Volume 76, Number 7 | July 5 - 11, 2006


Bicyclists should not have to ride in fear of their lives

The death of three bicyclists — two of them in this part of Manhattan — last month has tragically illustrated, once again, the frightening truism that to ride a bike in this city is to take one’s life in one’s hands.

The first to die was Dr. Carl Nacht, 56, an avid marathoner and cyclist, after being hit June 22 by a truck crossing the Hudson River Park bike path at W. 38th St. Four days later, Derek Lane, 23, a School of Visual Arts graduate, lost his life at LaGuardia Pl. and Houston St. when his bike slipped on a metal construction plate and he fell underneath an 18-wheeler. On June 5, Donna Goodson, 41, was fatally struck by a truck in Rockaway.

Bicycling is healthy, enjoyable, noiseless and nonpolluting. It is increasingly used by New Yorkers as a way to get to work. But on New York City’s mean streets, cyclists don’t stand a chance in collisions with cars.

A virtual speedway, Houston St. has been made more dangerous because of a watermain project. Two bicyclists were killed on E. Houston St. last year. City Planning presented Community Board 3 plans for a Houston St. bike lane four years ago, but nothing emerged. What happened?

City Hall has touted the creation of a continuous greenway circling Manhattan and, of course, this is a wonderful thing. Yet, by definition, it is not a true greenway, since it is crossed at multiple points by cars and trucks. Dr. Nacht was killed by a tow truck from the Police Department tow pound on Pier 76.

Four years ago, a Villager reporter was violently hit while riding on the East River bikeway just north of the Manhattan Bridge by a Sanitation street sweeper turning from South St. into its garage on Pier 36. He luckily escaped with only a dislocated shoulder. That accident prompted a Villager investigation of the greenway bike path and its dangers. But not a lot has changed in four years, and today riders remain at risk.

The situation at Gansevoort Peninsula, for example, where garbage trucks steam in off the West Side Highway without a proper turning lane is a deadly accident waiting to happen. While the Sanitation trucks must vacate Gansevoort by 2012, plans for a new recyclables barging operation would bring 60 truck trips a day to the peninsula — and necessarily across the bike path.

Bike path users got some relief when the M.T.A. bus depot vacated Pier 57 at W. 15th St. two years ago. Yet the most recent plans for this Chelsea pier’s redevelopment called for the city’s largest banquet hall — which would bring huge amounts of car traffic.

Speed bumps, even modest ones, as at Pier 40 at W. Houston St., will encourage cars to slow down when crossing the bike path. But more creative solutions are needed to insure bicyclists’ safety on the greenway.

Bicycling is increasing in the city — but not enough is being done to make the city safer for bicyclists.

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