#FIXCANAL: Cyclist Injured By Truck Driver On Chaotic Canal Street

Friday's crash, as posted by the Facebook account, NYdeTour. Photo: NYdeTour.
Friday's crash, as posted by the Facebook account, NYdeTour. Photo: NYdeTour.

A cyclist was nearly killed on dangerous Canal Streets Chinatown on Friday — hours before activists were set to rally to demand changes to one of the most hideous stretches of roadway in Manhattan.

A spokesperson for the FDNY told Streetsblog that the crash occurred at about 11:35 a.m. near Mott Street. The spokesperson said that cyclist refused medical attention and was able to leave the scene, but a picture posted by a local travel site (see below) was no comfort; it shows a mangled bicycle under the wheels of a menacing dump truck on the eastbound side of Canal Street.

facebook canal crash

The crash occurred just hours before activists with Transportation Alternatives and the Street Vendor Project held a demonstration to demand traffic calming and safety measures for Canal Street, a roadway that activists call Manhattan’s “Boulevard of Death.” According to Transportation Alternatives, 13 people have been killed in traffic crashes on Canal Street in the last decade, and 39 cyclists and 89 pedestrians were seriously injured on the roadway in the last five years.

In addition to busy pedestrian traffic on the sidewalks, Canal Street is a vital link for users of the road, whether they are drivers using the roadway to get to the Holland Tunnel or cyclists traveling between the Manhattan Bridge and the Hudson River Greenway, the busiest bike path in North America.

The street is almost entirely set aside for the movement and storage of vehicles, with two wide travel lanes and one car storage lane on each side of the street. Canal’s design, which only encourages the use of cars and trucks on the road, makes it too dangerous to use as a reliable connection for cyclists — yet the city’s Green Wave plan doesn’t appear to link the two routes with a protected bike lane in the vision for a protected bike lane network by 2030.

This latest injury on Canal continues a year where Vision Zero appears to be backsliding, with traffic deaths up for the most vulnerable road users this year compared to 2018. According to the most recently released DOT data, there have been 130 total traffic fatalities through Aug. 8 (67 pedestrians, 18 cyclists, 15 motorcyclists, and 30 motor vehicle occupants) compared to 108 fatalities (58 pedestrians, eight cyclists, 21 motorcyclists, and 21 motor vehicle occupants) over the same period last year.

Transportation Alternatives is calling for car-reduction strategies.

“Unrelenting traffic endangers pedestrians and cyclists,” the group said in a statement. “Drivers disobey traffic cues, while ignoring pedestrian crossing guards. New Yorkers are faced with a street that puts people’s safety last.”

  • Isaac B

    A cyclist whose bike looks like that and who refuses medical attention and walks away is not necessarily “OK”. It’s very possible that they’re afraid of repercussions to themselves or their family if they identify themselves.

  • Joe R.

    Or the cyclist doesn’t have medical insurance.

  • Edwin V

    Lol. I bike the full length of Canal during rush hour about once a week. What a shit show. But I then bike the length of Flatbush out to Ave U on that same trip and that’s even worse. Is it just that people care less about Brooklyn and just accept that it’s a bike nightmare. He traffic is somewhat lighter in Flatbush but the chaos is like 4x.

  • Andrew

    Lol.

    I disagree.

  • AMH

    I often have that thought about the Bronx. DOT needs to step it up in Manhattan and WAY up in the boroughs.

  • Daphna

    Canal is a disaster for cyclists: so hard to get through! Yet Canal is a vital east-west connector in an area where there is no other thru street. A cyclist from the west side (Greenway or other Avenue) heading to the east side or the Manhattan Bridge has no other direct option.

    Chambers Street is also a disaster for cyclists and you regularly see cyclists ride on the double-yellow line in the center of the street as there is no space to fit on the right of the traveling cars between them and the (mostly illegally) parked curbside vehicles. But at least with Chambers there are other options if the cyclist is willing to go out of his/her way by a block or so. Canal has no straightforward alternative.

  • HamTech87

    or they are in shock.

  • GuestBx

    Congestion pricing is going to be a game changer for Canal St, just wait and see.

  • Elizabeth F

    I agree, Canal St is both vital and a disasterfor bikes. Especially the west end of the street, where you have to navigate among / between the Holland Tunnel Crush. And the east end too, of course, where it’s just plain crowded. And the puzzling design (non-design?), wondering how to enter the LES from Canal St. East if you are NOT trying to get on the Manhattan bridge.

    I know there are alternate routes from Chinatown/LES to the Greenway. But they are poorly marked, and I get lost every time trying to follow them. Maybe we could start out by figuring this out, putting up good signs, creating contraflow bike lanes where needed, etc? And of course, DON’T create “bike” routes over cobblestone streets. Just don’t.

  • AMH

    Congestion pricing and 2-way VZB tolling can’t come soon enough.

  • vnm

    He traffic is somewhat lighter in Flatbush but the chaos is like 4x.

    Maybe that’s why there have been 14 cyclist fatalities in Brooklyn this year and five in Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island combined.

  • gmoney

    I agree Canal should be redesigned. A terrtible road for all. As a cyclist, I would never ever ride on Canal in its current state. No way. Use Grand St to go west to east or use Prince St to go east to west. (Grand St doesn’t begin until Varick though. But from the Greenway take Clarkson St to Washington to Spring St to WBroadway then down to Grand. Sounds like a lot but there is a bike lane (unprotected) on most of these streets. A sharrow on some of Spring and W Broadway.) It beats Canal any day.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    I agree, with the exception that if the DOT properly maintained our Belgian block streets, as is done in Europe, riding on them, or crossing them on foot, would be just fine.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    As will the switchover to a two-way toll on the V-N Bridge, due to take effect next Spring.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    Does’t Grand St work? Its real close. In fact, there are more crosstown bike lanes than there are crosstown busses between Houston St and Chambers St.

  • Iris Reyes

    Some streets should just not be cycled on! I used ride bdy uptown to Bklyn bridge. it’s not worth the convenience. There are definitely traffic
    calming measures to be taken but I would not ride on canal St. And I’ve been riding NYC for 27+ years. Not worth the time save.

  • Iris Reyes

    I agree. Don’t use Canal St to ride.

  • Iris Reyes

    Flatbush not worth the hassle. I cycled FB for decades. Not worth it anymore.

  • Elizabeth F

    Since I’ve never seen a cobblestone street in NYC that is even 1/3-way decent to bike on, I am forced to take this statement on pure faith.

  • GuestBx

    That’s a done deal? Thought it was pending?

  • vnm

    Agreed. I think it’s still pending.

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    Nothing decent in NYC, for sure (but, as cobblestone is not used in NY, I’m assuming you mean Belgian blocks.)

  • Lora Tenenbaum

    Jerry Nadler told me its done.

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