Sunday, January 25, 2009

Why No one Wants to Ride on 9W Anymore

I was dismayed to hear from cyclist Marcus of New York City, that many cyclists are no longer using Rte. 9W because of fears of being killed by a motorist--as was Camille Savoy in November last year.

Instead, cyclists are using Rte. 501 (known as Piermont Road)--a far less safe road that winds along the bottom valley, from Piermont to Englewood. It's less safe because it has no shoulder at all, and a lot of constant traffic, as well as numerous intersections and turn ons and turn offs.

This is one of the predictable and unfortunate outcomes of a cyclist's death on a road that is presumably "safe", where relative measures of safety are indeed difficult to pinpoint. Yet there is no argument whatsoever that the existence of a large 8 to 10 foot shoulder on 9W for the preponderance of its length from Clinton Ave. in Tenafly to Sparkill, NY, does indeed make it the "safest" section of road for cyclists to travel on.

Safest that is, until Camille Savoy was killed. But not just killed. Killed inexplicably and without penalty to the driver is the problem. Still no word from the Bergen County Prosecutor's office--they have not returned numerous phone calls from BBB or NY Cycle News as to the disposition of the case.

Last we heard, from another source, the driver who struck Savoy because she was driving on the white line and failed to give him space as she passed--a legal requirement--is still on the loose, driving for all we know, and only required to pass another driving test. This all despite her previous bad driving record, which we also learned from another source, and possibly some other impediment that made her inexplicably smash into--and kill--Savoy with such force that she blew his bike into half.

Why this woman has not been yanked forcibly off the road, hopefully permanently, why she has not been given a careless driving ticket, and why she has not been taken up on criminal charges for driving on the white line--as witnessed by the driver behind her--are all good questions.

Is John L. Molinelli , the Bergen County Prosecutor, not responsible to the public? Is he entitled to allow a criminal to go uncharged, and worse, presumably to continue to drive--leaving other cyclists, pedestrians, children and animals in the line of her killer car?

It seems so. And that, that is the reason, no one wants to ride on Rt. 9W anymore. Like the ancient civilizations before us, once we know a well-frequented route is laden with dangers, no matter whether they are robbers or killers, no matter how inexpedient, we are likely to avoid that route at all costs.

An all too pernicious reason for cyclists to avoid 9W and perhaps Bergen County altogether is now the information surfacing that there is an underground industry of people being paid to take the NJ Motor Vehicle Commission tests in New Jersey. My informant said that industry allows for people who do not speak English (or Spanish, the only other language offered) to have someone else take the test for them--because presumably the ID that is presented at the test is "close enough" for our civil servants to deem indeed the person whose face they see in front of them. Given the possibility for cultural blindness--all of one culture and ethnicity "looks alike" to the other, the fine distinctions that come with time and familiarity are not there.

So what is required? I hate to say it, an investigation, and on follow up, finger printing for identification purposes. Or, tests offered in all of the local languages, whatever they may be, and to hell with this false pride about how "if they want to take the test they have to know how to speak English (or Spanish). No other languages are offered either in the booklet, the written test or the driver's test, although they are allowed to bring an interpretor, said a representative from the New Jersey Motor Vehicles Commission

Cyclist Fatalities in 2008: Redux

Since our last post on BBB on the Ghost Bikes Memorial, written by Peter Meitzler, we have had the chance to revisit the topic of bike fatalities. They were grossly up in New Jersey, and down in New York City in 2008.

BBB was quoted in an article posted today in the Bergen Record, about the reasons for an increase in fatalities in New Jersey, which we believe has everything to do with the lack of penalties for drivers who hit and maim or kill cyclists.

Still today, incredibly every crash is considered an accident, and the driver is allowed to walk away from the scene without even a ticket. When the cyclist is dead or cannot speak because they are in a coma (as was Savoy), that makes it even more expedient for the driver. So why bother driving safely around cyclists if there are no real penalties?

Again, here is the contact information for the Bergen County Prosecutor's office. Let them know that you want to know the outcome of the Savoy incident, and the disposition of the driver: is she still driving? If she is, there may be good reason to avoid Rt. 9W.

John L. Molinelli
Bergen County Prosecutor
William J. Galda
First Assistant Prosecutor
Joseph Macellaro
Chief of Detectives
Email: Prosecutor@BCPO.net

10 Main Street
Hackensack, NJ 07601
Mon-Fri (201) 646-2300
After Hours (201) 646-2700

Monday, January 19, 2009

Armstrong comes in 64th in Australia

If you didn't catch the news today, seven-time Tour de France winner, Lance Armstrong came in 64th in a 51-kilometer criterium held in Adelaide, Australia yesterday.

The 30-lap crit of 133 finishers was won by Australian Robbie McEwen. Mostly a showpiece, the Cancer Council Classic was about important a race for Armstrong as the Las Vegas race he completed during Interbike in late September--that is a mixed public relations and warm up for more important things to come, according to reports by the NY Times.

The press that Lance would show probably helped boost the crowd at the event to its 138,000 attendance- many of them fans who had never seen Lance in person.

Armstrong who is now racing with the Astana team, will likely be racing for something more substantial than a warm up in the Tour Down Under, a six-day stage race that begins on Tuesday. That race will average about 140 KM per day except for the last day circuit race of 90 KM, and will feature 19 teams, including Armstrong's Astana, Team Columbia with George Hincapie, Caisse D'Espargne, Quickstep, Francais des Jeux, Euskatel, Milram, Lampre, Robobank, Liquibank, Garmin, Fuji-Servetto, Unisa, AG2R La Mondiale, Silence-LOTTO, and Team Katusha.

