Speed Bumps

In Buffalo we live two blocks from Delaware Park, a lovely Olmsted-Vaux creation. In the 1970s a benighted group of city Fathers (surely not Mothers) launched an effort to slice the Park in half with an expressway, named The Scajaqada, presumably to honor some Native American speedsters. Think Central Park with a high speed expressway from 59th Street right up to 110th.

We walk to the park most summer evenings and do a two mile loop there, but to get there, we have to cross Parkside Avenue, which serves as an exit from the Scajaqada. Despite it being a city street,much of the traffic seems to consider it an extension of the highway, and barrel along, ignoring the houses on the right, and every so often a car crashes into that sad house on the curve.

Recently some of those flashing speed readers were installed, and as we wait, and wait, and wait to cross, it is mesmerizing to see how few cars even approach the 30 mph limit. Will this reminder work? We will see. The Department of Transportation is fighting every effort by the local citizens to curb traffic on the Scajaqada, and make it crossable on foot.

Once again the car is King.

In Brooklyn, my other home, bike lanes are being installed, as they are throughout New York City. Thank you, Major Bloomberg. You may have a tin ear regarding many middle class concerns, but I love your biking initiatives.

Sadly, along with the increase in bicyclists is an increase in bike deaths, memorialized by the white “ghost bikes” adorned with flowers and chained at the fatal sites. A young girl was killed on our corner. A driver “doored” her ( my autocorrect was insisting on “doomed” there) and as she swerved to avoid the open door, she was hit by a bus. Up the street is another ghost bike, though I don’t know the story on that one.

I have also seen reckless bicyclists, the bane of drivers and pedestrians. They should be ticketed, fined, and banned if necessary. But there should be some accountability for drivers who strike and kill pedestrians and bicyclists, and that is currently lacking.

Apparently our current Police Commissioner insists that these deaths are “accidents” and nothing much is done in the way of investigation or prosecution unless a police officer actually witnesses the encounter. With a new Mayor there will be a new Police Commissioner. I am hoping for one who values two legs as much as four wheels. One current contender, ex-Commissioner Bratton, has said he will make pedestrian and bike safety a priority, installing cameras to catch cars running red lights and speeding, and actively following up on deaths. He also wants more speed bumps. There are some up the street from us now, and a favorite spectator sport is watching the cars that fly over at unseemly speeds, and then crushingly bottom out.

But overall now I am reminded of “Animal Farm” and “Four legs good, two legs bad”. though in New York it is “Four wheels good, two wheels (legs) bad,.”

The Ghost Bike

There is a ghost bike on our corner. It is painted white and chained to a pole, and commemorates a young girl who was killed there on September 11, 2010. Her name was Jasmine Herron, she was 23, and she was bicycling along busy Atlantic Avenue. A woman who had just parked “doored” her, opening her car door without looking, and knocking her off the bike, into the path of a city bus which crushed her.


You can see these ghost bikes around the city, each commemorating the death of a rider, placed there by ghostbikes.org. Sometimes there is a story on a placard, others just a name and date of death, some just say that a death occurred there. All are sad.

This bike looked forlorn, so I bought some artificial flowers and leaves to add to it. I hate artificial flowers, but real ones would dry up in a day. There is a ring of dried flowers near one of the pedals.

The project started in New York back in 2005, and in 2010 the Sanitation Department announced that it would be removing abandoned bikes found chained to poles and posts, including the ghost bikes. There was a community outcry, and the plan was abandoned.

So now there are 116 ghost bikes around the city, to commemorate the 166 fatalities since 2005.

There is mutual hostility between drivers and bike riders in New York, and maybe in most places. The complaint here is that “professional” riders, such as messengers, who put a premium on fast delivery, blow through stop signs, and even mow down pedestrians. A few years back, in fact, three pedestrians were killed by cyclists, though there have been no pedestrian deaths in the past four years. On the other hand, 21 cyclists were killed last year, with only two prosecutions of the drivers.

One of the positive results of Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure (along with the cool sitting plazas in Midtown) has been the increase in the number and ubiquity of bike lanes throughout the city. His last hurrah may be the arrival of rental Citibikes. We have three stations within a five minute walk of our place in Brooklyn. These are something of a mixed blessing, however, as novices who likely haven’t ridden in years go lurching out into traffic, helmetless. Amazingly, there have as yet been no fatalities. Perhaps the bright blue color and the erratic steering alerts the drivers, and that may be to the benefit of all cyclists.


I am still afraid to ride in the city, perhaps because of a longstanding memory of being doored in Boston and landing on the hood of a car, to the applause of some construction workers. But I think I may be back in the saddle in the near future, heading down a bike lane to Prospect Park, where the cars are few and the bikers many.