2007-01-03 – Cyclists Ready for Memorial Ride- Metro NY

by Amy Zimmer / Metro New York

JAN 3, 2007

MANHATTAN — A memorial ride for New Yorkers killed in cycling accidents in 2006 is planned for Sunday. The number of people they will honor, however, is unclear, according to city and bike advocate statistics.

Times Up!, a cycling group, counted 14 deaths last year, and they will visit those spots during their ride. But preliminary data from the Department of Transportation, as of Dec. 28, records only 11 fatalities.

The discrepancies are not limited to 2006. According to the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s 2005 statistics released last month, nine cyclists were killed by motor vehicles. Yet a joint report released in September by the DOT and the police, parks and health departments said 24 cyclists were killed in 2005.

“Both numbers are correct,” said Sara Markt, a health department spokeswoman. “The [joint] bike report for the DOT used their definition of bike fatalities, which is much more broad than our definition. For some bicycle deaths, there is a code assigned to it, and it’s clear the cyclist was killed in a traffic accident,” she said, while for others it was not specifically coded that a vehicle caused their death.

“As weird as it sounds, sometimes the numbers change,” said DOT spokesman Chris Gilbride about the discrepancies. “Sometimes people don’t die right away. But I can assure you our numbers are correct.”

Advocates, however, remained wary.

“We really have no idea how many cyclists died in 2006,” said Times Up! volunteer Barbara Ross. “Sometimes we rely on news reports.”

Whenever a cyclist is killed, Times Up! chains up a white “ghost” bike on the spot of the accident, as they did for Eric Ng, a 22-year-old Brooklynite who was killed on the Hudson River Park bike path on Dec. 1.

Jamal Lewis, 21, of the Bronx — who was killed by a private sanitation truck on Nov. 30 on 145th Street and Eighth Avenue — didn’t get a ghost bike until someone sent an e-mail to complain.

“It wasn’t in the news, so we didn’t know about it,” Ross said. “People from Times Up! had to go to the police precincts to find out what happened. … The conflicting number and different definitions demonstrate how difficult it is to get clear information on the number of cyclists killed on the streets.”

Bike friendly

The Department of Transportation announced last year that it would add 200 miles worth of new bike paths and assigned routes over the next few years.