Families and advocates remember slain cyclists
January 11, 2008
By Jefferson Siegel
A somber procession made its way through four boroughs last Sunday as bicyclists participated in the 3rd Annual Memorial Ride and Walk to honor cyclists and pedestrians killed in 2007.
Three separate rides pedaled through the city, stopping at the sites where 23 cyclists lost their lives last year in traffic accidents. By late afternoon the three groups converged near the spot on the Manhattan Bridge where cyclist Sam Hindy, 27, was killed just before midnight last Nov. 16.
Standing on the triangular traffic island near the entrance to the bridge, a white ghost bike bearing a photo of Hindy was slowly covered with flowers. Hindy’s parents, Steve and Ellen, his sister Lilly and numerous other friends and relatives stood near the white bike.
Hindy’s father, Steve, recalled how Hindy had participated in previous memorial rides. He then addressed the bigger issues facing cyclists and pedestrians daily.
“America’s in love with the internal combustion engine,” Hindy said as a steady crescendo of traffic rolled off the bridge. “Cars, trucks and buses are killing and maiming pedestrians and bicyclists in New York City virtually every day.
“They are choking the street life of our city,” he continued. “Our thirst for fossil fuels is forcing us into horrible foreign adventures like the Iraq war and it is destroying the atmosphere that enables our little planet to breathe.”
After a minute of silence and a bike lift, the mass proceeded to the last stop of the day at City Hall where they were joined by a dozen pedestrians who had marched across the Brooklyn Bridge in sympathy.
Hindy’s mother, Ellen Foote, the principal of I.S. 89 in Battery Park City, said “from the bottom of my anguished heart, I wish this event were not happening….
“My son Sam Hindy was great, witty, energetic,” Foote continued while holding her bike helmet. “He approached his use of the streets in a positive way, believing that our city should safely be able to accommodate all travelers.”
The last time she heard from her son was the afternoon before his death, when he sent an e-mail to announce that he had just sold his car.
“Participating in this Memorial Ride today and being with you all,” Foote said calmly but forcefully through her grief, “is definitely the most important thing that I will do this year.”
Her son had become an avid cyclist in the previous year, she recalled, commuting from Brooklyn to his new job at the technology firm DoubleClick in Chelsea. Last summer he began riding in the monthly Critical Mass rides.
Among the marchers was James Crouch whose son, Joshua, was killed in the West Village in September, 2006, in a still-unsolved hit-and-run.
“It’s a great thing to start the year off because people are dying on the streets,” Crouch said of the awareness being created by the Memorial Ride as 200 cyclists stood by their bikes.
Nat Meysenburg of Crown Heights, a member of the Street Memorial Project, which organized the Memorial Ride, stood by the ghost bike across from the entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge.
“One of our goals for this project is to make sure that these senseless and preventable tragedies are felt by the entire city,” Meysenburg said as cyclists stood quietly on the sidewalk.
Also participating in the ride were members of Time’s Up and Transportation Alternatives.
As they had at every stop throughout the day, Meysenburg told the crowd, “We ride with love in our hearts, with sadness for what has been lost, with rage that these crashes didn’t have to happen and hope that we never have to do this again.” Cyclists bent to light candles in front of the ghost bike.
The cyclists then lifted their bikes over their heads for a minute of silent tribute before filing inside the gates of City Hall, where they filled the steps to listen to family members of the fallen.
Standing in front of the hundreds of cyclists gathered on the steps, James Crouch noted that, “There are signs in the West Village; $350 if you honk your horn. There are no $350 signs if you hit someone with a car.”
There were 23 bicycle deaths and more than 100 pedestrian deaths in 2007. The goal of the Street Memorial Project is to cultivate a supportive community for survivors and friends of those killed on the streets, as well as to foster a mutual respect among cyclists, pedestrians and motor vehicle drivers.
It was Foote’s closing comments that provided an appropriate coda to the day-long event. “The legacy of our loved ones,” she noted, “must be the committment of us all to work tirelessly to change policy, change laws and change attitudes.”