Central Park Cyclist in Serious Condition

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Channel 7 has the story of a woman hit by a car in Central Park last night. (By the way, buy a Toyota!)

  • Hannah

    Anyone have more details? Though the report says the crash happened in the park, the fact that the 66th Street Transverse was shut down suggests to me that the crash took place there. The photos do too.

    For those unfamiliar with the park roadways, the Transverses are always open to cars and basically go under the park itself. I don’t ride the 66th Street Transverse very often, but if it’s like the others it’s one-way in each direction (other than at the entrance and exit, which are wider) and riddled with potholes on the side of the road. Once cars funnel themselves down into one lane, they like to speed through. Cyclists really should stay in the middle, to avoid potholes and being grazed by buses, but it takes real fortitude to hold your ground because the cars seem particularly aggressive here.

    As the only legal west-east connections for 2 1/2 miles, the transverses get a lot of bike traffic and should be “sharrowed” in the opinion of this cyclist.

    Regardless of the location, the latest crash is terrible news.

  • David

    I’m somewhat confused. “Police said there was no criminal act”? Would have been if it was another motorist who had been hit?

  • gretel

    That is one of the most unfortunate ad placements I have ever seen.

    Horrible news once again . . .

  • Steve

    As for the coverage, WABC seems to be only source covering. I guess these fatal bicyclist collisions are becoming too common to be newsworthy.

    It seems pretty irresponsible to me for police to announce to the press that “there has been no criminal act” a few hours after the incident. It’s certainly possible that the bicyclist fell on her own and the car didn’t have time to stop before hitting her. It’s also possible that the driver caused the collision and/or at the time of the collision was engaging in one or more of the types of reckless and unlawful driving that are the norm on the transverses–speeding; refusing to allow bicyclists to take the center of the road despite the absence of any “spare room” at the shoulder; and the deadly combination of the two that occurs when the driver accelerates far beyond the speed limit and crosses over the double yellow divider to overtake a cyclist during a brief pause in oncoming traffic. Likely were witnesses and we will find out what happened. It’s one thing for the police to release facts to the press (for example, “Mr. Cidron was reportedly intoxicated”; “Mr. Ng apparently was not wearing a helmet”). It’s entirely different to state a blanket conclusion that “there was no criminal act” and I its hard not to suspect that anti-bicyclist sentiment is partly responsible.

    As Glenn and others have commented previously on this site, the transverse roads are an “accident waiting to happen” as far as bicyclists are concerned. A number of factors combine to make them especially dangerous:

    1. Two-way roadway without raised median;

    2. Insufficient room for a bicyclist and a motorist to travel abreast of each other safely;

    3. Extremely poor maintenance of roadbed, especially at the edge (although this varies by transverse; 96th is the worst and 86th is the best);

    4. “Funnel Effect” in which motorists from several side streets seeking to cross the park are funneled into the single-lane transverse, by which time they are filled with frustration and a desire to “make up lost time” by speeding;

    5. Lack of any place for police to monitor speed, encouraging speeding; and

    6. Absence of any traffic devices to deal with these obvious problems and the unlawful conduct drivers adopt in response to them

    Whatever the details of the collision last night, the transverse roads present a serious risk to bicyclists and the city should adopt solutions immediately including, at a minimum, installing traffic devices that regulate motor vehicle-bicycle interaction.

  • Since there are rarely any charges filed against motorists in these kind of ‘accidents’ with cyclists or even pedestrians, I feel there is little incentive for motorists to drive safely. If you know that nothing will happen to you, why not buzz a cyclist or push him/her off the road?

  • brent

    Killing a cyclist is only a crime if the motorist is drunk. Otherwise, we’re looking at a maximun penalty of $200.
    I can envision the entire scenario:
    Police arrive on the scene- “Driver, did you hit this unconscious cyclist?”
    “Yes”
    “Did you do anything illegal?”
    “No”
    “Works for me!”
    The next day we get an article in the Daily News commending the motorist for staying on the scene and a mention of how the crazy biker wasn’t wearing a helmet.

  • ddartley

    I noticed that Toyota ad several days before it was first remarked about on this site, and I wondered—when he auditioned for, and then got the job, did this poor actor realize that the ad he was participating in was consciously designed to annoy the public to the point of rage?

    That ad is just one more thing that degrades the profession of acting.

    And yes, it’s an extra disgrace that it appears on top of this particular story.

  • Steve

    Possible fixes to current Central Park transverse hazards:

    1. Close one or more of the transverse roads to vehicular traffic and convert it (them) to two-way Class 1 bike lane(s) plus an “agora” with stalls for farmers’ markets and other vendors.

