A loose guardrail clattered overhead as trucks flew by on the Brooklyn-Queens expressway, sending gusts of air onto the New Yorkers gathered below holding blue cards high. The cards bore the names of the 18 cyclists killed on city streets this year.
On Monday, Em Samolewicz became the tragic 18th after being run down by the driver of a tractor trailer. Another driver had swung open his door in front of her as she pedaled north on Third Avenue in Brooklyn. She was 30 years old.
Speakers at her vigil called on the city to take bolder steps to protect bicyclists and to fast-track delayed safety improvements.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez was among those demanding more from the city.
“I am heartbroken, and I am angry” she said, adding: "Eighteen cyclists lost. What this is telling us is that the current situation is not working, and it is unacceptable."
The speed limit on the busy stretch of Third Avenue where Samolewicz was hit is 30 mph. The citywide speed limit is 25 mph. The roadway does not have bicycle lanes.
City Councilman Carlos Menchaca recalled personal interactions he had with Samolewicz at the yoga studio where she worked, and shared his own experiences about riding in the area.
“I also know these roads, and they are dangerous,” he said.
Others shared stories of dangerous driving they had seen near where Samolewicz was hit. Jocelyn Suriel, who knew Samolewicz, said she often sees drivers running red lights on the avenue.
“Third avenue is very dangerous. We need to put more cameras on Third Avenue,” she said. “She was a good person. We’re all gonna miss her.”