This year, those honored included Mathieu LeFevre, the 30-year-old Williamsburg artist who was killed by a truck last year, Erica Abbott, a 29-year-old dancer from Bushwick, and Aileen Chen, a Brooklyn teenager.
“Ghost Bikes” were painted in white at accident scenes, each serving as forlorn markings of where the cyclists died.
In North Brooklyn, riders rode to the locations where cyclists have lost their lives in the past year and walked to the location of all the fatalities on McGuinness Boulevard with flowers and other items in hand to honor those lost.
The North Brooklyn event was organized by Neighbors for Allied Growth (NAG), the McGuinness Boulevard Working Group, and Transportation Alternatives. Riders and walkers visited the spot of every fatality along McGuiness Boulevard.
At the end of the day, the various walker and rider groups met up outside of the 90th Precinct where an “unnamed” ghost bike was installed to represent the other cyclists and pedestrians who have been killed but didn’t make the news.
“In Brooklyn's 90th Precinct alone, four bicyclists were killed in the past year, more than any precinct district in the city,” Leah Todd, a volunteer with the New York City Street Memorial Project, said in a statement. “While the number of New Yorkers who ride bicycles multiplies, the NYPD has been at best slow to acknowledge our changing streets.
“At worst, the NYPD's incomplete investigation of the crashes that kill bicyclists and pedestrians is a major part of the problem,” she added.
In February, members of the City Council grilled representatives of the NYPD on why so few drivers face criminal charges after killing pedestrians or cyclists and why basic details are left out of their investigations.
When LeFevre died, no charges were pressed against the truck driver who killed him and no details were released to the family. The family sued the NYPD in January for withholding information.
But last week a judge ruled that no charges would be made against the driver because LeFevre was partly to blame since he tried to pass the truck on the right.
In a statement released last year, the NYPD said that officers “regularly stop and summons drivers for unsafe, accident-related practices, such as use of a hand-held phones while driving.”
But despite the NYPD’s statement, advocates were not impressed.
According to Transportation Alternatives, between 2001 and 2010, 1,745 pedestrians and bicyclists were killed in New York City traffic and 142,485 injured.
“New York City is afflicted with a plague of dangerous driving and McGuinness Boulevard is one of the most hazardous streets of them all,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “The loss of just one life to dangerous drivers is one death too many.”
According to Transportation Alternatives, from 2005 to 2009, there were 57 crashes involving motorists and a pedestrian or bicyclist along McGuinness Boulevard. Of those, 44 involved pedestrians. And during that time, one pedestrian and three bicyclists were killed.
“It is a sad and preventable reality that we are on McGuinness Bouleveard memorializing this loss of life,” said Councilman Steve Levin. “McGuinness has long been an extraordinarily dangerous roadway for pedestrians, bicyclists and motorists.”
NYPD Deputy Commissioner Paul Browne said in a statement last year that traffic-related fatalities in New York City were down 16 percent in 2011. He noted that through November 27, 2011, there have been 214 traffic-related fatalities of all kinds, including pedestrians, motorists and passengers, compared to 256 at the same time in 2010, a decline of 16.4 percent.
He also noted that traffic fatalities have decreased 30 percent over the last decade, while traffic-related accidents – fatal or otherwise – have declined by 43 percent over the last 10 years.
Cyclist advocates said that speeding in particular should be a concern to the city when investigating cyclist or pedestrian deaths, and say that it deserves special attention since it is the leading cause of fatal crashes in the city.
According to Transportation Alternatives, speeding drivers killed 45 people in New York City in 2010 and injured 2,300.
“These memorials should be seen as a call to action,” said Steely White.