    2. Convert one or more sidewalks of transverse roads to Class 1 bicycle and pedestrian shared-use lanes; get added width necessary for this to work by stealing a foot or two from the motor vehicle lanes, which would be limited to 15 MPH.

    3. Repair roadbeds, and install sharrows, speed humps, speeding cameras, and “Share the Road” signs on each transverse, and impose 15 MPH.

  • AD

    Steve, while I agree with all three suggestions you made, No. 1 is going to be hard. An oft-repeated part of TransAlt’s car-free Central Park campaign is, “we’re not suggesting the transverse roads be made car-free, our interest applies only to the Loop Drive.” It’s hard enough getting closure hours for the Loop Drive, which is totally unnecessary for motorists.

  • Steve

    I take your point. And I’m a big supporter of Transalt. But it would be a mistake for Transalt to explicitly state that its interest “applies only to the Loop Drive” and not to the transverses. Pedestrians, bicylists, and mass transit users (i.e., transalt’s entire constituency) use and have an interest in the transverses.

    One of the great things about an independent space like Streetsblog is that we can explore ideas whose time has not yet come, without those aspirational dialogues dragging down effective, necessary organizations like Transalt (or for that matter, in post below, Environmental Defense). And the mere act of floating “outlandish” ideas like turning the transverses into farmers’ markets makes them less outlandish and might even generate concrete strategies for realizing them.

    You are right that getting cars out of the Loop Drive is hard enough, and certainly don’t want to undermine that effort. At the same time, when the dangers to bicyclists latent in the transverse road become manifest as they did last night, it creates an opportunity to educate and agitate for a solution to those dangers. That’s what I was trying to do.

  • Sproule

    I have to agree with Aaron on this one. The below ground transverses are the LAST place a cyclist should go. What was she thinking? It’s akin to pedaling onto the FDR. And was she wearing a helmet? Why not go up or down six blocks and take the 72nd St. connector or the bottom loop drive through the park, which both have huge bike lanes, even if they aren’t enforced to our liking.

    Sure, it’s fun to day-dream about what-if scenarios like no cars anywhere in Manhattan, but the risk with proposing pie-in-the-sky transportation ideas in popular forums like this (I’ve heard Streetsblog is visited by many users from the nyc.gov domain…can anyone verify this?) is that it can cement the idea that we are a “fringe” movement, out of touch with mainstream NYC. I don’t care about being in the mainstream, but a policy has to resonate with a majority of constituents to be enacted. Keeping the below-ground transverses open to cars is a big part of the Keep Cars Out Of Central Park movement. I don’t think they are a high priority.

  • mike

    Yes, a car-free central park is hard enough. Perhaps we need ways to make sure that bicyclists have safe, legal cross-Park routes, without closing a Transverse.

  • Steve

    I live on Upper East Side and the bike lanes on the Park Loop, the 72nd St. transverse, and the 103rd street road (it does not seem to have a name) are inadequate, leaving a 30-block stretch across which bicyclists cannot pass except via the transverse roads. Many bicylists illegally use the pedestrian paths but I try not to. I would use the transverse roads if I could, but as pointed out they are akin to the FDR because the laws against speeding, honking at and nudging bicyclists are not enforced, and there is an utter lack of space and infrastructure for bicyclists. We may well learn that those factors are what has nearly killed a woman now lying in New York Hospital.

    Sproule, the transverse roads once were narrower than they now are, too narrow for cars, but Robert Moses had them widened to accommodate cars. I know that undoing Moses’ work is for another day, but if fear of appearing “fringe” leads you to denounce even my bare statement that closing a transverse and converting it to other public uses is a “possible fix to current Central Park transverse hazards,” then I don’t see how we get from here to there. Mike, your comment that “Perhaps we need ways to make sure that bicyclists have safe, legal cross-Park routes, without closing a Transverse” is well taken but ignores the two such ways proposed in my earlier comments. Do you think they would work, or are they (or am I) too “fringe” to respond to? You guys are doing “the man’s” work for him.

    That said, I’ll be more careful not to get out too far ahead of the Streetblog crew in the future, since my goal is dialogue.

  • Nicolo Macchiavelli

    There are some real practical considerations regarding policing, due process and due diligence. In the interest of being fair to all parties, good faith is required throughout the eintire process. The driver deserves due process, so do priests, teachers, soldiers, whatever. But the police and prosecutors have a due diligence responsibility as well. They need to take all reasonable steps to determine the exact behavior that may or not have broken the law.

