Statement of Paul Steely White, Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives:
Wednesday’s news that 78-year-old Michael Schenkman was struck and killed by a driver while riding his bike on Northern Boulevard in Bayside Queens hits close to home. Michael, who was passionate about bicycling, was a beloved Transportation Alternatives member who joined us on many of our bike tours and supported our work to make New York City streets safer for all road users. We are dedicating our upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour on September 10th to his memory.
Just as Michael Schenkman devoted much of his life to bicycling and safer streets, his death is also sadly significant for New York City’s Vision Zero effort to eliminate traffic fatalities and serious injuries. His death is the 16th cyclist fatality so far this year, which means we have now surpassed the 15 bike deaths that the city saw in all of 2015. This statistic is moving in the wrong direction, and it is unfortunately not the only one: hit-and-runs that have killed cyclists and pedestrians, at 26 so far this year, have already surpassed the number we saw during all of 2015, which was 23.
It is significant that Michael Schenkman was killed on Northern Boulevard, which is among the city’s most dangerous streets that the Department of Transportation has designated as Vision Zero Priority Corridors -- many of which have yet to see lifesaving redesigns. Of the 16 bike fatalities so far in 2016, half have taken place on corridors, at intersections or in areas that received a "Priority" designation in the DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plans. Four deaths occurred on streets that were designated Priority Corridors but which did not have bike lanes. Of 26 hit-and-run fatalities, 12 were in locations that had a Priority designation -- 8 were on Priority Corridors, and two were at Priority Intersections that have yet to receive any safety treatments.
We want to know what Mayor de Blasio is going to do about this crisis, which is why we are mobilizing with other New York City bike advocates and members of Families for Safe Streets to hold a Ride for Mayoral Action on the evening of September 15th.
We will renew our call on the de Blasio administration to build on the Vision Zero leadership the Mayor has shown, by investing more and moving more quickly to redesign all of the city’s most dangerous streets with lifesaving improvements like protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety islands and greater visibility at crosswalks.
The Mayor must also urge the incoming Police Commissioner to formulate a clear Vision Zero policy to ensure that speeding and failure to yield are the priorities for traffic enforcement in all precincts. The NYPD must change its policies on bike safety: stop victim-blaming after cyclist fatalities and focus on deterring the reckless behaviors that endanger people on bikes. Finally, the Department must devote more resources to improve its dismal record on hit-and-run investigations. Only 2.5% of the city’s 38,000 hit-and-runs ended with any enforcement action last year.