Die-in for fallen veteran bikers highlights hazards
December 19, 2007
By Jefferson Siegel
Cycling activists took to the streets last Wednesday to call attention to the hazards bicyclists continue to face while riding alongside traffic.
Their first action took place midday when half a dozen cyclists pedaled up the Sixth Ave. bike lane, dismounted and lay down for almost five minutes in the left lane of traffic. Wearing signs reading “Killed By Car” as they lay motionless, the die-in didn’t bring traffic to a standstill, but passing vehicles slowed noticeably at the sight of bodies lying on the street.
The spot activists chose for the die-in was significant because, just one week earlier, West Village resident David Smith, 63, had been killed there after being “doored” by a truck illegally parked in the bike lane. As Smith, an avid cyclist, had rode up the bike lane that morning, a man in the passenger seat of a pickup truck opened his door without looking. Smith hit the door, fell off his bike and was hit by a passing truck.
“The tendency is to blame the victim,” lamented filmmaker Christopher Ryan. Ryan, a cyclist who has participated in the monthly Critical Mass rides, added, “It’s hard to break out of the mentality that ‘streets are for cars.’”
Later that night a more somber memorial took place for the two bicyclists killed in recent weeks. Dozens of cyclists first pedaled to a newly installed “ghost bike” to mourn the loss of Smith.
Organized by the Street Memorial Project, the memorial ride stopped at the site of Smith’s white memorial bike on W. 36th St. at Sixth Ave.
Smith’s companion, the Reverend John W. Moody, stood watching.
“We are incredibly moved by what you’ve done,” Moody said to the cyclists. “We thought we’d wait for a year’s anniversary. It really helps with our grieving process.”
The cyclists then lifted their bicycles over their heads for a full minute of silence in a final salute to Smith.
Another newly installed ghost bike in memory of Franco Scorcia, 72, waited at the corner of Broadway and W. 40th St. On Dec. 6, Scorcia was fatally struck by a turning tour bus.
Leah Todd of the Street Memorial Project offered words of condolence for Scorcia and again stressed the need for cyclists to be aware of their surroundings.
Then, in the penumbra of the lights from Times Square, the cyclists once more lifted their bikes aloft for a minute of silence.
Many in the cycling community believe improvements for bicyclists are not happening fast enough, despite an additional 200 miles of bike lanes that are expected to be added to city streets by 2009. So far this year, 23 cyclists have been killed on city streets, an increase from the 18 killed last year. Twenty-four died in 2005.
The third annual citywide memorial ride to remember those killed in 2007 is planned for Sun., Jan. 6.