Area cyclists mourned the death of a Great Neck rider who helped found the Five Boro Bike Tour more than four decades ago. David Schlichting, 66, was killed Sunday when he was struck by a minivan while riding his bike in Lake Success.
“The whole cycling community in New York City is shocked and at a total loss about this tragedy,” Kenneth Podziba, president and chief executive of Bike New York, the nonprofit organization that runs the bike tour, said Monday. “Dave was a great cyclist … he’s a very experienced and safe rider.”
Schlichting was a founder of the event in 1977, which has grown from about 250 riders to 32,000, and has continued as a volunteer organizer ever since, Podziba said.
Schlichting served as marshal for the tour and was active in leading rides in Long Island, Europe and New Mexico.
“That was his passion, that was his life,” Podziba said.
Leonard Diamond, chairman of Bike New York, said Schlichting rode in each of the 41 Five Boro tours since its inception.
“He rode in every single one of them,” Diamond said. “Very often he would ride his bike from his home in Great Neck, ride in the event and then ride back home.”
In the early days, Diamond said, biking was safer.
“There weren’t as many cars around,” he said. “Long Island wasn’t quite as developed.”
For years Schlichting commuted by bicycle from Great Neck to a job at Kennedy Airport where he worked for Swiss Air, Diamond said. One of the perks of the airline job, which involved booking passengers, was he could travel for free. He biked in the Alps in Europe and retraced the path of the Tour de France — for fun — and more recently, as he got older, he began touring in New Mexico, Diamond said. Schlichting rode 4,000 to 5,000 miles a year, he said.
“It was whole lifetime of camaraderie,” said Diamond, who also rode in the first Five Boro tour and rode with Schlichting in Europe.
Podziba said Schlichting’s death showed why cyclists want changes in how roads are designed.
“We want protected bike lanes,” he said. “If there was a protected bike lane there he’d still be alive.”
Police on Sunday said they were still looking for the driver of the minivan that struck Schlichting and then left the scene.