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Amid cyclists' traffic deaths, Jumaane Williams seeks driver accountability

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called for accountability

NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams called for accountability among drivers in response to mounting cyclist traffic deaths. Photo Credit: Michelle Bocanegra

Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is urging drivers to recognize their “privilege” on the roads in response to the spate of cyclist deaths.

Williams, who delivered remarks in front of the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building on Tuesday, insisted that more capital funding — and a conversation on driver accountability — were needed to counteract the mounting death toll among cyclists.

“As a driver, I get the frustration,” Williams said, flanked by safety advocates and members of the New York City Council. “I’m going to be honest — sometimes I see cyclists going in and out (of traffic). But a minor inconvenience is different from 19 cyclists dying.”

Jose Alzorriz, a 52-year-old cyclist, was killed Sunday after he was hit by a car in Midwood, Brooklyn. Police said an 18-year-old motorist in a Dodge sedan ran a red light on Coney Island Avenue and struck a Honda traveling east on Avenue L. The collision sent the Honda hurtling toward the curb, where Alzorriz was struck while he slowed to stop at a red light.

Alzorriz was the 19th cyclist killed this year, nearly double the 10 cyclist fatalities in 2018. Fourteen of the 19 deaths have occurred in Brooklyn. 

Transit advocates say the fatalities are evidence of the failure of Vision Zero, Mayor Bill de Blasio's transportation initiative that calls for zero traffic-related deaths by 2024.

Williams and other advocates arrived on bikes after riding across the Brooklyn Bridge from the Ingersoll Houses bordering Downtown Brooklyn. City Council members Carlos Menchaca (D-Dist. 38) and Brad Landler (D-Dist. 39) were also present at the conference.

“At this point, talk is cheap,” Landler said, standing next to Ana Karen Porras, whose mother, Maria del Carmen Porras Hernandez, a pedestrian, was killed in July at an intersection near Prospect Park.

“We have to push ourselves more creatively,” Landler added. “We need to do it faster, and bigger, to change our streets.”

De Blasio has responded to the cyclist death toll by unveiling plans to devote $58.4 million to increasing cyclist safety over a five-year period.

The plan, called the “Green Wave,” would add bike lanes and bolster safety features at 50 intersections with high casualty histories. Sixty percent of cyclist deaths have happened at intersections since 2014, according to the Green Wave plan.

Williams has been criticized for traffic violations himself. He has accumulated numerous speeding violations in school zones, which were called to attention leading up to his run for public advocate.

But Landler said on Tuesday that Williams had taken measures to correct his previous driving habits.

“The fact of the matter is, the driver behind a multi-ton pedal is the most privileged position on the road,” Williams said.

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