Cyclist Death Highlights Dangerous Streets, Unfunded Remedies

Victim’s Husband, TransAlt ask: Must a person be killed before we fix dangerous streets?

Statement of Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives:

One thing is clear: the tragic, violent death of Olga Cook could have been prevented. The intersection of Chambers and West streets in Manhattan, where a Ghost Bike is being installed in her memory today, has seen 20 cyclists and pedestrians injured in the past four and a half years, with near-constant conflicts from a simultaneous green light for turning drivers and cyclists traveling straight ahead. This type of shared-phase traffic signal is common and deadly -- with almost one third of cyclist and pedestrian deaths caused by turning drivers who fail to yield the right of way. Shared-phase traffic lights do not work, just as shared lanes for drivers and people on bikes do not work. In addition to protected bike lanes, our biggest streets also need protected intersections with dedicated turn signals and crossing times.

While the Department of Transportation is right to launch a study on the dangers of this intersection, hundreds more intersections known to be dangerous remain in urgent need of attention. Unfortunately, remedies are unlikely, since Mayor Bill de Blasio denied last month’s City Council request to increase the DOT’s budget for fixing dangerous streets, and cut personnel funding for DOT Traffic Operations by 2 percent.

People should not be allowed to die on streets that City Hall knows are dangerous. In order to prevent the next story of a New Yorker mowed down while walking to the store or biking to work, Mayor de Blasio must fully fund a priority engineering analysis of New York’s major streets and dramatically increase the DOT’s capacity to fix hundreds of dangerous intersections across the city.

In general, New York City needs to get to the place where proven street safety improvements like protected bike lanes and split-phase traffic signals are treated as vital public works. Instead of being bounced around as political footballs, these street safety redesigns should be non-negotiable, in the way that, for example, improvements to guarantee safe drinking water are non-negotiable. City Hall must put Vision Zero street safety fixes on a different political footing by funding and implementing them, instead of giving unelected and unrepresentative community boards veto power over these lifesaving projects.


Statement of Travis Maclean, Husband of Olga Cook:

We are going to honor Olga by making the world a safer and friendlier place for bicyclists and pedestrians through “Olga's Path.”