Monday, December 14, 2009

Rider Down

Brooklyn cyclist and DJ Solange Raulston, 33, was killed in a collision with a truck this past Sunday while lawfully riding her bike westbound on Nassau Avenue. The truck sideswiped her at the intersection of McGuinness Blvd. She was unresponsive and was taken to Bellevue Hospital, where she died. No charges were filed against the driver.

In a cruel twist of fate, the collision coincided with a mock funeral for the bike lane on Bedford Avenue, which was removed by the DOT on December 1. Though the lane was briefly resuscitated by after-hours activists with rollers and spray-paint stencils, the DOT made clear its intention to re-sandblast the 14-block stretch of markings after the weekend's rain. The site of Raulston's collision was two blocks from her home, and less than three miles from the former bike lane.

Detractors of the bike lane have argued that there is no place for bikes on Bedford because it is too busy and congested; because there are too many businesses and schools; because local women may dress "immodestly" and offend some of the more conservative residents of the neighborhood.

While bike lanes are still no substitute for alert, attentive, smart bicycling habits, they are instrumental in calming and slowing down traffic as a whole, as well as conditioning motorists to watch for cyclists. Unappealing as it may be for drivers to lower their speeds and increase their awareness, it is a crucial practice that is even moreso in school zones when children are present, as well as businesses that see a heavy pedestrian traffic. It is also far more preferable to see a scantily clad woman in one's neighborhood than one injured or killed by an automobile.

Perhaps a bike lane could have saved this woman's life; perhaps there was nothing that could have been done. Either way, in light of this tragedy, the DOT needs to continue extending, not hobbling, its bike lane network.

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