In Memoriam: James Langergaard

james_langergaard.jpgJames at the inaugural Tour de Brooklyn in 2005.

On Friday evening, August 14, James Langergaard was killed by a car as he crossed Queens Boulevard at 69th Street. According to his family, witnesses told police that James ran a red light on his bike and died instantly. James was 38.

His death is a reminder to all of us that although the cycling atmosphere in New York City has improved tremendously, our streets are still dangerous. Even if you are an experienced rider (James rode his bike everywhere) all it takes is one critical error or getting caught in the wrong situation. When I biked with James he was usually a very deliberate rider. I don’t know what happened on Friday, all I know is we lost a very unique individual. Without James, the world just got a whole lot less interesting.

Let me just take a few paragraphs to tell you about my friend James. I have known him since 1997, when he and I were volunteers at Transportation Alternatives. (Read about some of the feats he performed to earn honors as TA "Volunteer of the Month" in 1998.) Over the years we helped out together at many events, went on countless rides and hikes, and generally just enjoyed talking with each other about the world and bicycling, almost always in a humorous — and sometimes absurd — manner.

It was one of those brainstorming sessions between us that led to the idea that James would become the official "bicycling philosopher" for bikeTV – the cable access show I produced until 2006. We filmed a chapter, "What is the essence of cycling?," at a 2005 Central Park volunteer appreciation party for marshals of the TA Century. James’s wit and humor are on full display. Check it out:

Here is another video I did that will always bring smiles and warm my heart. While riding in the Bike New York 2001 event, James ended up adopting a kitten along the course. Cats, bikes, philosophy, and of course getting caught up in a quirky tale — that was James in a nutshell.

If you would like to pay your respects to James and his family, services will be held tonight from 7:00 to 9:00, and again Tuesday from 2:00 to 5:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 at the Hess-Miller Funeral Home in Middle Village, Queens — 64-19 Metropolitan Avenue (near 64th street). Donations will be accepted in James’s name for Transportation Alternatives and to combat multiple sclerosis.

Finally, I remember an event that James really took to heart. At a TA holiday party in 1999, James was once given an award for being "The Spirit of Cycling." I can’t think of a better way to honor my friend than to remember him as such.

james_clarence.jpg

  • Fatima Colman

    Last night as some people sat quietly, others were laughing, sometimes quite loudly at the funeral home. Those laughing were sharing stories of his adventures. The messages left here as well as the stories shared at the services made it clear to all how unique and incredible a human being James was. I was lucky to have known him. I wish I had more time with him, but I can only hope to be so loved in my life.

  • Stacy Irwin

    James will be missed, here, and everywhere. I am more upset with each passing minute. I’ll always remember his fantastic sense of humor and charisma, all the TA events where I volunteered along side him. Much too young to go…

  • James was a fun fun guy with big big heart with a wry wry sense of humor. He not only did a lot of volunteer work with Transportation Alternative, he volunteered for the Veggie Center of NYC. Yes… James was a true environmentalist… a vegan on a bike. How much better can you get? Oh Oh, I’m in shock. So young. I just found out today, Wednesday. And though I have not seen him, nor thought about him, since he came to the Veggie Pride Parade in May, I thought of him today. I did! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw someone from behind–and I thought it was James. It wasn’t. It wasn’t. Too too bad, it wasn’t. Sad sad. Awe. I’m bummed bummed.

  • Laura

    Hope you’re cycling w/ Kai. Love you

  • Alice Lum

    I remember James very fondly back in days of Transportation Alternatives basement roughing it out, heat or cold, doing “green” long before it became popular. There were no such thing as PDF’s or cell phones. The monthly T.A. magazine was delivered lovingly by bike and bulk mailings throughout the country. He was there and staying late. He loved what he do.

    Always wearing different checkered shirts, he reminded me of the perpetual poor college student, always go by bike.

    James was the epitome of volunteerism; always get his hands dirty into the spirit of activism. Day in and day out, one can find him at the forefront of action.

    He wholeheartedly gave 100 percent for the pursuit of a safe way to travel in this traffic congested city, searching for essence why people love to bike where obnoxious drivers block the bike lanes. Past history is not far away.

    James came a long way for 18 years since I first met him. As I can see, he has given us fond memories. He is ever so sweet, touching, always the “spokes” poet of people power. He is sorely missed.

  • Joyce Friedman

    Not much of Jame’s other volunteer work and activism has been mentioned here so I thought I would honor James, the vegan animal activist and wonderfully compassionate guy to all creatures. I met James when I was a NYC coordinator for In Defense of Animals (IDA), an animal rights organization. James came to animal circus protests, activist meetings, vegan outreach events, Earth Day tabling, and of course was an ethical vegan because he knew of the tremendous suffering animals experience at the hands of so many exploitative industries, and he wanted to try to stop this unnecessary suffering.

    I would often spend time with him at NYU’s vegan dinners. We walked together at the anti-war march and held signs that said silly things like “Make Tofu Not War”, and we handed out Why Vegan’s as a way to spread a total message of peace to all.

    James, as others have said, was completely non pretentious, would always always make me laugh and as well, made me think about things differently, and make me feel good when we spoke, IM’d or emailed about relationships, dating, animal rights, and life.

