Williams, advocates ride for street safety

Public Advocate Williams and a coalition of riders in Downtown Brooklyn.
Office of Public Advocate Jumaane Williams

Public Advocate ,Jumaane D. Williams and cyclist advocates rode from Brooklyn to Manhattan on Tuesday in an effort to call attention to the emergency of cyclist deaths and to discuss what the city needs to do to prevent further tragedy.

Williams, the son of Grenadian immigrants, noted that, on Sunday, the 19th cyclist was killed this year, nearly double the total number of deaths in 2018.

Williams rode alongside a coalition of advocates from several transportation advocacy groups, including Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, Bike New York and Outcycling, among others, through Downtown Brooklyn and across the Brooklyn Bridge.

The group then held a press conference, joined by Council Members Carlos Menchaca and Brad Lander, outside the David N. Dinkins Municipal Building.

They discussed the need for all communities — motorists, cyclists and pedestrians — to work together, and for government to act to address the emergency of cyclist safety in New York City.

The Public Advocate stressed the importance of all New Yorkers, including those who are not regular riders, to understand the cyclist experience and the dangers facing them on the road.

He also spoke about the need for a cultural shift regarding the view of who “owns the road,” noting that it was past time for such a discussion, especially for drivers.

“I was glad to have the opportunity today to see and experience cyclists’ concerns firsthand,” Williams said. “The crisis facing cyclists in New York City is immediate, and the scope and urgency of the city’s action needs to meet it.

“These deaths are preventable tragedies, and the city is part of the cause,” he added. “We can’t encourage more ridership without providing the protections which would make that possible and safe. All of us need to be all in.”

Williams said that addressing “this emergency is going to require drivers and cyclist to work together in a partnership, but we need to make sure we’re doing this from the lens of those who are less privileged on the road, with the most at risk, and have the least protection.”

Among the actions highlighted that the advocates said would help save lives and make streets more accessible to riders were significant expansion of “real, protected, bike lanes,” as well as “a Department of Transportation’s review and redesign of areas where cyclist injuries and deaths occur, and further implementation of safety measures at dangerous intersections.”

Williams said the crisis of cyclist safety in New York City has reached new levels in recent weeks, with eight fatalities in the last two months out of the 19 this year.

In 2018, he said a total of 10 cyclists were killed.

Williams said about 200,000 cyclists use the streets of the city each day.

On Sunday, 52-year-old Jose Alzorriz was killed in Midwood, Brooklyn, when a driver sped through a red light.

“The number of cyclists killed this year is staggering. We have now almost twice as many tragedies compared to all of 2018. We must come together and find prompt and effective solutions to stem the rise in cyclist related deaths,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, chairman of the Committee on Transportation.

“For once, we must quicken the pace in which we install protected bike-lanes across the city to increase road safety for cyclists,” he added. “I thank Public Advocate Jumaane Williams for taking the initiative with this Bike Tour across the Brooklyn Bridge to bring awareness to this untenable situation.

“I will continue working closely with my colleagues at the Council and Speaker Corey Johnson to ensure we bring an end to this safety crisis affecting pedestrians and cyclists,” Rodriguez continued.

“To the families of Maria del Carmen Porras Hernandez and Jose Alzorriz, we owe everything we can do to redesign our streets and get reckless drivers off the roads,” said Council Member Lander. “There’s a lot more work to do, and we need to do it faster before another family loses a loved one.”

Marco Conner, deputy director for Transportation Alternatives, said: “With the current Vision Zero State of Emergency, we need bold plans to ensure that everyone, no matter how they travel, can do so in a safe way.

“We thank the public advocate for riding with us today and seeing, from a cyclist’s perspective, why we need to redesign streets with all users in mind and break dangerous driving behavior,” he added.

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