What do we want?
When do we want them?
So went the call and response as New York City cyclists took to the streets en masse on Thursday night to demand action by Mayor Bill de Blasio to accelerate Vision Zero, the plan to eliminate fatalities from traffic crashes by 2024 and to double cycling by 2020, and increase the budget to fix the city’s most dangerous street corridors and intersections. The event was organized by Transportation Alternatives and Families for Safe Streets and co-hosted by a broad coalition of organizations that support cycling and pedestrian safety.
The message: Enough is enough. Cyclist deaths had, by Labor Day, exceeded the total — 15 — for all of 2015, according to city data. The number now stands at 18. Hit-and-run crashes also are on the rise and have surpassed last year’s numbers. The numbers are going the wrong way at a time when more New Yorkers choose bicycling for commuting and recreation, and the city looks to a variety of alternatives to cars as the streets become more congested due to continued population growth.
Although the city announced addition of a record 18 miles of protected bike lanes for 2016, activists see the need for more urgent focus by Mayor de Blasio on life-saving improvements to street design, funding to fix what have been identified — and prioritized — as the most dangerous areas of city streets, expansion of the bike network to more neighborhoods, and better enforcement of laws governing speed limits and right-of-way.
At the base of the Pulitzer Fountain, civic leaders and activists, including those who have lost loved ones to traffic violence, voiced their support for action through a microphone attached to a bullhorn. The massive turnout that rallied at 59th Street and Central Park South then streamed into the street, where they were escorted by New York City Police Department motorcycles. As dusk fell, bicycle lights twinkled, bike bells rang and exuberant chants were heard as the parade of bicycles stretched along Fifth Avenue, their progress unimpeded with traffic halted at the cross streets. The ride concluded more than 50 blocks to the south beneath the lit arch of Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village.
Cyclists from every borough and of all ages and backgrounds took part. Many wore yellow and carried commemorative yellow flowers and signs bearing Vision Zero messages to the mayor as they pedaled bicycles, unicycles and cargo bikes. Pedestrians who gathered on sidewalks and at intersections along the route paused to snap photos with smartphones.
“Did you ride in that big bike event tonight?” a neighborn in my apartment building asked when I returned home from the rally. “I’ve never seen that many cyclists!” he continued.
And that was the point. As a group, we were visible in the streets, united in our vulnerability and in our resolve.
Want to get involved? Learn more at Transportation Alternatives.