As summer nears its end and the bicycles and helmets are put away in favor of jackets and MetroCards, New Yorkers can reflect on a number of encouraging biking statistics.
For instance, NYC has added more bike lanes and Citi Bikes. Still, one stat remains a concern: More cyclists continue to die.
The Aug. 24 death of Michael Schenkman, 78, on Northern Boulevard near the Cross Island Parkway bike trail was the 15th cyclist fatality in an encounter with a motor vehicle this year. By Aug. 24, 2015, NYC had reported at least 11 cycling fatalities.
As of Tuesday, the city reports 17 fatalities this year.
As an avid Brooklyn cyclist for almost 20 years, I’ve had a number of close shaves myself. Although the bike lanes help in certain areas, such as Prospect Park West, where they are isolated from the main road by a row of parked cars, in other areas, some drivers seem to regard them as a mere suggestion.
One of my biggest gripes is “dooring,” when drivers open their car doors without first checking whether a cyclist is approaching. Cycling along a line of parked cars is like a game of Russian roulette.
Many times I’ve had to suddenly swerve into the road because of a door opened in my path, only to narrowly avoid an accident with other traffic. And let’s not even mention the potholes. Whether 95-degree heat turns NYC streets into molten lava or the winter chill renders them glacial moraine, the streets can be hazardous for a humble bike tire.
I have a car, and I often drive, but if the weather’s decent, I prefer to take my bike. Frankly, there are some journeys in Brooklyn that on two wheels are just too stressful.
Good luck trying to navigate spaghetti junctions and whizzing traffic around Fort Hamilton Parkway if you’re trying to get to Home Depot, or ride to Red Hook from Park Slope. Third Avenue is no stroll either. And don’t get me started on trucks side-swiping me off the roads with their rear ends as they turn.
There are simply too many cars driven by stressed out, impatient drivers.
Unless NYC takes a page from mellower, bike-friendly cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, cyclists will continue to be in peril every time they push off from the curb.
Jeff Vasishta lives in Crown Heights.