and McGuinness (red dotted lines) and Bushwick to the east. Map: DOT

Transportation officials held a workshop at the end of March to solicit ideas for improvements on Morgan, along with two other busy thoroughfares in the area, Grand Street and Metropolitan Avenue, but the agency has yet to release any plans or updates more than seven months later. 

Morgan is a local truck route that links the North Brooklyn Industrial Business Zone — the third-busiest IBZ in the city — to the BQE, so any design “must accommodate large vehicles,” the agency’s presentation said. 

As a result of those very large vehicles, the corridor ranks in the top third for high-crash streets in the borough, with four deaths since 2016, according to DOT. 

Two of those happened within less than two years, first when a left-turning trucker fatally struck 30-year-old delivery worker Danny Vidal at Meadow Street in August, 2022, and then again last May when another heavy hauler fatally struck 56-year-old cyclist Eugene Schroeder at Johnson Avenue. 

In the 12 months between October 2022 and the end of September 2023, there have been 101 reported crashes, injuring 39 people, nearly one person a week, according to city data collected by Crash Mapper

Some sections of the road pinch down to just 30 feet wide, making it challenging to carve out enough space for all modes of transportation, while other stretches, especially next to the Cooper Park public housing complex, become much wider, providing plenty of room to reallocate street space for bikes.

There's plenty of space for a redesign on this stretch of Morgan next to the Cooper Park public housing complex. Photo: Kevin Duggan

Some locals at the March meeting had suggested converting Morgan and adjacent north-south streets into pairs of one-way streets, including on Varick Avenue and Vandervoort Avenue, to free up more space at narrow sections.

Cyclists on the community ride also said the city should create hard barriers between them and motor vehicles, as DOT installed on nearby Grand Street. 

“I’d like to see jersey barriers and permanent fixtures that protect the people using the bike lanes from the cars and trucks that are there,” said Nicholson. 

Safety upgrades are long overdue, said a former Bushwick resident, who used to ride on Morgan regularly to visit friends.

“Every single time [I biked on Morgan], it was dire, every single time I felt unsafe, I felt uncomfortable,” said Dan Elstien. 

DOT did not respond to a request for comment.

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