The collective heart of New York City is breaking as we learn more about the victims who were needlessly killed and injured on Tues Oct 31 on the Hudson River Greenway, the busiest bicycle path in the country.
This is a tough day for all New Yorkers — and tough for everyone in the United States and around the world who regularly bikes and walks on city streets. There exists already a baseline sense of vulnerability. Now that feeling is heightened.
The weaponization of motor vehicles is increasingly common, as we saw earlier this year in Barcelona, Charlottesville and Times Square. But the truth is — before the rise of weaponization of motor vehicles — traffic crashes all too often taken pedestrian and cyclist lives in New York City.
On Halloween in 2015, a holiday when we need safe streets more than any other, a reckless driver jumped a curb at speed in the Bronx, killing three trick-or-treaters and injuring four others. In 2006, bike rider Eric Ng was killed by a driver who intentionally drove onto the Greenway at high speed at the exact same location as yesterday’s attack. These are just two examples of countless preventable deaths.
Yet contrary to what some have said, there are proven ways to prevent these types of attacks and crashes. Prompted by Eric’s death, advocates have fought for more than a decade to block vehicular access to the greenway with a common measure known as bollards. These life-saving bollards are already in place at some intersections along the Hudson River Greenway, such as at Murray and Vesey Streets, but are far from standard and for no good reason.
New York Bicycling Coalition Statement
On Oct. 31, 2017, eight people were killed and many more injured on a protected multi-use path in New York City. The instrument of devastation in this case was a motor vehicle and law enforcement agencies are calling the incident an act of terrorism. Our hearts go out to the victims and their families during this difficult time.
The site of this tragedy is one of the most heavily-used bike paths in the country and the same area where Eric Ng was tragically killed by a drunk driver who drove at speeds up to 60 mph for over a mile on the path in 2006. Yet despite this, it doesn’t have bollards at many of its entry points in lower Manhattan. Bollards are designed to keep motor vehicles from entering pedestrian and cyclist-oriented infrastructure. These can no longer be considered an add-on or optional feature for bike paths or pedestrian walkways.
Far too many cyclists and walkers are hurt and killed on a regular basis within transportation systems that are primarily created for motorized vehicles. While NYC and other communities across the state have made great progress enhancing bicyclist and pedestrian safety, there are a lot more engineering, legislative, education, and enforcement initiatives that need to happen NOW as we move toward an environment where not one more tragedy takes place.
While we cannot prevent all terrorist attacks, we can implement proven safety features to protect vulnerable road users and dramatically reduce the opportunity for tragedy to strike.
The New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC) advocates for pro-bicycle policies and funding at all levels of government; educates New Yorkers about bicycle safety and the benefits of bicycling; provides technical assistance and support to advocates and government entities; and promotes bicycle tourism across the state.
Unless we change the priorities of our city to place people over the ease of vehicular movement, this will happen again. Across the five boroughs, through the years, this story repeats: a New Yorker is killed by a driver every other day, yet our city’s leaders never change drivers’ unfettered access to our city’s public spaces.
It should be the norm — not the exception — that we provide better protection for New York City’s bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and most crowded sidewalks. In addition to installing bollards, granite blocks and other proven countermeasures to protect bikers and walkers, the city must do a better job of monitoring and managing car and truck traffic. With the very real threats that New York City faces, we must restrict vehicle access to New York City’s most vulnerable areas, such as Lower Manhattan and Midtown. More widely, the City of New York should begin regulating and limiting truck and vehicle access to our city’s most crowded areas the same way that many European cities do for both safety, security and street efficiency rationales. An obvious opportunity for improvement would be to move deliveries that require large trucks to overnight hours when streets are not teeming with pedestrians and cyclists.
Today, as our city grieves, New Yorkers are also biking and walking as we always do, in greater numbers than ever before. We celebrate these actions as part of what makes New York City great. NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio must redouble his commitment to Vision Zero by expanding and accelerating the proven traffic safety measures that protect New York City’s most important public spaces, beginning by first working with whomever necessary to install bollards along potential vehicular access points to the Hudson River Greenway.
With 100,000 active supporters, Transportation Alternatives’ mission is to reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and to promote bicycling, walking, public transit through the the installation of infrastructure improvements that reduce speeding and traffic crashes, save lives and improve everyday transportation for all New Yorkers.
Photo Credit: JimsBikeblog.wordpress.com