Washington Square Park Die-In: Team Coverage

Streetsblog reporters bring you pictures and commentary from the TransAlt mass action.

A thousand cyclists lay down with their bikes in Washington Square Park in order to protest  the traffic violence that has killed 15 cyclists so far this year.
A thousand cyclists lay down with their bikes in Washington Square Park in order to protest the traffic violence that has killed 15 cyclists so far this year.

A thousand cyclists and safe-streets activists came tonight to the “die-in” at Washington Square Park, filling the ground from the triumphal archway to the fountain with their bodies in order to send a message to Mayor de Blasio and to drivers citywide: “Stop killing us!”

As a trumpet player played the notes of “Danny Boy,” the park otherwise remained silent while each attendee lay down, except for 15 protesters who held signs with the names of each of the cyclists killed on city streets by drivers this year. The crowd also recited the cyclists’ names.

A woman holds up a sign for Ernest Askew, a cyclist killed recently on the streets of Brooklyn.
Courtney Williams holds up a sign for Ernest Askew, a cyclist killed recently on the streets of Brooklyn.

The protesters were joined by many — but certainly not enough — elected officials, including Council Members Carlina Rivera, Brad Lander, and Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Brad Hoylman and Assembly Member Harvey Epstein. Transportation Alternatives Interim Co-Executive Director Ellen McDermott and Senior Organizer Erwin Figueroa addressed the crowd.

“Every New Yorker deserves safe passage. It is a right!” said McDermott.

A protester holds a sign venting at Mayor de Blasio for his lack of attention to Vision Zero.
A protester holds a sign venting at Mayor de Blasio for his lack of attention to Vision Zero, which has led to carnage in the streets. State Senator Brad Hoylman is in the center foreground.

The mood was somber, as many participants recounted their own tales of near-crashes.

“I can’t say how many times I’ve been hit by drivers, had people yell at me to get out of the road,” said Tayshawn Edmonds, a resident of East New York, Brooklyn, where the lack of protected bike lanes and safe streets have contributed to many injuries and deaths. “Riding a bike isn’t just fun, it’s a way to get around from door to door that’s fast and cheaper than paying $2.75 per trip. But it’s hard for people to do when they’re afraid kid getting run over,” Edmonds added.

After the protest action, police officers — on bicycles  — had something of a stand-off with cyclists. In a show of force, the officers blocked the bike lane next to the arch, letting only vehicle traffic but not cyclists go by.

NYPD officers on bicycles formed a phalanx around the protesters.
NYPD officers on bicycles formed a phalanx around the protesters, blocking a bike lane.

“You are unlawfully in the roadway and obstructing vehicular traffic,” a recording blared from a police squad car. “You are ordered to leave the roadway and utilize the available sidewalk.”

Except for one problem: The paint in the Department of Transportation’s protected bike lane on Washington Square North was still wet, so there was no space for bikers to go except the roadway. But cops chose to block bike traffic over car traffic. (One solution could have simply been to close Washington Square Park North for an hour so that 1,000 peaceful protesters could have their say and move on, but that would have required a sacrifice by drivers, which the Department of Transportation does not like to seek, Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog last week.)

And, of course, it wouldn’t be a show of strength by cops if some NYPD officers didn’t leave their squad cars in the worst possible place — such as in the bike lane on lower Fifth Avenue, earning this sarcastic “thumbs up” from a passing cyclist put into danger by car 5523.

A cyclist on Fifth Avenue

Our reporter was not the only journalist to catch the officer red-handed:

A protester at the "die-in" asks not to be the 16th cyclist killed by drivers this year. Photo: Dave Colon
Williams asks not to be the 16th cyclist killed by drivers this year. Photo: Dave Colon


  • Zach Katz
  • Cynistrategus

    Never have those so incompetent at what they do been so smug. I speak of the cyclists here. Please, use common sense and stop riding like jackasses. The fact that drivers in NYC stink doesn’t change the fact that cyclists are dangerously clueless.

