Horse drawn carriages are a staple tourist attraction in Manhattan and they are a part of the rich fabric of city life. However, some are calling for their elimination, and a recent traffic accident has fuelled opponents’ concerns.
A carriage horse named Oreo startled when metal beams noisily fell at a construction site on West 59th Street, causing him to bolt. The six-year-old Oreo took his driver and two passengers, tourists from Australia, on a terrifying ride through Columbus Circle. According to the driver, Oreo broke loose from his harness and ran about four blocks before he collapsed. He apparently ran into several cars during his effort to escape. The carriage overturned, spilling the driver and passengers onto the street. They were not seriously injured and were released from Bellevue Hospital.
Several incidents involving horse-drawn cabs have occurred in recent years. Advocates of banning horse-drawn carriages from the streets of New York point to other places, such as London, Beijing and Toronto, as cities that have eliminated horse drawn vehicles from their streets.
A spokesperson for the group Coalition to Ban Horse-drawn Carriages said that although no people had been killed recently in New York City, there have been fatalities in other cities where horse drawn vehicles are present. In Iowa, a passenger who was thrown from the carriage during a parade died n 2010. And in Salzburg, Austria, a bystander was killed when a spooked carriage horse ran into her, “Horses are accidents waiting to happen,” according to Elizabeth Forel, president of the group.
However, Mayor Bloomberg and many others are reluctant to end horse-drawn carriages in New York. During his weekly radio address, the mayor noted, “I think it’s something that a lot of tourists really love. It would be a shame to lose them.”
And what of Oreo? His driver, Mehmet Dundar, said, “It’s not the horse’s fault.” However, Oreo’s days as a carriage horse are probably over. Carriage horses are sent to farms in the tri-state region when they retire from city carriage duty.
Source: Daily News, “Carriage driver says horse Oreo not to blame,” Aug. 17, 2012.