By SAMANTHA GROSS
Associated Press Writer
January 7, 2007, 10:50 PM EST
NEW YORK — It wasn’t easy to tell what had brought the crowd together _ until the men and women silently hoisted more than 40 bicycles over their heads.
“Whose streets? Our streets!” they yelled.
Cyclists gathered Sunday to honor those who died while riding their bikes in 2006, visiting each of 14 sites where riders are known to have perished.
After finishing the journey in Manhattan next to the Memorial for Unknown Cyclists, speakers from the crowd called for safer streets, harsher penalties for reckless motorists and improved crash reporting by city agencies.
“We need to have safer streets if we are to have a livable city,” said Rachael Myers, a volunteer with the environmental group Time’s Up!, which helped organize the event.
Audrey Anderson, whose 14-year-old son was killed in 2005 in a collision with a vehicle, made an impassioned plea for increased criminal investigations and prosecutions in such crashes.
“There is no such thing as civil justice,” she said. “Money cannot erase the pain and misery you are forced to live with forever.”
All crashes resulting in serious injury or death _ whether involving cyclists, pedestrians, or other vehicles _ are thoroughly investigated by a specialized squad, police spokeswoman Detective Theresa Farello said.
Like the sites of last year’s deaths, the memorial was marked with a riderless bike, called a ghost bicycle, which was painted white and decorated with a commemorative plaque. Participants on Sunday wove fresh flowers through the bike’s spokes.
Cycling deaths reported in 2006 dropped by 10 from 24 the year before, but organizers said they were concerned the official tally might not be accurate.
The city’s Department of Transportation said it was the police department’s responsibility to report such traffic accidents. The police department said its statistics on bicycle accidents were up to date and consistent with the number of calls involving injured cyclists to which it responded.
One of the best ways to increase rider safety is simply to get on a bike, said Noah Budnick, deputy director for the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives.
As the number of cyclists on the city’s streets has increased by about 33 percent over the last decade, the number of biking fatalities has dropped by 40 percent, Budnick said following the rally.
“You see the number of people who came out today and the number of people who ride every day in New York,” he said. “You can see that cycling is safe, and it will continue to get safer.”
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