2005-07-04 Brooklyn Cyclists Mourn - Park Slope Courier

Brooklyn cyclists mourn woman killed on 5th Avenue;
demand safer streets

Park Slope Courier

July 4th, 2005

By Charles Hack

A circle of mourners silently stood in Park Slope a week after a
cyclist was killed in Manhattan -- the fourth in the city over the
last two months.

Next to a daisy-adorned white bicycle chained to a lamppost, and
holding cut flowers and candles, the cyclists were at one of four
vigils held simultaneously at the sites of the deaths.

"I used to be quite carefree when biking," said Jym Dyer, a
volunteer at TIME'S UP!, at the comer of 5th Avenue and Warren Street
in Brooklyn. "Now I am getting a little scared every day."

[Paul Steely White] was with the mourners at the site where a
28-year-old attorney, Elizabeth Padilla, 28, was crushed by a large
delivery truck on June 9.

Less than two weeks after Padilla died, Andrew Morgan, a
25-year-old food market manager from Brooklyn, was run down by a truck
turning right at Houston and Elizabeth streets in Manhattan.

"It's a real dangerous intersection ... a lot of people from
Williamsburg go in that direction," said Naomi Renek, also with
TIME'S UP!, an environmental and cycling advocacy group. "That area
in the Lower East Side has had more than its share of accidents."

Morgan was the 10th cyclist to die this year in a collision with
a car or truck, according to a newspaper report.

"It's beginning to feel personal. I ride this route [5th Avenue],
and I ride in Manhattan, and the two people who were hit there were
also on my route," Dyer said.

Brandie Bailey, a 21-year-old waitress, was struck by a
sanitation truck on Avenue A, Manhattan on May 8 while riding
to her Williamsburg home.

The other death happened on Staten Island. Jerome Allen, a
59-year-old banking administrator was hit from behind by an SUV
on Hylan Boulevard on April 26.

There have been no prosecutions, because the deaths were
determined to be accidental, according to sources in the Kings,
Richmond and Manhattan District Attorney's offices.

"We have long pressed the Police Department to adopt different
standards when prosecuting these cases," said Paul Steely White,
executive director of Transportation Alternatives. "The weak
laws need to be strengthened."

All the deaths occurred on recommended bike routes, according
to the 2005 NYC Cycling Map published by the City of New York.

Betsy Gotbaum, Public Advocate for New York City, announced that
she would answer calls by Transportation Alternatives to set up a task
force to look at cycling safety during a recent rally at City Hall on
June 16.

The gathering was organized to remember the 204 New York cyclists
who had been killed since 1995. Now there is one more.

The first planning meeting has been scheduled for the coming
week, according to Scott Gastel, deputy press secretary at the
Public Advocate's Office. It will include the New York Police
Department, the Department of Transportation and road safety
advocacy group. Transportation Alternatives, he said.

"We are moving forward with setting up meetings with city
agencies and advocacy groups that would be important for moving
this process forward," said Gastel. "She [Gotbaum] sees this as
a top priority in the city especially in light of the recent
tragedies of cyclists being run over."

Steely White said that he wants to widen the representation
to include the Departments of Health and Planning. He also wants
to include the organizations within a cycling coalition led by
Transportation Alternatives.

"We are currently lobbying to enable wider participation from
our coalition. We feel strongly that we should have as much
representation as we can," said White. "The New York cycling
community is very diverse and we want to see that diversity
properly represented."

In the talks, Transportation Alternatives will press for
a number of safety measures including, a study into cycling
fatalities road surface improvements, stricter rules, and
enforcement of traffic laws and speed limits, more dedicated
cycleways built to higher safety standards, and cyclist
awareness training for motorists.

Transportation Alternatives had also sent a letter to Mayor
Michael Bloomberg, demanding more action from the city.

"We have sent a letter to the mayor requesting that the city
makes cycling safe on all our New York City streets," White
said.

He also said that it is not cycling itself that is dangerous.

"Bicycling is not an inherently dangerous activity," White
said. "The vast majority of our streets are designed and managed
for one purpose and one purpose only: to convey and store great
hulking motor vehicles."

The deaths occurred on streets that are carrying more cyclists
than ever before, he said.

"Cycling has skyrocketed," White said. "Trips over the four East
River bridges have more than doubled in last four years."

And cycling may have increased even more in Park Slope.

"There is a lot of competition for street space in New York,"
Renek said. "But in this area there are so many people on bikes
because the subway is a little far away ... it's much faster to
get around."

To raise awareness, an art activist group, Visual Resistance,
plans to install more "ghost bikes," like the one marking
Padilla's accident site, and stenciled outlines representing
the victims wherever a cyclist is killed.

For more information visit www.visualresistance.org.

Copyright 2005 Courier-Life Publications

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