Jean-Pierre Prusack, a portfolio manager, had cycled in New York’s Central Park for seven years. Jill Tarlov’s death halted his rounds.

“Let’s just stop going to do laps at this point. I’m done,” he recalled telling his riding partner after the Sept. 18 incident, when Tarlov, a 58-year-old mother of two from Connecticut, was struck by a cyclist while crossing the West Drive. She died four days later.

The accident is sparking soul-searching on online bicycle forums and renewing public debate about whether a sport born on the open road can co-exist with millions of cars, trucks, yellow taxis, pedicabs, runners, skaters, dogs straining at extended leashes, gaping tourists and oblivious pedestrians transfixed by smartphones.

The U.S. bicycle industry has remained stable since 2003, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, with $5.8 billion in sales last year. Yet for people in the financial industry, the sport is more popular than ever. Cycling and triathlons are a natural fit in a field that thrives on competition and that prizes speed and numbers. Two wheels can also provide an escape.

“They go riding now instead of going to play golf,” said Nelson Gutierrez, owner of Strictly Bicycles in Fort Lee, New Jersey, a store near U.S. Route 9W, a popular route for New York cyclists. Weekends see herds of brightly attired lycra-clad athletes streaming over the George Washington Bridge and north toward Nyack like a rolling rainbow.

Expensive Hobby

A Wall Street salary can fund an expensive hobby. Four of the world’s fastest triathlon bikes tested by Inside Triathlon magazine last year ranged in price from $5,500 to $12,000. Component manufacturers rank their cycle parts in tiers, providing near-infinite opportunities to upgrade and shave precious grams.

“Like anything else, if you’re passionate about a hobby, whether it’s cars or wine, you can spend a lot of money on it,” said Brian Lee, 42, a high-yield bond salesman at Morgan Stanley who has competed in 15 triathlons, including two Ironman events, which include a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon.

Prusack, who now trains outside the city, rides a Parlee Z5, whose carbon-fiber frame costs $4,900. The decision to avoid Central Park came easily for him.

“It’s a beautiful place,” said Prusack, a 33-year-old Greenwich Village resident who works at the First National Bank of Long Island in Garden City. “It’s just not for me. It may be tempting, but I prefer to ride farther out, away from the people and away from the cars.”

Second Death

Tarlov’s death was the second fatality involving a pedestrian hit by a cyclist in Central Park in less than two months. It happened weeks after police finished a cycle-safety initiative under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to eliminate pedestrian traffic deaths. Officers cited thousands of cyclists for infractions including failing to stop at red lights or yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk. Police have since increased their presence in the park.

A day after the collision, Valentina Marletta, 35, walked with her two young children and husband as cyclists cruised by.

“They don’t stop,” she said. “Even with the stroller and the kids, they don’t stop.”

Tabloid Frenzy

Tarlov’s death was meat for the city’s tabloids. The New York Post put the story on its front page for four days, with headlines including “Cycle of ’Death’” and “Speed Demons.”

“They’re terrorists on wheels,” columnist Andrea Peyser wrote on Sept. 19. “Assassins in Spandex. The bicycle menaces must be stopped. It’s already too late.”

Cyclists say they’re being vilified and that a city of 8.4 million people should be able to accommodate all forms of responsible recreation. New York is criss-crossed each day not only by part-time athletes, but also commuters on blue shared bikes and people delivering documents, goods and a movable feast of ethnic cuisine.

“We’re not all the same, and I hope that doesn’t somehow all get lost in the mix,” said Gibson Lawrence, a banker at Mortgage Master Inc. in Manhattan who’s ridden with Jason Marshall, the cyclist who struck Tarlov. “I hope that there can be some rationality brought into this dialogue.”

Marshall, who posted his Central Park cycling times online, hasn’t been charged and his speed couldn’t be determined, according to police. The bicycle speed limit in Central Park is 25 miles per hour (40 kilometers per hour).

No Reflection

Like Lawrence, Marshall was a member of the New York Cycle Club, the city’s largest, with more than 2,000 members. Two days after the accident, on the club’s online message board, a fellow member proposed a moratorium on club rides in the park. Veteran cyclist Hank Schiffman responded by calling the collision a statistical outlier.

“This was ’man bites dog,’” wrote Schiffman, a 65-year- old Manhattan endodontist and 17-year cycle club member, who is also an award-winning runner. “As tragic as it is, in no way does it reflect cycling being unsafe in the numbers and miles cycled in New York City.”

From 2006 to 2013, there were four pedestrian deaths from cyclists, according to the city’s Transportation Department. By comparison, last year alone 168 pedestrians and 11 cyclists were killed by motorists, according to police statistics.

New York officials have encouraged cycling and helped to expand its popularity by installing hundreds of miles of bike lanes and introducing Citi Bike, the sharing program that supplements the public-transportation network.

Lee, the Morgan Stanley bond trader, refuses to train in the city. There’s a higher risk of becoming the victim of an accident than causing one, he said.

“It’s flat-out dangerous,” said Lee. “You can’t control the environment -- there’s cars, people, gravel, sand, glass. Bad things can happen. It’s not a question of if you’ll get hit by a car, but when.”