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A Year Later: Central Park is No Safer Than When Beloved Doctor Was Killed

This is the reality for many cyclists trying to go crosstown through Central Park. File photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

One year after a cyclist was killed by a bus driver on one of Central Park's transverses, nothing has changed to make riding crosstown through the park safer, a flagrant disregard for the memory of the beloved doctor and a simple lack of ongoing concern for bike riders.

Advocates are still pushing the city and the Central Park Conservancy for action — and will do so again with a ceremonial ride on Saturday, Dec. 5 that will include some of Dr. Daniel Cammerman's former patients and activists.

All will be seeking action to prevent another such death.

Conditions are largely the same as they were on Dec. 18, 2019, when Cammerman became the 29th cyclist killed that year. Then as now, there is only one safe, direct cross-park paths for cyclists, and we still lack multiple routes of the kind that could have provided Cammerman with a safe alternative to the deadly transverse. At a vigil for the doctor a few days after his death, Council Member Helen Rosenthal floated the idea of making the transverses one-way for drivers, allowing more space to build infrastructure that would safely accommodate bikes, scooters, walkers.

That was the last time anyone heard anything public from Rosenthal on the topic.

One month later, Community Board 7 passed a resolution demanding a task force comprised of representatives of the Parks Department, the Central Park Conservancy, the Department of Transportation, and the NYPD's Central Park precinct. The panel's only task was to propose safe, direct cross-park paths for bikers.

But this task force has never met. (Indeed, in September, a DOT community liaison, who had originally suggested that the board pass the resolution asking for a task force, claimed that the agency never agreed to join such a task force.)

Undeterred, advocates continued to raise these issues and push for action. StreetopiaUWS sent a letter to the mayor reminding him that "if you can safely drive somewhere, you should be able to safely walk or bike there as well." The group also offered city officials a welter of ideas for creating safe space for cyclists. The group also produced a series of Streetfilms videos highlighting the needs and solutions. The group has followed up repeatedly on social media and assisted local media coverage, culminating with another letter, this one to the Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy in November that reminded the agencies, "New York City bicyclists are regular people: we pay taxes, donate to parks and volunteer in Central Park. We would like to be encouraged, not discouraged, from using our parks."

(The letter also pointed out that it is true that the parks famed planners Olmsted and Vaux did not properly accommodate cyclists in their design of the park, but they also didn’t design the park for cars, either, yet  somehow the Parks Department allowed that for decades until advocates finally banished the vehicles.)

Only this month have advocates heard anything new: the Central Park Conservancy is now saying it is “working on a solution and making some progress.” The DOT told Streetopia that “there is a good amount of ongoing focus and coordination" (whatever that means, given that activists have been calling for more cross-town routes for more than a decade).

Volunteers are making signs for Saturday's ride.
Volunteers are making signs for Saturday's ride.
Volunteers made signs for a ride to find the safe routes through the park.

Advocates are done waiting. Streetopia is urging cyclists to ride with the group on Dec. 5 and bring friends and family to join the fight for safe, direct cross-park paths.

Central Park ride, Saturday, Dec. 5, 11 a.m. Gather (with masks!) at Central Park West and 85th Street for a ride to Fifth Avenue and 96th Street, the ghost bike location. For info, click here.

Lisa Orman is executive director of StreetopiaUWS.

Here's another Streetfilms video about the difficulties for cyclists in Central Park:

Central Park Advocates: NYPD Radar Reader is a Waste of $$$ from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

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