On Loss, Deadly Roads, and Taking Action
The following is a guest essay from Jonathan Blyer, owner of ACME Bicycle Co and friend of the team:
I am a Father. I am a husband. I am a Son. I am a brother. I am a cyclist.
If you are reading this, you and I probably share at least one of these traits.
On August 11th, my friend Jose Alzorriz was murdered by a reckless driver. Jose spent the last morning of his life like he spent many other Sundays. He rode his bike down to Brighton Beach where he went for a 2-mile swim with his friend, he then got back on his bike to return home to have brunch with his loved ones. He was waiting for a traffic light to change to green when a driver in a sports car blew a light at 62mph, crashing into a minivan that was driving legally through the intersection. The crash sent the minivan spinning out of control and in an instant, it took Jose's life. You've probably seen videos of this horrible crash, I haven't watched it and don't plan to, instead I choose to remember Jose as the kind and loving person that he was. My friend Jonathan Cane, a triathlon coach who worked out with Alzorriz, said it perfectly, “You know how someone dies and suddenly they’re a saint — but in Jose’s case, he was a real mensch. He was always looking out for others, and he didn’t deserve to die like that.”
Our city has an epidemic and the disease is selfishness. Everyone has a place to go and they want to get there as fast as possible. Cars are bigger, faster and more removed from the outside world than they ever have been before. Drivers are more concerned with not missing text messages, facebook notifications or shaving a few seconds off their trip by staring at Waze's every suggestion than they are with what's going on around them. Cyclists can sometimes be to blame as well, so we must take some credit for the problem. If I see one more e-bike riding on the sidewalk or another messenger weaving through a busy intersection of pedestrians I am going to scream.
Our city has changed. Neighborhoods that were once purely commercial are now filled with new residential housing. Business districts have popped up in areas that were once abandoned. Cyclists are now choosing to ride on streets where cars are not used to sharing the road. As housing and business districts change, the infrastructure that feeds them needs to change as well.
I choose to ride a bike because I care about the environment, because it's the most reliable way to get to work on time, because it's the most affordable way to travel, because I like getting exercise and because it's my legal right to do so. In the last few weeks, I've been more and more reluctant to bike to work, even though the entirety of my bike ride from home to work is in a bike lane. I've been lucky, I've had two close calls in the last few weeks while riding in the bike lane and have thankfully come out of it unscathed because I ride like every single damn car is trying to kill me. I came close to getting doored by a woman carelessly opening a door to an Uber as she exited, "I didn't see you" she said apathetically, "That's the problem!" was my response. All she had to do was look. In my other close call, I was riding in the bike lane around Grand Army Plaza when a man in a SUV decided that he couldn't wait in traffic like the rest of the cars and he pulled into the bike lane almost hitting my head on as well as two other cyclists. I had a few choice words for him, he didn't seem to think he was doing anything wrong.
Jose, like me, was doing something he loved when in an instant someone else's completely avoidable, selfish, behavior ended his life. When I got the phone call from my friend, the night Jose was killed, I was in shock, disbelief, horror, anger, and sadness all at once. I haven't had a good night sleep since. The other 18 cyclists killed this year certainly upset me but losing someone you know in a tragic event like this is something entirely different. Amongst the normal emotions of losing someone you care about, I felt compelled to help make a statement that the time for a change in our city's infrastructure and policies is long overdue. I feel a strong connection to the cycling community in this city and felt that I was in the right position to organize a demonstration. The message is simple, these crashes that kill our own are preventable but our city has not acted fast enough. We need better driver and cyclist education, we need stronger police enforcement and we need bike lanes that are physically separated from cars.
This Sunday, we will ride in honor of Jose, the other 18 cyclists killed this year and the other 90 people that have been killed in a car or while crossing a street this year in NYC. We have cyclists coming from all boroughs. The gauge of the success of our event will be the number of people that show up. We have many coming and we need many more. If you, like me, have a family and choose to ride a bike or cross a street, then I beg you to please ride or rally with us this Sunday. Our event has been fully supported by Transportation Alternatives, Families for Safe Streets, the Borough President's office, the 78th precinct, Council Member Brad Lander's office and we are very thankful for their support. We all want safer streets and we don't want any more memorial services. I hope you'll join us and that you'll bring as many friends as you can. Enough is Enough.
NYC Ride for Safe Streets & Memorial for Jose Alzorriz
Sunday, August 25th
Gather at Bartel Pritchard Square on Prospect Park Southwest at 10am.
Push off at 10:30am - We'll ride down Prospect Park Southwest, to Coney Island Avenue to the corner of Avenue L
Arrive at Ave L / Coney Island avenue around 11am.
For more information and to RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/469451613891719/