Youth to City: Give Us Better Bike Infrastructure Now

Teens against traffic violence on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Saturday morning. Photo: Dave Colon
Teens against traffic violence on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Saturday morning. Photo: Dave Colon

The kids do stand a chance.

The teens of Brooklyn demanded that the city’s political establishment build a greener, safer future for them at a rally for safe bike infrastructure on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Saturday morning. Organizers of the rally, in which dozens of kids carried signs decrying traffic violence and calling for better protected bike lanes and the recently proposed bike superhighway idea known as The Tube, had a simple message.

“We are the future of the city,” said Stuyvesant senior Oscar Fishman. “And we want politicians to know that we demand, we’re not asking, we’re demanding better bike infrastructure, and we need it now.”

Brooklyn’s own Greta Thunberg excoriated city leadership for not doing enough to make their lives safe for cycling. In a youthful inverse to the oft-relied upon “New York isn’t Paris” attitude of local leaders who don’t want to make big changes to the city’s streets, one teenage speaker specifically cited the City of Light as a place that New York should be drawing inspiration from.

“I say, ‘Why not here?’,” said Adam Gottesdiener, a senior at Brooklyn Tech, noting the millions of Euros that Paris has invested, and continues to invest in making cycling not just an alternative but a main form of transportation in the city.

Gottesdiener also reminded any elected officials who might not pay attention to the issue that the kids are organizing and paying attention, so ignoring them could prove costly in future elections.

“We need our incoming elected officials to do one thing: listen. Listen to the victims of traffic violence, listen to the hobbyists who don’t want to risk their lives to get their daily exercise. But above all, listen to the kids. Very soon we’re going to be voting age and when we’re all voting age, are we gonna let it slide? No!” he said.

In a year where one of the most shocking acts of traffic violence on record was a known recidivist speeder crashing into 3-month-old Apolline Mong-Guillemin and killing her, Fishman made a plea for political leaders to build a future where lives aren’t snuffed out by traffic violence.

“I imagine a world where your elementary-age students can bike to school and you don’t have to worry that they’ll end up a splatter on a car’s bumper. I imagine a world where my kids won’t have to see any painted white bikes locked to a road sign. I want to see people replace their car keys with bike lock keys. I want people to be able to bike to work without worrying about being killed in the process,” he told an approving crowd.

Teen cyclists who made their away around the city on two wheels said they faced the same reckless disregard from drivers that adult cyclists in the city face.

“I agree we need better protection on bike lanes,” said Otto Lanneot. “What they’re saying about double parking [in bike lanes] that’s everywhere, every street there’s double parking. And when you try to go into the street to go around the cars, drivers feel like that’s terrible, they honk at you and just speed up in front of you, which is really dangerous.”

And the crowd wasn’t just cyclists. Newly radicalized young New Yorkers were there to ask for better bike infrastructure, drawn to the movement after they had covnersations with friends at school.

“It’s really interesting because I don’t usually bike, so I never thought about the consequences of cars, and then less bike lanes and how we need more,” said Hadeel Alsabri as she stood talking with friends after the rally. “But I see why cars are can be dangerous.”

While the purpose of the rally was in part to call attention to The Tube, the organized youth at the center of the day said that they wanted the city to know there’s a younger generation coming up that’s paying attention to whether future leaders demonstrate they care about safe streets.

“I think the youth coming out here, regardless of whatever haters may say, we’re showing people that we care and showing the politicians that we care. And I think that’s the most important thing, because in this city, all we really need is to care. The current problem is that politicians don’t care. Police don’t care about parking in bike lanes, they don’t care about bikers and that needs to change. I think a lot of the problems would be solved if we just saw biking issues as human issues,” said Fishman.