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Bellevue Cyclist and Healthcare Hero to Mayor: ‘We Risk Our Lives Everyday; We Shouldn’t Have To On The Street, Too’

10:51 AM EDT on April 20, 2020

Hero Bellevue worker Shawnette Proper (inset) has to deal with the 59th Street Bridge squeeze every day.

On Monday morning, we received the following letter from Shawnette Proper, a registered physician assistant at Bellevue Hospital and daily bike commuter. Proper had also sent her letter to Mayor de Blasio, whose comment we are awaiting.

Shawnette Proper
Shawnette Proper
Shawnette Proper

Dear Mayor De Blasio,
I am an emergency medicine provider at Bellevue Hospital. I am also a cyclist who commutes to my shifts all year long in all weather. I have never missed a shift due to weather or disaster because by cycling I can reliably get to work. I have lived in New York City for more than 20 years and am privileged to treat the most vulnerable New Yorkers and keep them safe.

I felt the need to reach out to you because in this pandemic where I am working to exhaustion I am still not safe when riding.

Many of my colleagues also commute by bike to work. We all deserve to be safe. You have not increased the amount of space for pedestrians and cyclists while the number of automobiles on the streets is down. You yourself encouraged people to cycle or walk, yet when people listened and those numbers increased the space remained the same.

I cross the 59th Street Bridge every day and with its limited width — at approximately 11 feet for both cyclists in both directions and pedestrians in both directions — it is impossible leave a safe distance to keep people healthy. The bike lanes that currently exist on First and Second avenues in Manhattan, which I cycle daily, prevent people from riding a safe distance from other cyclists and pedestrians. Cars race around the city endangering our lives with impunity.

I am requesting you allot more space in the city to people, not automobiles. In this time of social distancing we should all be safe. We don’t deserve to die because we cannot safely socially distance outside or risk being hit by an automobile that is allowed to drive recklessly. We risk our lives everyday in the hospital, we shouldn’t have to in the street. It is irresponsible to continue to allow this to happen to our city.

Please limit streets to emergency vehicles and people. Other cities are doing this — to the appreciation of their communities. Please open the south outer roadway on the Queensboro Bridge to pedestrians (to prevent dangerously crowded interactions). Please keep our city safe.

I love New York and feel it is a disservice to treat our community this way. We are the greatest city on earth we should be leading the way.

Sincerely,
Shawnette M. Proper, RPA-C, NYSAFE

Streetsblog wanted to ask Mayor de Blasio about the letter during his morning press conference on Monday, but our outlet was not selected to ask a question. We've reached out to City Hall and will update this story when we hear back.

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