02 August 2018

Once Again, A Bike Lane Isn't Enough

Sometimes you hear bad news and it's far away.  Other times, it hits close--too close--to home.

Bushwick, Brooklyn is just a few kilometers from my apartment.  As it's between Williamsburg, Brooklyn and Ridgewood, Queens, I frequently cycle its mostly narrow streets.  Friends of mine live in or near it.  And, when I was writing for a local newspaper, my work frequently took me there.

While most of those streets are relatively quiet, they see more than their fair share of trucks, as the residential streets are hemmed in by a heavy industrial area.  And, of course, the sanitation trucks have to make their rounds. Because those streets are narrow, there isn't much room for anything else when a truck rumbles through.  A couple of those streets--like one I'll mention in a moment--have bike lanes.  But they provide little, if any, margin of safety in the conditions I've described.

Now, I don't think truck drivers are any more hazardous than drivers of other vehicles.  If anything, I find them to be more conscientious because their livelihoods depend on their safety records.  I know this because relatives and friends of mine have driven trucks for a living.  One--my grandfather--drove for the New York City Sanitation Department.

I also know that it's entirely possible to run something over without realizing it, especially at night.  It's hard to tell whether that "thump" you felt--if indeed you felt it--is a pothole, or an inanimate or animate object.  Or a person, on foot or on a bike.

That's why I can understand why the driver of a sanitation truck didn't stop around 8:30 last night, on Evergreen Avenue near Menahan Street, in the neighborhood.  There, at that time, a 25-year-old woman was struck by that truck.

Of course, I am not trying to minimize the plight of that woman.  The latest report says she's in "critical but stable" condition, with a broken clavicle and an open wound on her right arm.  I hope she recovers quickly and well.  

I also don't want to vilify the driver or the passenger of that truck.  Inside the cab of their truck, they were a couple of meters above street level, so even if they knew they'd hit something or someone, they wouldn't have had any idea of who or what it was.  They claim not have known they hit anyone or anything, and unless the investigation proves otherwise, I believe them.

I also believe--no, I know--that safety must be improved.  There is a lane on the street where that woman was struck. (I know: I've ridden it.)  But, as I've said in other posts, bike (and pedestrian) lanes, by themselves, don't constitute "bicycle friendliness".

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