WASHINGTON SQUARE PARK – About a thousand cyclists lay down on the ground next to their bikes and loved ones Tuesday evening for a die-in to protest the 15 preventable bicycling deaths in NYC just this year.
“Some people say that there are too many people on bikes in New York. We say there are too many cars,” Ellen McDermott, co-deputy director at Transportation Alternatives said. “It is time to change how we build our streets. Every single New Yorker deserves safe passage.”
In the first half of 2019, there have been 15 bicycling deaths on the streets of New York City—more than all of 2018. Eleven of those deaths took place on the streets of Brooklyn. The most recent one was 54-year-old Ernest Askew from Brownsville. He was riding his bike westbound on Sutter Avenue near Chester Street on June 27 when an 18-year-old man driving a white Hyundai hit him at the intersection, killing him.
Cyclists and advocates at Washington Square Park yesterday braced the heat and said enough is enough. “Mayor de Blasio, do your job,” people chanted. Someone then screamed, “de Blasio, do your fucking job!”
“I’ve been riding a bike since I was five years old,” Samantha Koshik told Bklyner. “Every time I hear about a cyclist dying, my blood boils. Our mayor should be spending more time protecting us in this city that elected him, than going out across the country campaigning for a presidency he could never win.”
Council Member Brad Lander was also in attendance at the die-in yesterday. Though he isn’t a daily biker, he told Bklyner he does sometimes ride his bike and knows how dangerous the streets are.
“[I am here] to mourn for those lost — and to build the solidarity needed for change,” he said. “Because traffic deaths are preventable if we have the political will to take bolder action. In an epidemic, we all have to step up and do more.”
He shared his plans for countering traffic violence, something that is very important to him. Such plans include updating the public on his Reckless Driver Accountability Act.
“Redesigning streets and intersections constructed with only cars in mind is critical to making our city safer for everyone,” he said. “We are making some progress, but for those who have lost loved ones to traffic violence, for those who commute daily by bicycle on dangerous streets, it is not coming fast enough.”
“Holding the most reckless drivers accountable for their driving behavior is an urgent step — and one no city has yet taken — but is just one piece of the safe streets puzzle,” he wrote in Streetsblog NYC. “More work is needed to bring us anywhere close to the zero in Vision Zero.”
Joe Cutrufo, a spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, said the turnout was extraordinary. He said it’s clear as day that New Yorkers know what they want.
“That over a thousand people have turned out for this is a pretty clear signal that New Yorkers are angry,” Cutrufo told Bklyner. “Mayor de Blasio needs to understand that throwing more police at the issue isn’t going to fix the deadly conditions on our car-clogged streets. We need a protected right of way. We need safe streets. We need Vision Zero.”