Fear Cycling On Boro’s Streets
Daily News, Brooklyn Edition
July 31, 2007
BY SAMANTHA SALY AND JONATHAN XIKIS
Additional reporting by Adam Thometz
Nearly a year after a 10-year-old Brownsville boy was hit by a red van while walking his bike across the street, Brooklyn kids said they don’t feel safe cycling through the borough’s streets.
“I feel safe on the sidewalk, where there are no cars,” said Jack Rader, 8, who lives in Park Slope. “I always hurry past the places where the cars turn and sometimes I walk my bike across the street.”
Shamar Porter was heading home after a baseball game victory last August. He died at Brookdale University Hospital, still wearing his Little League uniform. Almost one year later, a painted white “ghost bike” marks the site of the accident and serves as a warning to other young cyclists.
A city report released last September found that from 1996 to 2005, 40% of the city’s 207 traffic-related fatal bike crashes were in Brooklyn. Forty young cyclists were killed in those years; 13 were young Brooklynites.
“There have been so many deaths that we haven’t been able to keep up,” said Barbara Ross, a volunteer with Time’s Up!, an environmental advocacy organization that has placed 11 ghost bike memorials in Brooklyn to commemorate fallen cyclists.
“There are about five ghost bikes that we need to put up for 2007,” Ross said. “One of them is for another child in Brooklyn. It’s always really hard to do any ghost bikes. Especially when it’s for children, it’s really tragic.”
But the city’s Transportation Department says it has implemented cycling safety reforms. During the next three years, 200 miles of bike paths, lanes and routes will be added. On Henry St. in Brooklyn Heights, the city recently used a controversial neon green paint to mark bike lanes. (Residents complained the color was ugly.) In addition, the city recently handed out 1,000 free bicycle helmets and plans to continue distributing them.
At the Woodhull Medical and Mental Health Center, Brooklyn kids can practice traffic safety by riding their bikes on a simulated New York City street. Still, kids say they don’t feel safe riding their bikes on city streets. “I don’t trust cars,” said Alexia Barthelemy, 8, of Mill Basin, who was taking her first ride without training wheels around Prospect Park. “There should be security guards in the street to protect the kids biking.”
Her grandmother, Marlene Barthelemy, 47, said keeping a child safe on a bike depended on accessibility to a place where the child can ride freely. “Although we live in a residential area, the cars seem to be flying by,” she said. “We took a car to get here, but if you don’t have a means of transportation then you have to take the risk in your neighborhood.”
Christian Arroyo, 16, rides his bike up from Ocean Ave. to Prospect Park on weekends. “It could be safer to ride,” he said. “The city could definitely make more lanes. My friend was hit by a driver who didn’t see him but he was okay because he was wearing a helmet,” Christian said. “Why haven’t I been hit? I think I’m just lucky, really lucky.”