Volume 20, Number 48 | The Newspaper of Lower Manhattan | April 13 - 19, 2011

Aiming to make bikers follow five simple rules

BY John Bayles

A new initiative hoping to change how people bike in city neighborhoods is kicking off this Saturday, April 16, in Tribeca.

In 2009 Stuart Gruskin was struck and killed by a bicycle deliveryman heading the wrong way, east, on 43rd Street. After his death, his wife Nancy established the Stuart C. Gruskin Foundation with the aim of creating a safer environment for pedestrians in urban areas. The foundation’s latest initiative is called “5 to Ride” and is geared toward restaurants and the public alike.

“I knew I wanted to do something that not only the public could get behind, but the businesses could get behind,” said Nancy. “I understood that where so many of these issue were falling were with the businesses.”

The fact that Tribeca happens to be launching pad for the campaign is no coincidence. George Matthews (pictured above), a Tribeca resident since 2003, went to college at George Washington University in Washington D.C. with Stuart’s sister and as a result became a close family friend. Matthews and Stuart both worked in finance and their offices were minutes from each other on Fifth Avenue in Midtown.

Nancy attributes the success of the campaign, which so far has Tribeca restaurants like Kitchenette, Il Mattone, The Odeon and Zucker’s, among others, on board to Matthews and his dedicated, hard work.

“He was like your guardian angel that comes out of nowhere.” Said Nancy. “He just was there… and has played such a role.”

When Nancy came up with the idea last November of “5 to Ride,” Matthews immediately suggested his neighborhood as a starting point.

“Over the past five years, the streets [in Tribeca] have become very crowded with pedestrian cyclists, and delivery cyclists,” said Matthews. “And with all of the construction, they’re riding on sidewalks, in places they shouldn’t be. And the reality is that, I think, a lot of these delivery people tend to take shortcuts.”

Matthews began approaching businesses in his spare time, and the response was overwhelming. The thinking was that if the idea was well-received in one neighborhood, then it also would go over well citywide.

“Basically every restaurant I went into—they were all very positive,” said Matthews.

Many of the restaurants expressed sorrow about the tragedy involving Stuart and told Matthews they were “happy to hear that someone was doing something about it.”

The “5 to Ride” campaign is essentially a pledge and restaurants and civilians can sign up at www.5toride.org. The pledge revolves around five basic cycling rules: 1. Put pedestrians first; 2. Stop at every red light; 3. Ride in the right direction—with traffic; 4. Stay on the asphalt, off the sidewalk; and 5. Pick one lane and stick with it.

The restaurants that sign the pledge will receive a decal to place either on their windows or somewhere prominently within the business. Nancy Gruskin said the goal of the entire initiative could be signified by the decals.

“I’d like the orange, ‘5 to Ride’ decal to be like the ribbon for breast cancer,” said Nancy. “People see it and they immediately understand.”

For Matthews the memory of Stuart and the cause behind the “5 to Ride” initiative is evoked almost everyday.

“Everyday I walk down 43rd Street to go to lunch and I think of Stuart… how could I not,” said Matthews.

Matthews himself is a recreational cyclist, but he said he never has to really deal with the issues of pedestrian and vehicular traffic that other people have to deal with. He utilizes bike paths and parks.

“I follow the rules,” said Matthews. “Fortunately I don’t have to go on the city streets. I cycle up the Hudson bike path and then cut across to Central Park.”

Nancy said Matthews’ role in the initiative has been invaluable. As a result of his dedication to the cause, he is scheduled to receive the Stuart C. Gruskin Neighborhood Impact Award at the Foundation’s fundraiser at City Winery on May 19.

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