Today, the collective heart of New York City is breaking as we learn more about the victims who were needlessly killed and injured on the Hudson River Greenway, the busiest bicycle path in the country.
This is a tough day for all New Yorkers -- and tough for everyone in the United States and around the world who regularly bikes and walks on city streets. There exists already a baseline sense of vulnerability. Now that feeling is heightened.
The weaponization of motor vehicles is increasingly common, as we saw earlier this year in Barcelona, Charlottesville and Times Square. But the truth is -- before the rise of weaponization of motor vehicles -- traffic crashes all too often taken pedestrian and cyclist lives in New York City.
On Halloween in 2015, a holiday when we need safe streets more than any other, a reckless driver jumped a curb at speed in the Bronx, killing three trick-or-treaters and injuring four others. In 2006, bike rider Eric Ng was killed by a driver who intentionally drove onto the Greenway at high speed at the exact same location as yesterday’s attack. These are just two examples of countless preventable deaths.
Yet contrary to what some have said, there are proven ways to prevent these types of attacks and crashes. Prompted by Eric’s death, advocates have fought for more than a decade to block vehicular access to the Greenway with a common measure known as bollards. These life-saving bollards are already in place at some intersections along the Greenway, such as at Murray and Vesey Streets, but are far from standard and for no good reason.
Unless we change the priorities of our city to place people over the ease of vehicular movement, this will happen again. Across the five boroughs, through the years, this story repeats: a New Yorker is killed by a driver every other day, yet our city’s leaders never change drivers’ unfettered access to our city’s public spaces.
It should be the norm -- not the exception -- that we provide better protection for New York City’s bike lanes, pedestrian plazas and most crowded sidewalks. In addition to installing bollards, granite blocks and other proven countermeasures to protect bikers and walkers, the city must do a better job of monitoring and managing car and truck traffic. With the very real threats that New York City faces, we must restrict vehicle access to New York City’s most vulnerable areas, such as Lower Manhattan and Midtown. More widely, the City of New York should begin regulating and limiting truck and vehicle access to our city’s most crowded areas the same way that many European cities do for both safety, security and street efficiency rationales. An obvious opportunity for improvement would be to move deliveries that require large trucks to overnight hours when streets are not teeming with pedestrians and cyclists.
Today, as our city grieves, New Yorkers in all five boroughs are also biking and walking as we always do, in greater numbers than ever before. We celebrate these actions as part of what makes New York City great. The Mayor must redouble his commitment to Vision Zero by expanding and accelerating the proven traffic safety measures that protect New York City’s most important public spaces, beginning by first working with whomever necessary to install bollards along potential vehicular access points to the Hudson River Greenway.