“Why are our streets so violent?” asks Dan Schwartz. Why did our roads transform so drastically from public spaces into private spaces for drivers? Simply put, the combustion engine holds more value than the beating heart. In this piece for Bicycling, Schwartz reports from Hempstead Turnpike, a congested stretch of highway 24 at the edge of New York City, on the eastern border of Queens, where drivers hit an average of three people a month. Schwartz tells the heartbreaking story of 13-year-old Andrew Alati, a boy who spent his days roaming the streets on his bike with his friends — as most preteens do — and what happens one day when he tries to cross the intersection.

Cars are blasting west and east and east and west at such a volume and speed they howl. Attilio watches the cars. They move like one big animal. Every day in our country, this animal kills people. You won’t often hear about it on the news because it’s old news. We decided that long ago when the combustion engine became king and everything in its path was made subservient, when we asked our streets to accommodate higher speeds and more volume, and we allowed ourselves, with some coaxing from the automobile industry and positive feedback from our economy, to forget what we traded. What we traded were lives.

Cheri has been an editor at Longreads since 2014. She's currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.