Bike Bedlam

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Dear Editor:

A few weeks ago, my husband and I witnessed an awful bicycle accident in front of our apartment house, which looks out on the boardwalk at Beach 117th Street. It illustrates an underlying issue—speeding cyclists—that has been facing pedestrians walking on the boardwalk over the entire summer. The following letter is one that I've sent to all community/local politicians and agencies. I heard back from Joseph Addabbo and Eric Peterson of Parks Department. Of the nine officials to whom the letter was sent, only those two answered. When I posted this on Facebook in the Rockaway Beach group, I received 100 likes and 325 comments, the majority of which were positive.

Subject: An Inevitable Event: 

On Sunday, July 26 at 7:30 a.m., something we knew was bound to happen, occurred right below our balcony, on the boardwalk near Beach 117th Street. A young man, going westward way too fast on his racer bike, tried to avoid pedestrians on the boardwalk, hit his brakes, and went flying off on to the concrete. He lay flat on his stomach, not moving for several minutes. When EMTs arrived, he was conscious, but a bit bloody and dazed, and had to be taken by stretcher to a hospital for treatment. Fortunately for him, he was wearing a helmet, which perhaps saved his life. Fortunately for the pedestrians, he was able to stop before hitting anyone in his path.

I have watched in horror for many months, as arrogant bikers speed and weave their way through the crowded boardwalk, with many young children and elderly in their path. When pedestrians shout “slow down,” the Tour de France types usually give an arrogant, “don’t tell me what to do” response. I was once told “Oh— another member of the boardwalk police.”

Even as the young man was being examined by EMTs and put on a stretcher, many bikers sped by the scene without so much as a curious glance. Some bikers did stop in support of the rider, but most of the speed addicts kept their usual pace.

I’m not sure what can be done to change the rules for bikers riding on the boardwalk on the same level as pedestrians. Certainly, bike lanes don’t help, as riders tend to use the middle of the boardwalk and the lanes aren’t wide enough to accommodate the groups that often travel together. I'm not sure if it’s speed or danger that attracts them, but it’s certainly not safety or concern for the welfare of others who might be hurt by their bikes, which are really vehicles, travelling at high speeds.

I don’t understand why they don’t ride on the city streets where innocent people might not be victimized by their desire for an adrenaline rush. Sad to say, the next incident might be a fatal one.

PS - This past weekend, a bright yellow "sandwich board" sign was put on the boardwalk at Beach 116th—a particularly dangerous spot to beachgoers coming on or off the ramp. The sign says, "CYCLISTS PLEASE USE CAUTION." A good first, but a temporary first step— and still I witness many "speeders" racing by and around it.

JANE KANE

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