In Memoriam: James Langergaard

james_langergaard.jpgJames at the inaugural Tour de Brooklyn in 2005.

On Friday evening, August 14, James Langergaard was killed by a car as he crossed Queens Boulevard at 69th Street. According to his family, witnesses told police that James ran a red light on his bike and died instantly. James was 38.

His death is a reminder to all of us that although the cycling atmosphere in New York City has improved tremendously, our streets are still dangerous. Even if you are an experienced rider (James rode his bike everywhere) all it takes is one critical error or getting caught in the wrong situation. When I biked with James he was usually a very deliberate rider. I don’t know what happened on Friday, all I know is we lost a very unique individual. Without James, the world just got a whole lot less interesting.

Let me just take a few paragraphs to tell you about my friend James. I have known him since 1997, when he and I were volunteers at Transportation Alternatives. (Read about some of the feats he performed to earn honors as TA "Volunteer of the Month" in 1998.) Over the years we helped out together at many events, went on countless rides and hikes, and generally just enjoyed talking with each other about the world and bicycling, almost always in a humorous — and sometimes absurd — manner.

It was one of those brainstorming sessions between us that led to the idea that James would become the official "bicycling philosopher" for bikeTV – the cable access show I produced until 2006. We filmed a chapter, "What is the essence of cycling?," at a 2005 Central Park volunteer appreciation party for marshals of the TA Century. James’s wit and humor are on full display. Check it out:

Here is another video I did that will always bring smiles and warm my heart. While riding in the Bike New York 2001 event, James ended up adopting a kitten along the course. Cats, bikes, philosophy, and of course getting caught up in a quirky tale — that was James in a nutshell.

If you would like to pay your respects to James and his family, services will be held tonight from 7:00 to 9:00, and again Tuesday from 2:00 to 5:00 and 7:00 to 9:00 at the Hess-Miller Funeral Home in Middle Village, Queens — 64-19 Metropolitan Avenue (near 64th street). Donations will be accepted in James’s name for Transportation Alternatives and to combat multiple sclerosis.

Finally, I remember an event that James really took to heart. At a TA holiday party in 1999, James was once given an award for being "The Spirit of Cycling." I can’t think of a better way to honor my friend than to remember him as such.