The DOT says streets have become safer for bike riders, but others disagree.
NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Friday, September 16, 2016, 4:00 AM
Giovanni Nin was pedaling down E. Tremont Ave. in the Bronx to see his girlfriend earlier this summer in between shifts at a FedEx shipping center.
It was the early morning hours of June 11 and that stretch of road in Throgs Neck is so treacherous the city labeled it a “priority corridor” in need of a redesign to prevent leadfooted drivers from speeding.
That night, while only about a minute away from his girlfriend’s apartment, Nin became the 11th cyclist to be killed in the city this year.
The Department of Transportation had a plan of action for that street prior to Nin’s death, yet nothing was done to make one of the most dangerous roadways in the city safer before his fateful trip.
In Nin’s case, the driver of an SUV — who had blown a red light and was speeding, witnesses said — smacked into the cyclist near Mayflower Ave. as the 26-year-old attempted to cross over to the other side of the street. The driver never stopped. Police have made no arrests.
Nin’s girlfriend, Daniela Gambino, wondered why the city failed to improve the street over the objections of the local community board that voted down the proposal a year before Nin, whom she affectionately called Gio, was killed.
It took the city until August to buck Bronx Community Board 10 and start work on that section of E. Tremont Ave., which will be done by the end of this month, the agency said.
Giovanni Nin (r.) was riding his bike to see his girlfriend (l.) when he was killed by a car on E. Tremont in Throgs Neck, Bronx.
“Sad is how the community board prefers to keep that stretch of E. Tremont as it is at the cost of public safety,” said Gambino, who grew up in the Bronx. “Sadder is that those road changes could have saved Gio’s life if the city had put their foot down a year ago.”
Despite living in the age of Vision Zero — Mayor de Blasio’s ambitious effort that begun Jan. 15, 2014, to revamp streets and driving culture so that no one dies from traffic crashes — cyclists across the city said they’re still at very high risk of grave injury or losing their lives.
So far this year, motorists have killed 17 cyclists — putting 2016 on the path to being one of the deadliest for bike riders in recent years. The death toll for 2016 has already topped 2015, when drivers killed 15 cyclists.
One street that is a prime spot for a protected bike lane is Classon Ave. in Clinton Hill, Brooklyn, where Lauren Davis, 34, died in April. Her sister Danielle, who lives in California, said it’s “pretty alarming how ubiquitous” cyclist deaths seem in New York. She’s been petitioning for a bike lane on the street where Lauren died.
“I know that Lauren will never come back,” she said. “I hope that making safer streets will protect the most vulnerable people in the streets.”
Millad Yousufi, a cyclist from Flushing, Queens, said there are not enough bike lanes — often forcing him to ride in bus lanes, even though he realizes that can be more dangerous.
Lauren Davis rides her bike with her dog Rupert. She was killed while riding her bike on Classon Ave. in Brooklyn.
(Mirza Molberg/Mirza Molberg)
And when motorists drive too fast near him, it’s enough to make him hit the brakes on his ride for good.
“If you turn a little left or a little right, there would be an accident. Sometimes it’s very dangerous, actually,” the 22-year-old musician said.
“When cars are in a hurry, I prefer to walk on the sidewalk with my bike.”
Despite the grim increase in cyclist deaths, the Department of Transportation said the risk for bicyclists has never been lower. The agency calculates a cycling “risk indicator” by taking the number of dead and severely injured riders in a year and factoring in the estimated number of daily bike trips.
That allows the city to claim a low risk of injury or death, even as the carnage climbs, due to the boom in New Yorkers who’ve taken to two wheels.
For the drivers who have to share the road with more people, bike lanes are welcome, even if they complain about their shrinking slice of street space and the traffic that it causes.
Family members of Lauren Davis grieve at the site of her death. A bicycle was used to create a memorial for Davis, who was struck and killed by a car as she rode a bike.
(Debbie Egan-Chin/New York Daily News)
Andrea Davis, 46, of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, complained that bike lanes sometimes just end, spitting cyclists into car traffic.
“Motorists are not necessarily going to be looking for you to be on a bike. However, a bicyclist will still have that road,” Davis said. “It’s not like the bike lane ends and then there’s some sort of guideline. It’s just like the bike lane ends.”
Sardar Jaman, a Queens cab driver, said it’s too dangerous for cyclists to ride outside bike lanes.
“I could easily see a car or truck or bus driving next to me, but I can hardly see a bike,” said Jaman, 46, of Jackson Heights. “All of a sudden they cut and cross in front of me. Sometimes they are very aggressive.”
Despite the chaotic conditions on the road, Sean Quinn, DOT’s senior director of bicycle and pedestrian programs, defended the “accurate representation” of the safety risk to cyclists.
He called the DOT’s safety calculations a “way to show how the growing population is being protected and being kept safe while they’re cycling.”
Police officers investigate the hit-and-run crash that killed Giovanni NIn in the Bronx. Nin was riding a bike when a car came out of nowhere and struck him.
By that metric, cyclists were 72% safer in 2014 than in 2000, mainly due to daily bike trips nearly tripling in the intervening years.
For 2014, the latest year for which numbers are available, daily cycling trips reached 420,000. A DOT cycling study from May said that about 778,000 adult New Yorkers ride a bike at least a few times a month.
Meanwhile, Citi Bike stations — first introduced in May 2013 — are cropping up in new neighborhoods, growing the number of bikes cruising the roads. Citi Bike last year clocked 27,287 rides a day on average during the nicer seasons, between April and October.
Ken Podziba, president of Bike New York, an education nonprofit, said the city’s cycling Renaissance does cut down the risk of getting hit by a car, even if more enforcement against reckless motorists is warranted.
“Motorists are not as wild as they were,” he said. “Are they wild? Yes. But are they less wild? Yes.”
But that is of little comfort to safe streets advocates and people who lost their bike-riding loved ones, said Paul Steely White, head of Transportation Alternatives, who supports the idea that more cyclists makes bike riding safer.
“That whole rationale — that our volume is up and our fatality rate is steady — that rings hollow,” White said. “Try telling that to a family member of someone who died.”