Devra Freelander (photo by Walter Wlodarczyk and courtesy Times Square Arts)

Artist Devra Freelander was tragically killed yesterday, July 1, after being struck by a cement truck while cycling on Bushwick Avenue in Brooklyn, New York. The accident is still under investigation, the NYPD said.

Freelander, who was 28 at her death, made sculptures and videos that “explore climate change and geology from an ecofeminist and millennial lens,” her website says. She received her MFA in Sculpture from Rhode Island School of Design in 2016, and her BA in Studio Art from Oberlin College in 2012. In March 2019, Freelander exhibited “Eventual Artifact” (2019), a collaborative project with artist Gracelee Lawrence commissioned by Times Square Arts and Spring/Break Art Show. “Eventual Artifact” is a fluorescent column interspersed with copper shapes of imported fruits, hands, CDs, sneakers, Styrofoam cups, and other techno-capitalist artifacts. A human hand reaching out to a mobile phone emerges from the column’s cap, which is constructed as a 3D scan of a topographic sample of Manhattan bedrock in Central Park.

Freelander was also a founding member of the artist collective MATERIAL GIRLS and a recipient of the 2016 St. Botolph Club Foundation Emerging Artist Award. In 2017, her work was mentioned in Hyperallergic’s list of the year’s top 15 Brooklyn art shows.

The death of Freelander, a Bushwick resident, marks the 15th cyclist death on the streets on New York City this year, more than double the rate of cyclist deaths by July 1 last year.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency in an interview following the accident. “We absolutely have an emergency on our hands,” the Mayor told NY1’s Inside City Hall Monday evening. “[W]hat we have been seeing these last few weeks and months is not acceptable. We’re going to do a full-court press to stop it.” De Blasio insisted that the city’s Vision Zero street-safety plan is effective, but vowed to increase police presence to protect bicycle lanes around the city.

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Hakim Bishara

Hakim Bishara is a Senior Editor at Hyperallergic. He is also a co-director at Soloway Gallery, an artist-run space in Brooklyn. Bishara is a recipient of the 2019 Andy Warhol Foundation and Creative Capital...

24 replies on “Death of Artist Devra Freelander Sparks New York City Conversations About Bike Lane Protection”

  1. if cyclists ACTUALLY used bike lanes this stuff wouldnt happen. Every single day as a driver I have to deal with cyclists veering in and out of traffic and not even using the bike lanes!

    1. There is no bike lane in the area where this happened. And for the areas where there *are* bike lanes, try counting how many vehicles you see blocking them. There are always going to be aggressive cyclists just as there are aggressive drivers.

      1. Agreed drivers are also aggressive and do park in bike lanes. But if there was no bike lane why was she riding her bike there? She ran a red light. Like 99.9 percent of cyclists. The majority of cyclists do not follow the rules of the road and force cars to swerve, slam on breaks etc. The amount of times Ive almost gotten t boned by a cyclist running a light is too much to count. The amount of times Ive had to swerve and slam on my breaks is too much to count. They need to pay attention and follow the rules of the road.

        1. Of course there are shitty drivers. And definitely pedestrians. Theyre always on their fones not looking before they cross and then have the nerve the curse me out when I honk and pass them. The reaction should absolutely be how to make safer riders. Not to make bike riding safer. This is not Copenhagen.

          1. Based on the story, it seems all these bike activists think making bike riding safer is imperative.

            They miss the point.

        2. “If there was no bike lane why was she riding her bike there?” Gee I don’t know, maybe it was the fastest way to get from Point A to Point B? Also I have a slight hunch you made up your “99.9 percent” of cyclists statistic.

          If you get t-boned by a cyclist, guess what, you’ll be fine! You have car insurance and you won’t be injured. The cyclist on the other hand can’t say the same.

  2. She rode into the truck against the light and essentially killed herself but in progressive NYC all motor vehicles are evil.
    The reality is Bloomberg’s DOT head, Sadik Kahn, was a triathlete who imposed bike lanes on a reluctant city in deference to millennials who are “GREEN!*. She created this deadly outcome which can only get worse mixing motor vehicles with reckless bikers who NEVER follow the rules EVER.
    Motorists, both commercial and passenger, will be punished further as the deceased is emotionally rolled out as a “green artist” who could do no wrong. The cement truck driver BTW was rightfully not charged.

