Charles Komanoff at the Rider Remembrance Rally
New York City Hall, Jan. 9, 2000

We’re here today because we share three things —
* a love of cycling, particularly in a city where bicycles
make so much sense;
* a vision of how great it could be for this city if it was
safe for everyone to ride;
* and, particularly now, fear for our fellow cyclists and
ourselves.

As we now know — as we had to dig out of the information gulag — more
people were killed riding bikes in New York City last year than in any
year on the books. Thirty-five (35) cyclists were killed in collisions
with cars. That’s 15 more than the year before and twice the historical
average.

Most of the cyclists were killed in the boroughs — 16 in Brooklyn, 7 in
Queens, 6 in the Bronx. Plus the “usual” 6 in Manhattan.

Who is dying?

There was Brad Minch, a 20-year-old bike messenger who was run over by
an oversize — read, illegal — tractor-trailer at 6th Ave. and 30th St.
last Jan. 12. Justin Hamilton, age 8, who died when an ice-cream truck
backed into him as he sat on his brand-new bike, at Division and Wythe
Aves. in Williamsburg on June 14. And Robert Rouse, 13, who was run
over on Nevins St. 16 days later when a fuel truck on Butler St. ran a
stop sign.

Twenty-three of the 35 were age 30 or over. Only one of those deaths was
noted in the “paper of record” (which of course makes it easier for the
police to ignore them as well).

So we don’t really know who were our brothers and sisters who died. Nor
do we know how they died — what killed them — beyond the obvious, that
letting our city streets fill up with cars, everywhere, all the time,
is a sure-fire recipe for killing people.

We don’t know how cyclists are being killed because only the police
department has the info, and they aren’t analyzing it, except for spin
control, and they certainly don’t let us see it. Even though we know how
to chart the numbers, to read the accident reports, to divine as best as
anyone can from a crummy diagram on a blurry photostat, what really
happened, what the cyclist was doing, what the driver did, what crash
“type” was it, and would the cyclist be alive if the driver had obeyed
the law.

We will get the accident reports for every one of the 35 who died. We
will demonstrate, we will march, we will ride, we will go to court, we
will make trouble, we will get the information we need to do what our
government won’t. If the mayor really thinks the killing of 35 people
riding bikes in New York City last year was their fault, we will do
whatever it takes to protect ourselves.

To sit silently by while the body count of bicyclists went up and up
and up — by 3 or more every month since May — by 7 in August alone —
and not tell anyone ... it’s breathtaking. It’s outrageous. It’s bullshit.

What do we want? Here’s one thing: we want the “Toronto coroner’s rule.”
After studying thousands of cyclist casualties from motor vehicles in
Toronto over 10 years, the Toronto coroner called for a law establishing
“the principle of motorized vehicles yielding to non-motorized vehicles.”
Just as the law requires motorboats to yield to sailboats on the water,
motor vehicles would be required by law to yield to bicycles on the road
(and bicycles to pedestrians) wherever clear-cut criteria like traffic
signals don’t apply.

Think about it. Motorists could no longer feel entitled by law to intimidate
a cyclist into relinquishing the space needed to ride safely and comfortably.

We are going to get such a law in New York State. We will also get a
coroner-type study of bicyclist deaths in New York City, headed up by
scientists, by medical professionals, not the police. We will get protection
of our lawful right of way.

We demand safe streets not just out of fear, or even just for safety, but
for our rights. For the right of everyone to ride, starting with the millions
in this city who want to get on a bike but see that the odds are too steep.
So they don’t, and they lose out on something precious, while we who do ride
are out there alone instead of in Critical Mass every day.

We are traffic, as the movie about Critical Mass says. We have rights. We
have the right to our lawful right-of-way. We have the right to ride a bicycle
in New York City without being killed. We will ride!