New York Daily News
By Christina Boyle
November 25 2007
It’s all about pedal power.
That’s the message coming from Mayor Bloomberg as part of his drive to make the city cleaner and greener.
City Hall is spending more than $3 million a year to create and extend bike lanes, repair potholes and pay for ad campaigns telling drivers to watch out for cyclists.
Yet in the wake of the death of Sam Hindy, 27, who was killed as he biked over the Manhattan Bridge on Nov. 16, riders are being reminded the city can still be a deathtrap when it comes to navigating your way around on two wheels.
“The worst thing for me are the cab drivers,” said NYU student Hannah Bruehl, 28, who often cycles between Prospect Heights, Brooklyn, and midtown.
“Not only do they stop wherever they want and use the bike lanes as a second part of the street, passengers open doors without looking. I get doored pretty often.”
The number of cyclists killed on the streets has remained pretty steady over the past 10 years, with 24 in 2005 and 18 in 2004 and 2003, the latest available data from the city Department of Transportation shows.
But the number of bicyclist accidents has steadily declined since 1998, according to figures compiled by nonprofit group Transportation Alternatives.
There were 5,225 crashes in 1998, compared with 3,368 in 2005. Meanwhile, the volume of cyclists on city streets has soared to nearly 130,000 a day, deputy director Noah Budnick said.
Cycling fatalities like Hindy, who took a wrong turn on Manhattan Bridge and fell through an opening into traffic 15 feet below, remind riders to be on guard.
“There’s safety in numbers,” Budnick said. “The more cyclists there are on the street, the more drivers are watching out for us.”
The key to being safe on the streets is keeping your eyes open and having a loud voice, said biker Alan Netherton, 28, who regularly rides between Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“If you’re gonna be a cyclist in this town you have to be vociferous,” he said. “It’s the rule of the city: You have to be aware of your environment at all times.”
One thing is clear – most cyclists would not readily swap the feeling of freedom they get from pedaling around the city.
“[Cycling] is just a great way to spend the afternoon,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, who bikes to work every day.
“It’s fun, it’s rewarding and you get to see a little bit of the city and streetscape and waterfront.”
The city aims to add 200 miles of bike lanes to the five boroughs by 2009 and ensure the paths are linked so bicyclists no longer have to navigate heavy traffic in between safe cycling routes.
More than 700 new bike racks also are being installed citywide and lanes are being painted high-visibility colors in some neighborhoods to ensure drivers cannot miss them.
“People used to think I was crazy cycling,” said Barbara Ross, a volunteer at environmental group Time’s Up.
“Now I see people in suits on bikes, people with kids – and it’s exciting for someone who’s been cycling a long time.”