  • JL

    It was a good gathering, and the trumpeter was a nice touch. Please tell organizers to get a better PA system. I was 25ft from the platform and barely made out what was said. We all knew why we were there, would’ve been great if the hundreds walking by understood what was going on.

    BTW, saw the cops on bikes up close, now I know why they’re not used regularly in parks and paths. Definitely not the A-team. The smart cops wouldn’t place themselves on vulnerable 2 wheelers.

  • R

    Moral equivalency. You love to see it.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    fucking cop, go away

  • Ben Grad

    The PA thing has been a consistent problem at every one of these I’ve been too recently. Maybe someone needs to bike in a small portable amp?

  • bggb

    Do let me know when bicyclists start killing well over 100 pedestrians and bicyclists a year like cars do.


  • PDiddy

    The next protest should have 100 or so junker cars parked in moving traffic with the keys thrown away. It’ll grind commerce to a halt.

  • There’s like a million cyclists here, you cannot paint any group that large with a single brush. Plenty of cyclists have a clue. In fact you are looking at one right now motherfucker.

  • Leon

    Most bikers have an arrogant attitude that they own the streets. They weave in and out of traffic at will, go through stop signs and red lights and many don’t wear helmets nor have lights or horns or even use hand signals when turning. They are a menace to both drivers and pedestrians. With the police being ordered not to enforce laws against drugs, including pot, some of these bikers are high or ride with headphones keeping them from hearing emergency vehicles. Do I feel sorry for these bikers who were killed – yes I do. But, the bikers need to be held accountable to obeying laws and common sense and it is the job of the police to enforce the law. Bikers need to be ticketed and even arrested for careless or reckless riding and their bikes should be seized on the spot and auctioned off. Pedestrians have been killed and crippled by dangerous bike riding. Bike lanes have become a menace and Citibikes have taken away thousands of valuable and scarce on the street free parking.This city was not made for bikers and these bikes lanes and ban of cars from parks have actually led to an increase in pollution in this city.

  • Daphna

    Such a shame that the NYPD would again do something so completely stupid and illegal as to tell cyclists that they can not use the roadway. This is the double standard that the NYPD regularly employ: when they want to ticket cyclists then bicycles are “vehicles” and have all the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles, but when they want to harass cyclists then bicycles are not “vehicles” and have none of the accompanying rights. So basically according to the NYPD cyclists have all the responsibilities as if they are motorists but none of the rights to use the roadway that motorists have.

  • Daphna

    Please bike commute to work for a week. You will see there is no arrogance. There is no room for arrogance when cyclists are so vulnerable on the streets. Cyclists ride in a way that keeps them safe, keeps them alive, keeps them moving, and gets them to where they need to be in a timely manner. Ride for a few weeks and your wrong perception will change.

  • CallMeIshmael

    Agreed, people on bikes are a menace! Even though 15 people have been killed by cars and trucks, think about the dozens and dozens of cars that have been harmed by bikes, and drivers that have been killed by bikes, and all the pollution from cycling, and the congestion, the annoying horn honking! Who do these people on bikes think they are, drivers in cars?! Get them off the streets so cars can go about their business killing pedestrians instead.

  • CJ

    “Bikers need to be ticketed and even arrested for careless or reckless riding and their bikes should be seized on the spot and auctioned off.”

    Amazing that you say this when drivers in this city have killed cyclists and pedestrians, broken the law in the process, and driven away without even a ticket, let alone an arrest or seizure of their car. Get a goddamn clue.

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    I’d wager a significant portion of those protesters committed multiple bicycle violations riding to and from this event, endangering the lives of pedestrians and aggravating motorists in the process. When will streetsblog cover that?

  • CJ

    Easy. When they kill someone doing it.

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    You mean like this incident, which Streetsblog ignored for seven days until they could figure out a way to blame drivers for it?

  • SL

    If you look at the data – the number of people dying from getting hit by a cyclist is very few. The number of cars killing pedestrians, cyclists, and other drivers on the other hand is very high. That’s why Streetsblog focuses on those numbers. The sheer amount of your denial is appalling.

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    I don’t deny that motor vehicles cause a lot of deaths in this city. But you seem hellbent on denying that cyclists ignore road rules an awful lot, also with fatal results.