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.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Ghost Bike Memorial Ride January 4th

The folks that organize Ghost Bikes in New York will be holding their annual bike tour of the ghost bikes through the five boros this coming January 4, 2009.

This is a day's event that starts at various locations around the city and finally convenes at one location in Manhattan, at St. Marks Church, 131 e10th st. @ 2nd ave., at 5:15 pm. (see full schedule below).

The photos in this blog are of just some of the people that were hit and killed by drivers in New York City (photos courtesy of Ghost Bikes). Some of the photos represent these riders when they were children--a reminder that all of us--and they--are vulnerable and precious.

If you remember, a ghost bike was constructed for Camille Savoy along Rte. 9W in December. More than 100 friends and cyclists attended the memorial celebrating his life.

A recent call to the Bergen County Prosecutor's office to determine when and how the investigation of the driver who hit Savoy will be completed, was not returned.

It is certainly a pity that such a ride must take place at all, or even that ghost bikes must be constructed. In this day and age when sonar is being used to assist drivers in parking, the same technology should be in use to prevent accidents with cyclists.

Why it is not is a crying shame. It may also be one of the reasons that our American car companies are failing--they just aren't putting the right emphasis on the bells and whistles added to cars--those that will save the lives of cyclists and pedestrians.

Since Camille Savoy's death, BBB has joined a major New Jersey group, New Jersey Bike Ped Group, that works in conjunction with New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center of the Voorhees Transportation Center at Rutgers University. A subcommittee is working towards clarifying and passing state legislation to define safe passing and add a specific number of feet that a driver must use to drive around cyclists and pedestrians.

Previously that legislation has been scuttled and neglected by the NJ state legislature. This year, the group intends to have it passed. An organizational meeting is taking place on January 20. If you would like to be a part of this, please email jbenepe@msn.com.

BBB also will be following up with NJ and NY state Department of Transportation planners to look into whether certain sections of Rte. 9W could be improved for safety.

Meanwhile, in case you missed it, the Daily Record reported in mid December that the number of cyclist fatalities in New Jersey doubled in 2008.

Said the article:
"This year’s fatalities are the highest in at least six years. Seventeen cyclists were killed in accidents in 2005, sixteen in 2004, eleven in 2003 and fifteen in 2002. A total of 22 bicyclists had been killed through last weekend, Fischer said today — compared with 12 fatalities last year and also in 2006."
Wrote the blog at the Tristate Transportation Campaign, a group that is working to improve traffic and reduce cyclist and pedestrian fatalities, "The 91% spike in bicyclist fatalities contrasts starkly with a 21% decline in overall traffic deaths from 2006 to 2008."
Cyclist fatalities also rose in New York City in 2008, according to Ghost Bike and Transportation Alternatives.

The following is according to Phillip, one of Ghost Bike's volunteers:

The NYC Street Memorial Project invites you to the 4th Annual Memorial Ride and Walk in remembrance of cyclists and pedestrians killed on the streets of NYC in 2008. The ride, which will be held on Sunday, January 4, 2009, has 4 starting points: Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, and lower Manhattan. See www.ghostbikes.org for more information.

Here is the detailed schedule:

Bronx/Upper Manhattan Ride:
10:45-11:10 gather at White Plains rd and Allerton ave (subway: 2 to Allerton)
11:15 Michael Needham Barnes ave north of Allerton ave
12:30 Faustino Morales Truxton st and Randall ave
1:20 meetup & break NW corner of Central Park @ Frederick Douglass circle
1:35 Unnamed Central Park West @ w110th st
2:30 Alvaro Olsen w36th st and Broadway
3:15 Amelia Geocos e49th st and 1st ave

Queens/North Brooklyn Ride:
12:00 - 12:15 Gather in Astoria Park @east end of running track (Hoyt and 19th st) (subway: N to Astoria blvd)
12:30 Arturo Flores 27th st and 23 rd ave
1:30 Asif Rahman Queens blvd @ 55th rd
2:30 Sze Man (Josephine) Chan Manhattan and Montrose aves
3:15 Unnamed under N side of Williamsburg bridge, Brooklyn

Brooklyn/Lower Manhattan Ride:
12:45-1:00 gather top of Sunset Park hill (6th ave btwn 41-44th sts) (subway: R to 45th st.)
1:15 Pedro Fernandez-Pacheco 54th st and 7th ave.
2:15 Jonathan Millstein President st. and 8th ave.
2:45 Alexander Toulouse Livingston and Boreum
3:30 Jian-Lan Zhang Hester and Allen sts

Pedestrian Memorial Walk:
2:30-2:45 gather at Bowery and Canal st. (subway: 6, J, M, Z, R, Q to Canal)
2:50 Lai Ho Bowery and Canal st
3:10 James Dong @106 Bowery btwn Hester and Grand sts.
3:40 Josephine LaPlaca Delancey @ Allen st

Convergence of Pedestrian Memorial Walk & Cyclist Memorial Ride:
4:00 Rides/Walk convergence Delancey @ Allen st.
4:30 Rasha Shamoon Delancey and Allen st.
5:00 Memorial for Unknown Cyclists and Pedestrians e10th st @ 2nd ave

Gathering of cyclists, pedestrians, families and friends
5:15-7:00 St. Marks Church, 131 e10th st. @ 2nd ave

Thank you!

Philipp
NYC Street Memorial Project volunteer