Charles Komanoff


Right Of Way, Puffin Room Invitation

(Originally posted to several list-servs on May 14, 1998 by RoW organizer Michael Smith under the heading, "New transpo activist group, NYC")

Short version:

If you're in New York City on Wednesday, May 27, you're invited to an Open House meeting where a group of bike and pedestrian activists will unveil a new campaign to stop car violence in New York City. Please come. It's at the Puffin Room, 435 Broome Street (near Broadway in SoHo), from 6 to 8 pm, Wednesday May 27.

Full version.

For over a year, a group of us have been coming together to find ways to fight car violence in New York City. We have memorialized 100 pedestrian and cyclist fatalities through images stenciled on pavement. We have begun a database of hundreds of fatalities in order to gain a more precise understanding of how they are occurring, and to document the failure of agencies and elected officials to stop, or even acknowledge, the slaughter. We have written articles, fed data and story ideas to reporters, and assisted victims' families. Through this work we have come to understand and define car violence and, we think, to begin constituting an effective force against it.

Most of the work is being done by a core group of around 15 people, with participation from another 20 or 25. Now we want to open up to a larger community. We have several big projects underway requiring many more folks, and we want to tap new energy to think up and start new projects. At the Open House we will describe our work through displays, brief talks and a hands-on demonstration, all intended to inspire you to get directly involved.

If it sounds like we're launching a new group, we are, but we really aim to launch a new movement. We don't intend to compete with or supplant any existing organization, but we feel there's a kind of work that needs doing and isn't high on the agenda of existing organizations; what we intend to do will complement the work of these organizations.

We intend to focus directly on the problem of car violence and to agitate and organize for creative solutions to stop it. And we feel that this work is best done by a cooperative group that decides and acts in concert, rather than by a staff-managed structure which is more suited for lobbying officials for specific facilities like bike lanes or speed humps.

We feel the time is right for a new movement that reclaims *all* streets as legitimate and safe for cycling and walking; that will confront car violence by putting pedestrian and cyclist deaths and injuries in that context, rather than trivializing and dismissing them as "accidents"; that will expose intimidation of cyclists and pedestrians as antisocial; that will attack technologies that endanger cyclists and pedestrians (such as car phones and, coming very soon, dashboard PC's); and that will hold corporate and public policy accountable for car violence and make officials responsible for stopping it.

This is a huge agenda, but violence from cars is a huge problem. We feel that through our work so far, we have begun scaling an immense mountain. We can't yet claim to have changed conditions, but we think we've begun making a difference in the way the rights of pedestrians and cyclists are talked about vis-a-vis drivers' prerogatives. Activists in other cities are taking notice, and in our biggest dreams we envision linking up with and helping ignite a worldwide movement against car violence.

Final thought: While everyone in our core group so far is a bicyclist, we act on behalf of pedestrians as much as for cyclists. Much of the energy and inspiration for our work springs from cycling and we're proud of being "pro- pedestrian bicyclists," as someone called us recently. Obviously the movement to free NYC of car violence must grow to be a joint pedestrian-cyclist movement, but we think it's fitting that bicyclists are the ones getting it under way.

For more info, visit You can e-mail us through our website. Let us send you flyers and postcards to publicize the Open House. Most of all we really hope to see you on May 27. The Puffin Room, 435 Broome Street (near Broadway in SoHo), from 6 to 8 pm, Wednesday, May 27.

Thank you.

Marina Bekkerman, Sam Corbett, Sana Fadel, Amy-lynn Fischer, Charles Komanoff, Danny Lieberman, Mark Masuelli, Colleen McGuire, Alan Mukamal, Steve O'Neill, Martha Rowen, Spencer Scott, Michael Smith