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Board Asks City for Changes to Mixing Zones After Cyclist Death

 A group of people visit a memorial for Kelly Hurley, who was fatally struck by a box truck driver on First Avenue at East 9th Street on April 5, 2017.
A group of people visit a memorial for Kelly Hurley, who was fatally struck by a box truck driver on First Avenue at East 9th Street on April 5, 2017.
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DNAinfo/Trevor Kapp

EAST VILLAGE — A local advisory board is urging the Department of Transportation to consider more carefully separating bike and car traffic in so-called "mixing zones" that currently blend the two in the wake of a fatal collision at one of the controversial intersections.

The zones, where cars are allowed to make left turns while yielding to cyclists in an adjacent bike lane, came under fire after cyclist Kelly Hurley in April was fatally struck by a turning box truck at one such intersection at First Avenue and East Ninth Street.

The DOT has insisted the intersection's design was not to blame, noting the driver had been turning from the rightmost lane, cutting across several lanes of traffic before hitting Hurley as she went through a green light. But cycling advocates say the layout could be made safer if the mixing zones were less mixed.

"It's a perfect storm every two blocks, and my experience is, I'm scared to death. I don't know why the DOT thinks it's safe," Upper West Side resident and cyclist Reed Rubey said while presenting a plan to eliminate the zones at Tuesday's Community Board 3 Transportation Committee meeting.

Rubey's suggestions have already been backed by a resolution from his local uptown community board. After pitching the same improvements to Community Board 3, the panel passed a similar resolution asking the DOT to re-examine the intersections and consider changes that would better separate bike and car lanes.

His proposal suggests replacing the mixing zones with designated, protected bike lanes separated from turning vehicular traffic by physical barriers — the scheme would require cars to turn from a separate turning lane at a tighter radius, more carefully yielding to oncoming bikes, rather than merging into a shared space. 

Proposed changes to mixing zones. (Reed Rubey)

The proposal also suggests separate crossing signals and times for pedestrians, cars and cyclists to avoid collisions.

The DOT's borough commissioner Luis Sanchez reiterated at Tuesday's meeting that the agency believes the current mixing zones are safe but plans to examine the intersections as part of the city's Vision Zero initiative.

Captain Vincent Greany, the Ninth Precinct's commanding officer, has condemned the zones as problematic, noting at a community council meeting after Hurley's death that it is "almost impossible" to see a cyclist while merging into their lane "unless you physically turn your head and look back."

The commanding officer of the NYPD's Collision Investigation Squad at the same meeting in April remarked that the unit planned to recommend charges against the truck driver who fatally struck Hurley. However, no arrests had been made as of Wednesday. 

Rubey's proposal can be viewed in its entirety here.