Comedian and cyclist Danny Felts will be hosting a free stand-up comedy benefit on July 17 at a local bike shop to raise money for the Bike Messenger Emergency Fund as New York City’s cyclist death toll rises to 15.
Stand Up! at Haven Cycles will support the non-profit organization in its mission to provide emergency compensation to bicycle messengers who are hurt on the job. After local bike messenger Robyn Hightman was struck and killed by a car, Felts was inspired to curate this event.
“The irony is I was planning out this event before that young woman got run over by a cement truck recently here. Three days before, two more cycling deaths happened making it all the more pertinent,” says Felts.
The 28-year-old Brooklyn cyclist Devra Freelander was the 15th person struck and killed and the third that week. The narrow street where the industrial truck and Freelander collided is reported to be one of the 12 most dangerous areas for cyclists and pedestrians. The tragedy caused Mayor Bill De Blasio to instruct the Department of Transportation to develop “a new cyclist safety plan to make biking in our city safer.”
Originally from Portland, Oregan, Felts has been cycling for 12 years. The Bushwick resident says although Portland’s driving culture is different, the cycling awareness is similar.
“It’s a systematic problem in New York when it comes to everything. When you have problems here, it can get super exasperating. Instead of just a couple of people dying every decade, it’s so many people. Last year it was 10 and this year it’s 15. It’s such a problem and people forget how much of a big deal it is,” says Felts.
In March, Felts hosted a similar benefit to raise funds for RIP Medical Debt after crashing a rental electric scooter and having to receive seven stitches. He admits the recent cyclist deaths have made him think about his own fate.
“Each accident that happens makes you think about a different aspect of inequality when it comes to cycling versus cars,” Felts said. “When Hightman got killed, it was a different aspect because here’s a very young woman who got hit by a box truck in a very busy part of Manhattan. Then, a couple of days later the 50-year-old man that got struck by a private vehicle. Each one makes you think how do you continue riding and doing this faithfully.”
Despite the cyclist fatalities, Felts says he has never felt the need to completely stop riding but says those who do indicates that the problem at large is even more blatant.
“The whole emphasis of the argument is why was this bicyclist doing this and so we’re always on the defensive in this case. I really just want the respect and decency that we’re not afforded as other modes of transportation,” says Felts.
Felts plans to bridge his love for comedy and advocacy to bring awareness to New York City’s recent cycling deaths. All money will be donated to the Bike Messenger Emergency Fund, an organization that provides messengers with $500 if they get into an accident. Felts is joined by two cycling comedians: Jake Flores, host of Pod Damn America and Sirius Comedy Central’s, Ian Fidance. While laughter doesn’t erase the feeling of loss, Felts and friends hope this benefit can help injured cyclists around the world.
“Stand Up! at Haven Cycles” will take place at 1546 DeKalb Avenue. The stand-up comedy benefit starts at 8 p.m. on July 17. Attendees are allowed to “pay what you want” in support of the Bike Messenger Emergency Fund.
Cover photo courtesy of Haven Cycles.
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