Sunday, January 11, 2009

Ghost Bike Memorial, Jan. 4th

As told by Peter Meitzler, with photos by him as well (copyright, 2009).
Excerpted remarks at site of memorial plaques and ghostbike for unknown pedestrians and cyclists installed at St. Mark’s Church on the Bowery at 10th Street and Second Avenue (ghostbike and ped plaque placed at Northwest corner).

Remarks of Gaylen Hamilton:
“Thank you everyone for coming out today. Obviously the support and the volume feels great to all of us. This is amazing for all who work on this and everyone affected by it, which I think should be everyone. This is the final bike that we’re going to do today. We do a bike every year for the unnamed cyclists and we have a plaque for pedestrians that were killed on the streets of New York as well and their tragic deaths are never mentioned in the news and we don’t know about them. This bike represents our heartfelt condolences and feelings for those who passed away.

I would like to take a moment to explain the street memorial project. This project honors cyclists and pedestrians who have been killed and how we can cultivate a compassionate and supportive community and facilitate a change in the culture.

This project by 2009 will have installed 56 ghost bikes. There were 24 cyclist deaths in 2005, 18 in 2006, 23 in 2007 according to D.O.T. and NYPD coded media reports. In 2006, 166 pedestrians were killed and over 10,000 were hit. In 2007, 132 were killed. So far [in 2008] we have counted for fourteen cyclists. We make ghost bikes for as many crashes as we are able to obtain information about. Of course it’s not always easy to get this information. There are certainly more crashes than those we commemorate because we are not able to find out about them.

There had been 26 cyclist deaths in 2005 for which we have no information about at all. We don’t know anything about the personal information, we only know that they happened.
This year is the fourth annual ride that we’ve done and this has been a really powerful and moving event for cyclists and pedestrians. And this year we’re actually joined today by a group in Louisville KY that is also riding with us today….so we are really proud of them. We want to talk about the things we would like to see changed.

The last thing I ‘d like to talk about today, is a list of demands, a list of things that we’d like to see changed as a result of this project. We want to change the culture…we want to encourage mutual respect of all street users and instill a sense of responsibility that we share to look out for each other. We want to incite more humanity in this city. We want to ensure that every person is remembered and to build solidarity among drivers and non-drivers, and to create a safe, supporting network and we want to acknowledge each death is a tragic but not isolated event.

This ride shows the ripple effect that one person’s death has on their family, their neighborhood and their community. We want the city to follow through on the necessary enforcement, engineering, and public education. We want to compel the city to conduct full investigations of crashes and their causes and to take action for our safety. And we want our outrage to make a lasting difference. We want to encourage the media to report all deaths in a sophisticated manner. We want to hold the city accountable….

And lastly we want to stop having to do this.”

Remarks by Lizi Rahman, mother of Asif Rahman (whose ghostbike is placed at Queens Blvd at 55th Road)

“Thank you very much for letting me talk. It’s an honor. You see I am holding a photo. This is my son, Asif Rahman. He was hit by a truck on Queens Boulevard and 55th Road on February 28, 2008. He was riding his bike. He was crushed to death by a reckless truck driver.
I have started this campaign for a bicycle lane for Queen Boulevard because Asif liked to ride a bike, and I too hold biking as part of my family. So whenever I see an unsafe situation on Queens Boulevard, in Queens, I get very upset.

My heart jumps….. when I see a bike riding on a road without a bike lane, or cars that are double-parked on a bike lane. And I want to improve that situation, and I hope I would have your support on my campaign for a bike lane for Queens Boulevard. And my son---he was a poet, a rapper, a hip hop artist, and he was a good man, a hard working young man who had two jobs and how he loved riding his bike. He said it set him free. Like a bird—he felt free like a bird when he rode his bicycle. And he rode his bicycle down to Manhattan where he had a second job at Trader Joe’s. So I know that if the other bikers are safe, he would be happy… wherever he is.

And I have started this campaign [with Transportation Alternatives…] and will cooperate with me on my fight for a bike lane. I will go on fighting for as long as it takes. It doesn’t matter. I want the other bikers to be safe. I really appreciate this. You honor me to come all the way here, in honor of the fallen bikers. Thank you very much for this. Thank you.”

Today we Gather
More from Gaylen: “We also want to mention Camille Savoy, who was killed out in New Jersey [on 9W] and there was a ride for him a few weeks ago [see: www.benepebikeblog.org].”

NYC Street Memorial Project Statement read at each site:
“Today we gather in honor of the cyclists and pedestrians killed on New York City streets in 2008. This past year more than 100 pedestrians were killed by motor vehicles. 14 cyclists were killed while riding their bikes in 2008. Today we are riding and walking in honor of Sze Man Chan, James Dong, Pedro Fernandez-Pacheco, Arturo Flores, Amelia Geocos, Lai Ho, Josephine LaPlaca, Jonathan Millstein, Faustino Morales, Michael Needham, Alvaro Olsen, Asif Rahman, Alexander Toulouse, Jian-Lan Zhang, 2 unnamed cyclists, 97 pedestrians whose crash sites we will not visit today and the countless pedestrians and cyclists whose deaths go unreported and unrecognized every year.

We ride and walk with love in our hearts, with sadness for what has been lost, with rage that these crashes did not have to happen, and with hope that we never have to do this again. With these ghost bikes and pedestrian memorials we want to raise awareness about a bicyclist’s right to the street and a pedestrian’s right to safe passage in the hopes that New Yorkers can change the climate on the road and learn to respect each other.”

And the bikes were lifted to the sky.

Thank you Peter for attending this event and bringing the words and images of the participants to us. You can also see a full Flickr slideshow of the event by Peter.

Meanwhile, in the New York Times yesterday an editorial comment by Lawrence Downes, who writes about immigrants--most of them Hispanic-- who ride along side the roads there for transportation, often in the dark, without lights, and without the protection of police enforcement for speeding vehicles. A number of these men have been killed this year. This poignant and outrageous account of the unbridled killing of immigrant cyclists in Long Island is a must read.

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