    1. How do you know the details, considering they’re not in this article?

      Nice job shoving your agenda within, Skippy.

      1. Do your own homework. There’s video of the accident. She was on wrong side of the street, riding on the sidewalk, and went through intersection against a red light. The driver had no chance to avoid hitting her.

        1. Do your homework? I was asking for a lead to find information, Skippy, nevermind the fact the OP posted only to lay down an agenda.

          Anyway, based on the video, I can only infer she made a grave mistake thinking a truck would be able to stop for a bike that doesn’t look both ways before crossing. Can’t see a stop sign and I’ll assume there was a light as you point out.

    2. Have some respect and compassion for the dead. She was only 28!

      You can’t seriously believe that ALL cyclists break laws… have you never jay walked before? Never crossed the street against the traffic light? We’re none of us perfect.

      It’s also worth noting that residents in East Williamsburg had been complaining since *before* this accident about United Cement’s truck drivers speeding.

      Cyclists ease traffic congestion and improve air quality by choosing not to drive. There’s no need to be so hostile towards them.

      1. I always look for the crosswalk. Take stock as to who never does; you will notice a trend.

    3. Fuck off if you’ve never ridden a bike in bushwick. The area is just a shipping through-way for all the industrial shit in Queens, Jersey and the tri-state area. There are massive trucks rumbling through the neighborhood at all times. So regardless if a biker made a mistake this one time, there is clearly a deep-seated issue, and you’re clearly scum for jumping to conclusions and attacking a deceased person days after their death.

  3. when the cops are out there, can we stop them from parking in the bike lanes. In fact, can we start fining every police car, truck and pedestrian that decides bike lanes are not for bikes.

    and yes, they should also start fining the bikes that don’t follow the traffic flows, lights and bike lanes (if available)

    1. Would you rather they stand on the other side, forcing traffic to pass in the bike lane?

  4. All for bike lanes, but they will be useless if people continue to not follow the traffic lights. She caused her own death by running a red light. Also, it appears she was riding in the crosswalk…. I suggest not driving or riding in nyc. Too dangerous and too many people who do not follow the rules.

  5. I’d like to know where she was riding, and where the truck was driving. It’s always a shame when a biker is hit, but the bar to become a good rider is low.

    1. Why? Because instead of blindly blaming the evil driver and lamenting the poor cyclist who was at fault? Its a tragedy of course. But had she not been riding against traffic, on the sidewalk and THROUGH a red light she would still be alive today. Everyone needs to obey the rules but drivers are the only ones expected to.

      1. No, because in the face of a horrifying accident, so many of you rush to hateful comments about fault. I watched the video twice and while it appears she was at fault for not stopping at the intersection, I didn’t feel the need to point fingers and bash the poor dead woman and all cyclists. Of course, I’m not an asshole New Yorker, so I give the dead a smidgeon of respect.

        1. hey I’m an asshole New Yorker and I still give the dead plenty of respect :). We’re not all monsters.

          1. Of course not, and I shouldn’t have used such an absurd generalization. Apologies to you and all non-asshole New Yorkers.

  6. This is indeed a tragedy – but there was no bike lane in this area at all, so it’s not a ‘bike lane’ issue at all. She was unfortunately riding on the wrong side of the street, on the sidewalk, with no helmet. Unfortunately, even if she had been in a bike lane, she still plowed full speed through the crosswalk and directly right into the intersection *against a red light* without even looking. Sadly, the truck driver, who was within the speed limit, had absolutely no opportunity to see her coming from around the corner and react, or even attempt to slow. The *actual truthful takeaway lesson* from this senseless tragedy is that bike riders must obey the rules of the road, particularly when it comes to stop signs and red lights – full complete stop, look both ways first, and then proceed in an appropriately safe manner, both for their own livelihood and that of pedestrians and drivers.

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