Volume 78 - Number 32 / January 7 - 13, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933

Villager photos by Jefferson Siegel

Top, as Downtown cycling activist Charles Komanoff, left, and other cyclists did a bike lift at Delancey St. and Bowery for Rasha Shamoon, her sister Suhair cried while holding her photo, right. Above, Leah Todd, of the Street Memorial Project, placed flowers in Shamoon’s ghost bike.

Cyclists read roll of fallen on a rolling memorial

By Jefferson Siegel

Cyclists gathered to remember their own at the Fourth Annual Bike Memorial Ride & Walk on Sunday.

Three separate rides left Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx before coalescing on the Lower East Side. They were joined by members of the families of the 14 bike riders killed in traffic over the past year. Respects were also paid to the more than 100 pedestrians killed by motor vehicles last year.

At each stop the cyclists paused at a white memorial “ghost bike,” each of which quickly filled with flowers once they arrived.

As they reached 36th St. and Broadway, where Alvaro Olsen, 54, was killed last April 16, a cyclist read aloud the names of the 14 dead bike riders, then declared, “We ride and walk with love in our hearts, with sadness for what has been lost, with rage that these crashes did not have to happen, and with hope that we never have to do this again.

“With these memorials we want to raise awareness about a bicyclist’s right to the street and a pedestrian’s right to safe passage, in hope that New Yorkers can change the climate on the road and learn to respect one another.”

The list of names was read at the scene of each cyclist fatality.

Late in the day, bike riders converged at the corner of Delancey St. and the Bowery, where cyclist Rasha Shamoon, 31, was killed early on the morning of Aug. 5 when she was struck by an S.U.V.

Shamoon’s family stood near the corner, holding photos of their daughter.

“We want to help them to have a safe city,” Shamoon’s father, Adel, said of the crowd of cyclists gathered in front of Rasha’s ghost bike, “and for every driver to be responsible.”

Her mother, Samira, added, “I’m looking to have a law, like in Denmark and England, to protect the cyclists.”

Rasha’s sister Suhair broke down in tears while addressing the cyclists on the memorial ride.

“I can’t believe people don’t take responsibility for their actions,” she lamented.

An organizer of the ride, Leah Todd, of the NYC Street Memorial Project, also spoke.

“We have to ban the word ‘accident’ from our vocabulary,” she said. “All crashes are preventable through better design and changing the culture of our streets to foster mutual respect among all who travel on them.”

Adel and Samira Shamoon, Rasha Shamoon’s parents, standing near the spot where their daughter was killed by an S.U.V. while she was bicycling on Aug. 5, 2008.

The day’s final stop was at a ghost bike memorial for all the unnamed, unidentified cyclists and pedestrians killed in traffic. On the corner of Second Ave. and 10th St., in front of St. Mark’s Church, Lizi Rahman stood holding a photo of her son, Asif, 22, who was killed riding his bike on Queens Boulevard last February.

Recalling how her son “felt free as a bird on his bike,” Rahman said, “I will not rest until we get a bike lane on Queens Boulevard in honor of Asif.”

Participants in the ride want the city to take stronger measures to reduce street fatalities through improvements to street design, enforcement and education.

The Street Memorial Project seeks to cultivate a compassionate and supportive community for survivors and friends of those killed, as well as to raise public awareness to help prevent future deaths.

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