Photo: Nicholas Morat via Gothamist
I've recently returned to cycling. I used to ride a 10-speed everywhere back in college (I thankfully lived in the uber-bike-friendly town of Isla Vista, CA), but had been reluctant to brave the more aggressive, chaotic, and car-choked roads of Brooklyn. Nonetheless, after a few years as a mostly-satisfied pedestrian, I was drawn back to the bike. But this week, there were a couple blunt, disturbing reminders of why I was so cautious to rejoin the cyclists' ranks: in separate incidents, two bicyclists were each killed after being hit by cars in my neighborhood.
The tragedies raised the cyclist death toll in New York City to 10 this year.Gothamist reports:
Around 8:25 p.m., Nicola Djandji was biking with a friend eastbound on Borinquen. As he began to take a left on Rodney, he was struck by a woman in a Toyota Highlander traveling westbound, according to the NYPD. Djandji was found unconscious and unresponsive at the scene, and was pronounced dead on arrival at Woodhull Hospital. It's unclear whether he was wearing a helmet.Djandji was an Egyptian artist. His death was particularly gruesome: he was dragged for half a block by the car, leaving "blood everywhere" according to witnesses. There are allegations that he ran the red light, which is apparently reason enough for the readers of the NY Post to wish death upon him.
And here's the Daily News on the second death of the week:
Erica Abbott was pedaling her bike southbound on Bushwick Ave. and rode [past] a construction site near Powers St. about 7 p.m., police and witnesses said. Abbott suddenly lost her balance near a pile of loose wood on the street after a car horn honked and she turned her head, witnesses said. The cyclist, who was wearing a helmet, fell toward traffic and a 2002 Mercedes-Benz ran her over, police and witnesses said.According to Transportation Alternatives, these deaths make the 9th and 10th this year so far in New York City. Neither were flagrantly the fault of the drivers who hit them, one may indeed be revealed to be the cyclist's fault (an investigation is pending). But I can safely say that no one deserves to die for committing a traffic violation.
A crowd immediately gathered around Abbott, who was lying in a pool of blood.
These deaths are certainly disturbing. But it's important to remember the following, as pointed out by TA: "Transportation Alternatives' Director Paul Steely While says that the past decade has seen the number of cyclists double, and "injuries have decreased over that period...it's definitely getting safer." Yet it's even more important to remember that it's only getting safer due to the hard work of bike advocacy groups, increasing visibility of cyclists, and the demands of a booming bike community. When tragic deaths like this occur, they're powerful reminders that biking is still not safe enough yet -- even if there are 8 million people in NYC, one of them shouldn't die every month for riding his bike.
Bike lanes are still too scarce -- and too ignored by some drivers, who expect no violation ticket for parking their cars in them and blocking them -- and motorists' animosity towards bikers is still too palpable on the roadways. But there's been definite headway, and joining the ranks of the innumerable good-principled, helmet-wearing, traffic law-abiding cyclists is one good, simple way to help drive the trend forwards. In a dense city, cycling makes more sense than any other form of transportation -- it's healthy, zero-emissions, and stimulating. And that's why, despite the fatalities, the potholes, the confounding bike lanes, and the yelled taunts by irascible Brooklyn drivers, I'm going to keep riding my bike as much as possible.
That, and cycling is a hell of a lot of fun.