Volume 79, Number 23 | November 11 - 17, 2009
West and East Village, Chelsea, Soho, Noho, Little Italy, Chinatown and Lower East Side, Since 1933


Make bike lanes safe

Last Thursday’s horrific accident that saw Shami Chaikin, a 78-year-old actress, left in critical condition after being partially run over by a Parks Department garbage truck never should have happened. Chaikin was riding her motorized scooter in the protected Hudson St. bicycle lane.

The Parks workers were collecting garbage and conveniently used the specially protected bike lane — which, in this case, was wide enough for their truck. Yet the law is clear: Bike lanes are off limits to motor vehicles, including city vehicles.

Municipal employees must be trained to learn they cannot drive in bike lanes. The city’s bike-lane network is only growing under Mayor Bloomberg — at a clip of 50 miles per year. In July, the city completed the last of 200 miles of new lanes installed over the past three years. The city now has more than 425 miles of on-street bike lanes.

Not surprisingly, the Department of Transportation just announced that commuter cycling rose 26 percent in the last year. (The numbers were based on a count of riders from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. crossing the four East River bridges, exiting the Staten Island Ferry terminal and crossing 50th St. on each avenue and the Hudson River greenway.)

The bike lane in which Chaikin was struck, in fact, has extra protection — separated from traffic by a lane of parked cars. Most of our bike lanes, however, only have a white painted stripe on the street between cyclists and moving traffic — and, not surprisingly, they are often blocked by delivery trucks, standing cars and limos and taxis picking up and dropping off fares.

With bike lanes and biking booming, the city must do more to ensure safety in the lanes. At a minimum, a low curb or barrier with reflectors should be installed along all lanes’ traffic-side edges to make it clear that cars must keep out. We need to look to other cities, like Amsterdam, to learn how to make our bicycle infrastructure safer.

Again, no cyclist or motorized-scooter rider should ever be struck by a vehicle in a bike lane, or ever have to encounter one blocking the lane — except in an emergency, such as a critical street repair or fire.

Pass ‘Leandra’s Law’

Four children dead after a terrifying wrong-way collision in Westchester. Two children killed following a high-speed crash in Queens. Another young girl lost when a car careens off the West Side Highway.

The common thread in these incidents — the last of which claimed Leandra Rosado, 11, of Chelsea on Oct. 11: The drivers each chose to get behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

Most of us can’t comprehend what someone is thinking when he or she decides to drink and drive, much less with young children in the car.

In the case of Carmen Huertas, who loaded eight kids, including two of her own, into a car bound for the Bronx after boozing at a Chelsea party, she showed willful disregard for not only her family, but for other youngsters’ lives. With a blood alcohol level one-and-a-half times the legal limit, Huertas sped, while asking her poor passengers if they thought she would crash.

Huertas could end up serving only seven years. One survivor may be paralyzed for life.

Leandra’s father, Lenny Rosado, has refused to let Leandra die in vain, and wants her name attached to legislation pending in Albany. “Leandra’s Law” would make it a felony to drive while intoxicated with a passenger under age 16.

Right now, there is no law on the books to warn future drunk drivers that their actions could result in a life behind bars. Pass “Leandra’s Law” now.

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