The Brooklyn Paper
Riding safe on Fifth Avenue
BY TANIA HAAS
January 13, 2007 / Brooklyn news / Bay Ridge–Bensonhurst
No wonder Erasto Torres was smiling under his new a bike helmet on Saturday. Just below that smile, Torres, one of hundreds of food deliverymen who speed through the streets of the borough with little protecting their skulls but hair and sweat, showed off a nasty scar, the result of a crash with a driver on Fifth Avenue.
“I flew over the handlebars, but the lady just started laughing,” said Torres. “She found it funny that she had hit me. But my boss was calling, so I had to continue the delivery.”
So on Saturday — Three Kings Day — Torres joined 24 other deliverymen in picking up a free helmet, thanks to the city Department of Transportation and the United Puerto Rican Organization of Sunset Park, Brooklyn’s oldest Latino organization.
“Three Kings Day is when we give the last gift [of Christmas] to our families,” said UPROSE Executive Director Elizabeth Yeampierre. “These workers basically live on tips [so] we thought that a gift we could give them is the gift of safety.”
Between 1996 and 2005, 40 percent of the 207 traffic-related fatal bicycle crashes in the city took place in Brooklyn, while 24 percent were in Manhattan.
The same Health Department report found that almost three-quarters of fatal crashes involved a head injury and nearly all bicyclists who died — 97 percent — were not wearing a helmet.
The law only requires riders under age 14 to wear a helmet, so restaurants are not obligated to provide hard hats for their biking employees.
Which was why Torres is all smiles now.
“When I start my shift, all I think about is my family,” he said. “Now I feel I am going to have good protection on my head, which is most important.”
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