  • SL

    I don’t deny that cyclists could do a better job with road rules but when people seem to completely understate how serious of an issue this is by pointing out that cyclists are breaking rules (with much fewer fatal results) instead, it doesn’t make sense to me.

  • CJ

    And by “ignored for seven days,” you mean “posted the link to this exact video in the headline stack the morning after it aired,” right? https://nyc.streetsblog.org/2019/05/07/tuesdays-headlines-new-prescription-for-vision-zero-edition/

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    Yes. Ignored. Because it wouldn’t be in the “headline stack” if a driver were at fault; it would be a full-blown 1000-word article going into a detailed examination of how the driver was at fault and how the entire city enabled such a cold-blooded murder.

    But because a cyclist was at fault, it got shoved into the headline stack.

  • CJ

    Actually, plenty of pedestrian and cyclist deaths caused by drivers are only covered in the headline stack, because there are too damn many of them. Some are never covered by the press at all and only found out about later when NYPD releases statistics. It’s almost as if you’re criticizing a site you’ve never bothered to read.

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    Maybe I would read it more if it actually did a fair job of covering these kinds of things without an overarching anti-car bias.

  • CJ

    Guess you’ve never heard of advocacy journalism.

  • Uchendu Nwachuku

    What Streetsblog does isn’t advocacy journalism. It’s rabble-rousing.

  • 8FH

    I don’t see you shaming drivers for speeding, failing to yield, driving on sidewalks, etc. Or pedestrians for crossing against the light.

    There’s no evidence people riding bikes break the rules any more than people walking or driving. There is strong data, however, supporting that cyclists and pedestrians aren’t regularly killing and seriously injuring people, while drivers do so frequently.

    Another interesting statistic is that the rate of pedestrians getting killed by cyclists did not increase as the number of cyclists in the city grew. This suggests that aggressive cyclists have always been on the road and always will be, but by designing things for safe biking, you get normal people out on bikes behaving reasonably and getting where they’re trying to go.

  • CJ

    Nah. I take issue with some of the tone of the writing, but all of it is rooted in fact. Sorry that reality has an anti-car bias.

  • michcham

    Just want to mention that NY’ers who started cycling when there were no bike lanes, before NYC became a nanny state and our “progressive” legislators felt the need to child proof every activity here; we want to thank you skill-less self entitled irresponsible arrogant a-holes who have co-opted cycling and are constantly crying for more protection so you can text, read your email, have phone conversations, listen to music and dial up mom while pedaling in complete personal safety, putting other peoples’ lives in danger and screwing it for the rest of us. We now have cops up our butts 24 hours a day writing tickets for everything from not having a bell to not being in the bike lane because your constant whining about the danger to your oh-so precious lives has destroyed one of the last cool things to do in the city.

  • ohhleary

    You’re trash.

  • I have been riding my bike in this City for more than forty years, since I was a kid. Forty years ago, Manhattan was a jungle for bicyclists; now it is a bicycling wonderland, one of the most enjoyable places to ride in the whole country (even if it doesn’t live up to Dutch standards).

    This transformation is down entirely to bike lanes. We can quibble over various flaws in this or that lane. But, on the whole, bike lanes are responsible for the greatest improvement in New Yorkers’ quality of life since the Tenement Law.

    Anyone who denies this truth is a damn fool. And any bicyclist who denies it is a total disgrace.

  • JohnBrownForPresident

    lol i see the enlightened centrism trolls found this thread

  • wrong again

    Wait, you have a problem with bikers using hand signals? What else are they supposed to do? I appreciate when other bikers use hand signals as you can tell what their next move is an plan accordingly whether I’m driving or on my bike.

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  • Tomas Paine

    “We can quibble over various flaws in this or that lane. But, on the whole, bike lanes are responsible for the greatest improvement in New Yorkers’ quality of life since the Tenement Law.”

    HAHA! Bike lanes?

    I think reducing NYC’s murder rate from 2500 a year to like 500 was litttttle more of an improvement than bike lanes.

    Just a little.