    In that regard, have the police and/or prosecutors downloaded the extensive driver behavior records that are stored on the cars event recorder? If that information exists, and it may be either exculpatory or determinative, shouldn’t it be recorded for the District Attorney’s study, before a determination of guilt or innocence has been made?

  • Sproule

    Event recorder? I’ve never heard of those in cars. Questions of guilt or innocence aside, I’m simply saying that cyclists need to exercise good judgement to keep the rubber side down around here. Without knowing what really happened, I can only say that despite the legality of riding a bike on NYC roads, it’s hard to deny the stupidity of doing it (without a helmet or lights?) on a road like the below-ground transverses in their current form.

    Steve, we’re on the same team, man. My point was that although closing one of the transverses and putting in a farmer’s market and bike lanes appeals to the bike activist in me, it’s just too unrealistic. Given that we accept that some vehicles will be using the streets of Manhattan in some capacity in the foreseeable future, there will have to be a way for them to get through the park.

    Let’s keep our eyes on the ball here. I didn’t mean to stifle playful and creative thought on these issues, but activists need to have priorities, and I don’t see Transverse Reform at the top of the list.

  • Steve

    Sproule, thanks for your thoughts and camaraderie. But you were the one who likened riding on the transverses to riding on the FDR. That is a huge insight; something should be done.

    Last night on the way town to the TA shindig, I passed all the new signs that DOT has installed on the West Side bike path stating “No Motor Vehicles” (they apparently haven’t gotten around to posting the “No Drunken Assholes” signs). Piss-poor recompense for the death of Eric Ng, but it’s possible that those signs will save someone else’s life or at least limit the number of people who are scared away from bicycling in the city because of all the deaths.

    Regardless of the circumstances of the accident discussed in this post (if the press ever muster enough attention to report them), I hope this person survives. In any event, the only possible good I can see coming from this crash is if DOT (or whoever is responsible for the transverses) does *something* to make them less dangerous for cyclists. The thirty-block stretch from 72d to 103d is just too big to expect that bicyclists will not use the 86th and 96th Street transverses as crosstown routes.

  • Hannah

    I ride on the transverses all the time. I am not stupid.

  • ddartley

    Speed bumps for the transverses. Cars do fly through there.

    The speed limits around the entire City need to come down. There’s no reason a city street should allow cars and trucks to travel at 30mph.

    Oh, who cares, no one enforces the speed limit on NYC’s city streets anyway.

  • Steve

    Still no follow-up in the press regarding this crash. I can certainly understand if the victim (or her family members) do not want the intimate details of the crash discussed in the press (or on a blog). All the same, cars hitting bicycles are a matter of public concern and the circumstances of the crash should come out. The information the public will receive regarding this incident may end up being limited to NYPD’s unfounded conclusion that there was “no criminal act.” The fourth estate has abdicated its role (and I sent WABC an email to that effect).

  • AM

    Is anyone ever going to ask Parks to build/desginate crosstown bike connections through Central Park itself (rather than the transverses) or is that too much of a denigration of the Olmstead & Vaux vision?

  • steve

    AM’s idea has merit and I think it couls be accomplished without compromising Olmstead/Vaux vision. Just designate a couple of paths mixed peds/bike or bike. The paths already have “no bikes” written all over them which can be modified without affecting any “visions.” There are two obvious candidates for conversion: the path just south of the precinct/87 St. transverse (needs finessing south of b-ball courts where it feeds into Park Drive E.), and the path just north of 96th St transverse.

  • Sproule

    It’s a great idea. To whom do we pitch it? If Central Park Conservancy is involved, I wonder how receptive they will be, considering their appalling silence on the cars in Central Park issue.

  • Steve

    I’m not sure to whom the pitch should be made, Sproule. I’m sure it would be listened too more closely if it was made by T.A. rather than ordinary folks. I’ll pass the thought along to them.

    I have been stewing over the lack of follow-up media coverage of the incident discussed in the post. I wrote to WABC and asked them to follow up, but got radio silence. I tried to get the info out of the Central Park Precinct, but they would not tell me anything. So I sent the NYPD a letter requesting all records regarding the incident and the police conclusion of “no criminal act”, pursuant to the NYS Freedom of Information Law. Let’s see what happens.

  • Hannah

    Sad to say, this cyclist died from her injuries. A relative of the woman has been in touch with Visual Resistance and TIME’S UP!, and this location will be a stop on the 2006 Bicyclist Memorial Ride next Sunday (details @ http://www.times-up.org/calendar/detail.php?calendarid=1193 ). The relative asked that the victim remain ageless and nameless.

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