Monday, January 08, 2007

A Ride for the Fallen

Photos by Mike Pidel
January 8, 2007-- Hundreds of cyclists rode on Sunday to the sites where cyclists were killed by motorists in 2006. All told, 14 cyclists, and 134 pedestrians were reported killed in 2006 on the streets of New York.
Cyclists rode from location to location placing flowers and offering their sad regrets. Bicycles that had been painted white to represent the ghosts of the fallen cyclists, had been placed at the locations where the accidents once occurred.

The ride was organized by TimesUp!, an organization most known for its behind-the-scenes promotion of Critical Mass, a monthly bike ride in the city. Transportation Alternatives, the city's largest bike advocacy organization was also a major sponsor of the ride.
Noah Budnick, deputy director of advocacy for Transportation Alternatives was reported to have said that accidents have gone down in the city while the number of deaths have increased, according to the Metro newspaper.
But the actual number of cyclists killed on our streets fluctuates between 14 and 21: In 2004, there were 15 reported deaths, and in 2005--a really bad year for two-wheeled travelers--25 cyclists were killed as reported by the New York Police Department.
The statewide level was 42 in 2004, and 48 in 2005. But in both years, the numbers of personal injury accidents for cyclists related to cars were more or less the same, 5,738 in 2004, and 5,735 in 2005.
The numbers of those dead then, is related less to the degree of danger a cyclist encounters when navigating city streets, than to luck and circumstance. It is quite clear for many that the dangers of cycling have augmented rather than moderated, and the many violent deaths in 2006 are a testimony to that.
This may have been the case for both Dr. Carl Nacht, 56, who was killed in 2006 along the Greenway by a police truck, and Eric Ng who was struck by a drunk driver who was using the the same pathway as his personal road home.

The memorial ride was also partly organized by Visual Resistance, a group of cyclists that created the white bike reminders of dead cyclists as living monuments to street dangers. The group has also mapped 13 of the ghost bikes around the city.
Houston St. is also particularly dangerous for cyclists, with its many trucks and steel-plated street covers which become slippery in the rain. There were three fatalities on Houston St. last year, capped by the death of 23-year-old Derek Lake. Cyclists who ride the street often note how aggressively drivers use the road. Indeed, speeding and dangerous driving are hardly regulated by police there, and the roadway itself is not designed for safety.

Meanwhile, reports continue to appear in the press that the U.S. and Europe, as well as the rest of the world, are overrun with car traffic. An article in the New York Times today, January 8, pointed to the scores of traffic jams being experienced all over Europe.
Only those countries, like Denmark, with successful bike programs and heavy taxation on car purchases, have been able to put a dent in their traffic nightmares.
Perhaps it is an appropriate moment for silence--to contemplate those innocent people who have been killed by a car.
It may also be the right moment to develop the reserve, and the determination, to try harder to make changes to our sadly inconsistent transportation policy.

No comments: