By Mark Hallum
The death of 78-year-old cyclist and Flushing resident Michael Schenkman on Northern Boulevard in Bayside hit close to home for many pushing to make the streets a safer place. Schenkman, a Bronx native and former high school industrial arts teacher, had been riding in the eastbound lane near the 223rd Street intersection when he was struck by a 25-year-old driver going in the same direction in a black Chevy Impala on the morning of Aug. 24. Executive Director of Transportation Alternatives Paul Steely-White, whose organization advocates to make cities safer and better for car-free commuters, issued a statement on the death of Schenkman, an active member of the group.
Schenkman’s son Peter recalled his father’s passion for cycling, which came from his original love for motor bikes. Schenkman had to give up on motorcycles, however, after a close call with a truck which lost a load of shingles on the BQE. After avoiding disaster by laying down the BMW motorcycle, he decided New York City was simply too dangerous for two wheels.
“My father always looked for organized bike events because it was safer than riding on the streets of New York where he grew up riding up and down Hamden Place in the Bronx,” he said. “He would ride wherever, whenever, with or without a partner. Last Wednesday, he rode alone.”
Peter Schenkman said his father often dealt with poor bicycling conditions and rude drivers on the road, which has only seemed get worse. There still has not been a traffic summons for driver who killed his father.
According to Steely-White, the incident is representative of a growing epidemic of cyclist deaths. In 2015, there were a total of 15 bicycle deaths citywide. Schenkman, however, is No. 16 this year. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero plan to end traffic fatalities and serious injuries has been a failurealong many high-risk streets, he said.
“It is significant that Michael Schenkman was killed on Northern Boulevard, which is among the city’s most dangerous streets that the Department of Transportation has designated as a Vision Zero Priority Corridor – many of which have yet to see life-saving redesigns,” Steely-White said. Of the 16 fatalities this year, half have taken place on roadways which have been marked as a priority for Vision Zero and DOT’s Pedestrian Safety Action Plan.
“We want to know what Mayor de Blasio is going to do about this,” he said.
Steely-White said pedestrian and bicyclist deaths could be reduced by investing in roadway redesigns which add protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety islands and greater visibility at crosswalks.
Transportation Alternatives’ will be dedicating its upcoming NYC Century Bike Tour to the memory of Michael Schenkman.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall