Volume 76, Number 33 | January 10 – 16, 2007
By Jefferson Siegel
Bicycle solidarity was on eloquent display last Sunday as hundreds rode in the Second Annual Memorial Ride to honor the 14 riders killed on city streets last year.
Two separate rides started out early in the morning in Queens and the Bronx, stopping at a dozen sites before meeting up midafternoon in the Village. At each stop, friends and colleagues poignantly spoke of their loss in words usually reserved for close family members.
Risi Kondor, a computer science student at Columbia, rode even though he didnâ€™t know any of the fallen cyclists.
â€œI think itâ€™s important to make a statement to make this city safer and to commemorate those who canâ€™t be here,â€ Kondor said as cyclists filled LaGuardia Pl. north of Houston St. at the spot where Derek Lake, 23, was struck and killed by a truck on June 23.
Keen Berger, the Village Democratic district leader and Community Board 2 member, circulated through the crowd with a basket of homemade oatmeal and chocolate chip cookies. Ian Dutton, a public member of C.B. 2â€™s Traffic and Transportation Committee, lamented the loss of Lake, an aspiring filmmaker, as well as the deaths of other cyclists on Houston St. in recent years, a thoroughfare so deadly it has earned the name â€œBoulevard of Death.â€
â€œI am dismayed at the Department of Transportationâ€™s disregard for the significance of these fatalities,â€ Dutton said, â€œand disappointed by D.O.T.â€™s efforts to ignore our neighborhoodâ€™s insistence that we address the safety issues for the cyclists that use this street.â€
As they had on every stop that day, cyclists then held their bikes aloft in a symbolic â€œbike liftâ€ salute before pedaling east.
At Third Ave. and 17th St., a white ghost bike marked where East Village restaurant owner Reginald Chan was killed last September. Members of Chanâ€™s family stood silently, each holding a single flower. Cyclists dismounted and covered the stark white bike with colorful blooms.
The ride then pedaled west, past Union Square and through Chelsea to Ninth Ave. and 29th St., where Darren Lewis, 20, was killed in August.
On a summer night last June, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, 56, was killed by a tow truck while he was riding on the bike path along the Hudson River at 38th St. On Sunday his wife, Mary Beth Kelly, surrounded by family and friends, stood before the silent group of riders and recalled how a bystanderâ€™s shirt was unable to staunch the blood of her husbandâ€™s fatal wound.
â€œI think the basic human nature is to be compassionate. Weâ€™re involved in civic activity; it gives meaning to our lives â€” connect with our community and think about the things that elevate us,â€ Kelly offered.
The ride then proceeded down the path to Clarkson St., where Eric Ng, 22, was killed by a drunk driver in December, one of three cyclists killed in the final weeks of the year.
At the last stop, the Memorial for Unnamed Cyclists on Houston and Lafayette Sts., the crowd listened to speeches by the rideâ€™s organizers from Timeâ€™s Up! and Transportation Alternatives before performing a final bike lift.