Cyclists stage mass die-in, demand safe streets

Cyclists held a die-in at Washington Square Park on July 9. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

BY GABE HERMAN | Too many cyclists are being killed on the streets, and to drive home the point that something needs to done about it, hundreds of cyclists held a mass die-in in Washington Square Park on Tues., July 9.

Despite the push for increased street safety under the Vision Zero plan, there have been 15 cyclist deaths so far in the city in 2019, compared to seven at the same point in 2018, and 10 for all of last year.

“Ultimately, the balance of our streets should be tilted in favor of people — not the cars that clog our streets and hog our curbs,” wrote Ellen McDermott, co-interim executive director of Transportation Alternatives, on Streetsblog before the die-in. “Ever greater reclamation of street space is the answer — like we reclaimed Washington Square Park from the automobile six decades ago and never looked back.”

Hundreds attended the die-in. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
A protester lay on top of a yellow cab near the die-in on July 9. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)
The protester was arrested for blocking traffic. (Photo by Tequila Minsky)

Mayor Bill de Blasio responded earlier this month to the growing number of cyclist fatalities.

“We are seeing a dangerous surge in cyclist deaths on our streets, and we are taking action,” the mayor said on July 1. “I have directed the N.Y.P.D. to immediately launch a major enforcement action that will encompass every precinct and crack down on dangerous driving behavior like parking in bike lanes.

“At the same time,” the mayor continued, “I have charged the Department of Transportation with developing a new cyclist safety plan to make biking in our city safer. No loss of life on our streets is acceptable. Last year was the safest year on record — and we have to keep pushing the envelope and increasing our efforts until we achieve Vision Zero.”

The next day, the Police Department said a three-week-long citywide initiative from July 1 to July 21 would pay special attention to dangerous parking and moving violations, such as double-parking, parking in or blocking bike lanes, and speeding, failure to yield and distracted driving, like using a phone while behind the wheel.

Patrol supervisors will also respond to incidents where cyclists or pedestrians have been struck to investigate whether a right-of-way law has been violated. Auxiliary police officers also will be doing education outreach for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians about safety tips, according to police.

Despite the promised crackdown, some cyclists have reported that police cars themselves have been part of the problem in recent years when it comes to blocking bike lanes. There is even a Twitter account devoted to the issue, called Cops in Bike Lanes, which was started in 2013.

“The N.Y.P.D. will work with all of our city partners to implement a comprehensive plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate bicycle fatalities,” said Police Commissioner James O’Neill when the mayor’s July initiative was announced. “The N.Y.P.D. vigorously supports Vision Zero, and enthusiastically promotes safety for everyone on our city’s streets.”