Coney Island Avenue & Avenue M, Brooklyn, New York (photo credit: CC BY 2.5, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=11100683)

Being a New Yorker means that you are imbued with a calling to tell it like
it is, when the need arises. For some, that need isn’t pressing until certain
circumstances demand that it is. And then, it’s time to lay it all out on the
table.

On Sunday, August 11th, Jose Alzorriz was out riding his bicycle. It was
the perfect way for him to immerse himself in everything Brooklyn, the
place he called home after coming here from the Basque region of Spain.
He was riding northbound on the street, basking in the sunshine. Little
did he realize that these moments on the road would be his final ones.
At 12:30, a Dodge Charger was heading southbound on Coney Island
Avenue, going entirely too fast. The eighteen year old behind the wheel
ran the red light at the intersection of Coney Island Avenue and Avenue
L. In doing so, it struck a Honda SUV with the impact being so great that
the SUV was thrown towards the southeast corner of the intersection.
And it struck Alzorriz in the process before coming to rest at the sidewalk.
Jose never had a chance to swerve out of the way. He was rushed to Coney
Island Hospital but died shortly thereafter. The driver of the Charger
would be charged, but not at the scene of the accident.

Alzorriz would be the 19th person to die while riding a bike this year in
New York City. It’s a statistic that is shocking, but in some respects not
that surprising. New York City is a vast metropolis, with traffic that is
incessant and at times dangerous. That danger is heightened for anyone
riding a bicycle, no matter the thoroughfare. In my area of Queens, two
fatalities that occurred on a stretch of Linden Boulevard spurred the
community into advocating for a dedicated bike lane. It was the first of
its kind in the district. But more has to be done in a city where people
are disenchanted with mass transit due to construction issues or living
in areas where access to mass transit is complicated. More has to be
done in a time where the traffic has multiplied thanks to the explosion
of ride-share drivers on the roads. The city and Mayor Bill de Blasio are
seeing that this is a pressing issue, with nine more deaths of cyclists than
last year. They’ve announced a “Green Wave” program that is designed
to promote better safety for bicyclists and pedestrians with redesigned
intersections and new bike lanes to go with stricter enforcement of fines
for violations.

But there needs to be more. The plan that is proposed focuses on only
a few neighborhoods with high traffic in Brooklyn and Queens, with
Coney Island Avenue seemingly left out of the initial phases. Coney
Island Avenue has become notorious for a lack of attention paid to it,
particularly in the Midwood neighborhood where double-parking and
speeding is a part of daily life there. This happens despite the area being
on the border between two police districts. There are drivers out there
who are simply not compelled to follow the rules of the road and will
take chances knowing that there’s little to no enforcement that is
immediate. It’s an unacceptable situation that will result in more lives
being lost. It looks bad, even as the city is trying to promote more bike
riding with CitiBike stations popping up almost weekly it seems in and
around northeastern Queens and Brooklyn.

Jose Alzorriz’s life along with the other eighteen who died in cycling
accidents on the road should compel New York City’s politicians to be
more focused and innovative. Expand the existing traffic-related
programs to other parts of the city piece by piece. Get more community
advocates to provide input and data from their neighborhoods to
help out. Safer streets aren’t just for bikers. As I type this, a family
friend is lying in the hospital in critical condition, struck down by a
reckless driver as he was crossing the street with his wife. I recall
when Queens Boulevard gripped the city in fear as “the Boulevard
of Death”. It took an uproar from the community and enough prodding
of the mayor’s office and the city council to enact changes on that
stretch of road. The same can be done for Coney Island Avenue and
other affected parts of this city. It has to be done, before there are
more lives affected in split seconds as those of his loved ones.

Jose Alzorriz’s life along with the other eighteen lives lost this year
will be honored in the
NYC Ride for Safe Streets this Sunday, taking
place at 10 A.M. Alzorriz was also an organ donor — if you are inclined
to be one, please visit this
website.

Freelance writer. Author of 3 books of poetry. Raconteur. Queens is the county, Jamaica is the place.

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