2006-06-28 ‘Death St.’ Bike Tour – Daily News



Wednesday, June 28, 2006

BIKE ADVOCATES have long referred to Houston St. as a “death street” for cyclists – even before Tully Construction began a $30 million water main project, narrowing lanes and putting thick metal plates over gaps in the pavement.

Tully was issued six Transportation Department violations last weekend for loose or shifted plates, but denied its work was a factor in the death of cyclist Derek Lake, 23, who skidded under a truck Monday on W. Houston St. near LaGuardia Place.

The Daily News sent reporter RICH SCHAPIRO out on a bicycle yesterday to test how hazardous Houston St. has become:

AS A TRUCK barreled down on me from behind, I knew I had two options: pedal faster and risk getting crushed against a parked taxi or slow down and wait for the rampaging rig to speed past.

The decision was easy – I braked hard.

Bike riders have little room for error on the downtown boulevard known by some as “Death Street.”

Speeding trucks, massive construction sites and severely pockmarked pavement combine to make Houston St. a virtual death trap for cyclists.

I learned this firsthand yesterday as I biked across the same thoroughfare that has taken the lives of three cyclists in the past 13 months.

My adventure began on the corner of Avenue D, where I cautiously rode over a metal plate that rose 2 inches off the pavement.

Heading west past Avenue B, I was forced to brace myself as a convoy of vans whipped by. The pavement was so uneven it proved no small feat.

Cruising toward First Ave., I noticed two troughs in the road that, from a distance, appeared fairly innocuous.

As I rode over them, however, my bike bucked violently and for a desperate few seconds, it took all my effort just to steady myself.

Construction causes four lanes to become two after Mercer St. As cars jostled for position, I somehow managed to slide through a 2-foot space unscathed.

The metal plates that may have led to Lake’s death had been removed from the corner of LaGuardia Place. A woman in a motorized wheelchair rolled up to me as I surveyed the construction site that remained.

“They call this ‘Death Street’ for bikers,” she said. “You better be careful.”