    Each day it is harder to accept that he is not with us anymore. I read on someone’s post that he was going to go to cooking school. Does anyone know which one and was this a plan he definitely had? Sorry to discuss his plans but I am just interested in knowing and I guess in an odd way it makes me feel good, alongside feeling miserable, that he did have a plan and something he was looking forward to.

    He’d asked me for advice recently on what to do with his beloved cats if he has to move to a no pet apt, needing to move from his his then current apt. I reminded him of how he and they all love each other and to push for a plan to live with them, and was so happy and proud of him when he emailed me to say he did that and is moving into this new apt with them after all.

    James, I’m sorry I had not gotten to visit your new apt and have that vegan potluck we were planning. I miss you so much.

    Joyce

  • Edie Nugent

    Just happened to have a fabulous geek debate with James at the Bronx Science Reunion a few months ago. I didn’t even go to Science, my significant other did-but I happened to chat with James for a good while. It’s always awesome to meet a geek-brother-in-arms and hearing this news & seeing this page really hit me-thinking of all the awesome people we meet in our lives for even a second & how sometimes we don’t even get a chance to experience who they really are…I’ve been meaning to recondition my old bike for years now, the bike that got me back to college (had to commute from off-campus) and means a great deal to me. Now I’m going to make sure I do it before the summer is over. It was good to know you briefly, James.

  • Bobbi Bongard

    James, I loved working with yu, and will miss you very much.

  • Kristina

    I lived 2 doors away from James growing up. Although I have not seen him in over 20 years, the way he is described by friends as a man, innocent, quirky, vulnerable and sweet, is exactly as I remember him as a child. We shared birthday parties, run and bases, & bicycle rides in the community driveway in Maspeth, where both of our families still reside. I remember his dad’s air conditioning repair truck driving up the “alley” at the end of each day and being in his home when Kai came home from work and flipped him upside down and left shoe prints on their ceiling. I am deeply saddened. A sweet soul, rest in peace.

  • James,

    The world is a different place without you. I will always remember your avocado-based vegan chocolate pie, your Dostoyevsky classes to read (and meet chicks), your beloved cats and plants, your tales of juicing and biking, and, most importantly, your laid back personality and humor while working together in the temp office at Morgan Stanley. You remind me to live my life to the fullest, as I never know what tomorrow will bring…

    Ride on!
    E

  • ^ Dave Perry

    You can grab a “LANGERGAARD” sticker here,
    http://www.cafepress.com/langergaard

    All proceeds go to TA.

  • Sarah Johnson

    I only just learned about his death from the TA Street Beat. I was an occasional volunteer from ’95 to ’98, then my life changed and I couldn’t as much, but I still remember his energy and charm.

    To all his friends and collegues: I am very sorry.

    *************************************************

    “Song” by C. G. Rossetti

    When I am dead, my dearest,
    Sing no sad songs for me;
    Plant thou no roses at my head,
    Nor shady cypress tree:
    Be the green grass above me
    With showers and dewdrops wet;
    And if thou wilt, remember,
    And if thou wilt, forget.

  • alex

    I didn’t know James, but am almost totally overwhelmed by the outpouring of love on this site. I’m just starting to get more involved in TA, and recently did route marking for the NYC Century ride. I think I would’ve liked James and his sense of humor.

  • Oh, my…

    I just read TA’s email newsletter and was shocked to learn this awful news.

    James was a sweet, clever guy. His energy and dedication are legendary, as we can see by the outpouring here. We met when he first started volunteering at TA. I’ve been running in other circles for a while now, when I’m in circles at all, so haven’t seen him much. But when we did meet, I was always happy.

    My condolences to everyone who knew and loved him.

  • Anon

    I only knew James for a little while, but he was a nice, considerate human being and hearing of his passing makes me wish I had made the effort to get to know him better while he was alive. We shared some laughs, but not nearly enough of them. He will be missed. The sun will shine less brightly.

  • Philip

    As some of you probably know by now, a young cyclist who happened to also be a beloved TA volunteer, James Langergaard, was struck and killed by a car at Queens Blvd. and 69th street on August 14th (if you are hearing of this sad story for the first time, you can find the full story here).

    This Friday (October 2) there will be a special Queens Boulevard Bike Pool ride in honor of James. Please come out and join us to help send a strong message to the community that these casualties of the Blvd. will not be forgotten, and that work to prevent future tragedies is ever-increasing.

    As of now, we will be meeting at the Queens side of the Queensboro Bridge for a 6:30 PM departure, as usual, on Friday, October 2nd. We ride on the service road of the Blvd. eastward towards the Queens Mall and will stop for a tribute to James at the site of his accident.

    Please save the date and make this ride a priority if you can. It is a short, slow ride and every rider’s presence will have a significant impact.

  • briandoomer

    WOW this is shocking.. I cant believe i stumbled across this page because i remember i was on my way upstate that friday and i passed by the scene of the crime. I remember there weremany cops and news vans in the area. I also saw his mangled bike, his shoes on the ground, his bookbag, and the silver sedan that hit him, which i believe was a VW Jetta. Wow, and i was wondering to myself “I wonder who just died” so so sad. RIP James Langergaard, may god be with you

  • Laurel

    I am so sad to read this. I worked with James at a proofreading job at MetLife in LIC back in 2008. He was so helpful to me when I started the job, and I remember him as a wonderful individual. You are missed, James.

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