cycling, Spanish

Delivery cyclists on the “Boulevard of Death”

Photo: Chris Goldberg / Flickr

Translated from Annie Correal, “Repartidores en ‘Bulevar de la Muerte’El Diario/La Prensa, August 13, 2009.

Death of Mexican immigrant shows the level of danger in their work

New York – Pablo Pasarán was run over last Saturday at the intersection of 21st Street and 35th Avenue in Queens. As the family he left behind reflected on his life, other delivery workers continued his dangerous line of work, transporting heavy plastic bags filled with food in the hope of making a few more dollars in tips.

This task is particularly perilous on Queens Boulevard, known as the “Boulevard of Death,” where even though fences and signs have been installed, pedestrians continue to die as they try to cross the street.

“Buses have the least respect for cyclists. Taxis are also always trying to beat the light,” says Crispin Zapata, 46, a delivery worker from Puebla, Mexico, who supports his family on $350 a week he brings in working for a pizzeria on Greenpoint Avenue. “I’ve almost been in an accident so many times.”

In New York, around twenty cyclists have been killed every year since 2005, according to figures released by the Department of Motor Vehicles. There are no exact figures regarding how many of those were delivery workers, but Leah Todd, spokesperson for the New York Memorial Project, an organization that puts up white “ghost bikes” at locations where cyclists have been killed, said that Pasarán is the second delivery cyclist to be killed in a crash since 2005. The other was an Asian delivery worker killed in Manhattan. The organization will set up a bike to memorialize Pasarán before the end of the year.

Official statistics indicate that there are approximately 4,000 delivery workers in New York, a small fraction of the city’s 185,000 cyclists. Despite this, delivery cyclists are in greater danger than other cyclists because they spend more time on the street and travel at top speed under pressure from their employers and in order to earn more tips.

Candelario Serrano, a 22-year-old Mexican who has worked for eight months delivering pizzas for Victoria’s II, a pizzeria on 46th Street and Queens Boulevard, said that the greatest danger comes from driver carelessness. “People open car doors, and you don’t have time to react,” he argued, while a driver laid blame on the delivery workers.

“They’re idiots. They cross when they’re not supposed to. Every day I see them running red lights,” said Jorge Andrade, who has cruised Queens Boulevard in his taxi for 30 years. “There have always been deaths on this boulevard.” A few minutes later, a young Hispanic delivery cyclist rode against traffic, while motorists sped by.

Wiley Norvell, spokesperson for Transportation Alternatives, said that the organization has been lobbying for the creation of a separated bicycle lane on Queens Boulevard since the death of Asif Rahman in 2008. Rahman was the first cyclist killed on Queens Boulevard since 1995, but from that year to 2005 there were 227 cyclists and 1118 pedestrians killed. “That’s just too many,” he concluded.

grvsmth (Author)

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