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DOT: Skillman Avenue Between 54th Street and 49th Street to Remain One Lane

Skillman Avenue and 51st Street (Photo: Queens Post)

April 2, 2019 By Christian Murray

When Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenues were redesigned last August, a stretch of Skillman Avenue from 49th Street and 54th Street was reduced from two lanes to one.

Many protested the lost lane, saying that it led to increased congestion, made it tougher for the FDNY to get to emergencies and increased crashes. Many residents have posted videos to Facebook and Twitter showing backed up traffic, FDNY trucks struggling to turn onto Skillman Avenue, and chaotic traffic conditions outside P.S. 11.

The DOT, however, said yesterday that no change was necessary and that the one lane stretch will remain.

“We will not be restoring the two-lane condition on Skillman Avenue—that’s definitive,” said John O’Neill, Borough planner for the DOT at a Community Board 2 Transportation Committee meeting last night. “The decision has been made and it went through thorough vetting.”

Denise Keehan-Smith, the Chair of Community Board 2, asked O’Neill whether the loss of the lane was putting the safety of the neighborhood at risk, since FDNY trucks had less room to make turns or drive down Skillman Avenue.

She referred to a video where a FDNY truck smashed (see below) into parked cars between 50th and 51st Streets earlier this year.

“We are aware that it happened but I don’t know what to say other than other firetrucks make that turn,” O’Neill said. “The FDNY contends it is sufficient width for a fire truck to go down…we don’t see a design flaw.”

Keehan-Smith also noted that an 18-wheeler had also hit parked cars and that traffic along that portion of Skillman Avenue constantly gets backed up. “I have seen the photos,” she said.

The lost lane has resulted in greater congestion particularly around P.S. 11 and the stores by 50th Street, critics of the plan argue. For instance, when there were two lanes, there was an extra lane for motorists to drive around a double-parked car—often in cases where a parent would drop off a child at P.S. 11 or when a resident would go into a store. While the critics didn’t condone double parking, they said it was a reality.

O’Neill said that the one lane was working and that the DOT had made provision for congestion. He said that the bulk of where the lane was cut on Skillman Avenue is in a residential section of the avenue and in the commercial area—around 50th Street– a loading zone was created.

The loading zone, which was installed on the south side of Skillman Avenue between 51st and 50th Street, however will change.

O’Neill said the parking spaces on that strip—except for in front of Fresh N Save—will be restored to regular parking. Meanwhile, a new loading zone will be on 50th Street, just around the corner on the east side of the street. O’Neill said that trucks have enough width to make the turn onto 50th Street.

Keehan-Smith was doubtful whether the redesign had made Skillman and 43rd Avenues safer, saying that it appears that there are more pedestrians and cyclists being injured.

O’Neill countered that the DOT doesn’t have data to support Keehan-Smith’s observation and that “the designs are based on crash data provided by the NYPD. There is no other way to track it.”

He said redesigns are not based on Facebook or Twitter posts.

But the NYPD crash data is only analyzed on an “annual basis,” according to the DOT. Crashes that are deemed severe are the ones reviewed immediately, said Samantha Dolgoff, Director of Strategic Initiatives, last night.

Sheila Lewandowski, the chair of the Transportation Committee, said that when major design changes are made the DOT should be reviewing the data much sooner than that—as opposed to waiting a year.

Nicole Garcia, the Queens DOT Commissioner, however, said that if there were real issues with Skillman and 43rd Avenues she would have heard about it via the police.

She said that the DOT Borough Commissioners attend a meeting once every two months at One Police Plaza where they are briefed about Vision Zero. She said if there were a problem the NYPD would have brought it to her attention—which has not occurred.

But Lewandowski said the DOT should not be making final determinations when the data hasn’t been reviewed after a year. The discussion should not just end, she said.

“When you say it’s a hard no, I don’t think anything should be hard no until you get through a year,” she said.

Footage captured by the owner of Fresh N Save on Skillman Avenue (Posted by Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce Facebook)

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94 Comments

Tea Lady

Cars drive way too fast on Skillman and cause accidents not because it is narrow but because they want to speed. Two-wheeled vehicles are not ridden by better citizens, they also speed, threaten pedestrians and do not stop at lights. What I want for Skillman are:
– speed bumps at every block, that also cover the bike lane
– traffic cameras that fine offenders

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Stop. At. Red. Lights.

It just sucks that I have to remember to stop mid cross of the street to look both ways AT THE BICYCLE LANES!!

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yeah, looking both ways before you cross the street is really hard

pedestrianism might be a little too advanced for you. Maybe get a Hoverround?

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Princess Vespa

I don’t mean looking both ways in general, I always do. I mean, crossing the car part if the road and then looking both ways AGAIN at the bicycle lane. They. Don’t. Stop. At. Red. Lights.

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Peter Jenkins

It absolutely, 100%, is a design flaw! Do we have to wait until someone gets killed? I’m afraid we won’t have to wait very long.

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The naked truth

This is an example of the populist charade let loose by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. Anecdotal expertise trumps (pun intended) perfectly sound engineering. Loudly voiced complaints create an alternate reality in which all problems stem from the redesign. Is this user speaking with any kind of background in traffic engineering or expertise in street safety? Of course not!

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Sara Ross

I’m in Forest Hills, 1 block from Queens Blvd. Between the bowling pins the Dumba** Office of Transportation put up and the bike lanes for people who: 1. DON’T pay for insurance to NYS, 2. DON’T pay to have their vehicle registered – more money for NYS; and 3. DON’T have to have their vehicle inspected -more money for NYS, it’s disgusting! Not to mention all of the out of state license plates. In my area, there are at least 10 PA license plates, about the same amount from Florida (even during the winter!) and even from CA. Vision zero is more like zero vision. I drive on the weekends (take the moron transit authority during the week) and people cross in the middle of the street (most times they then walk to the corner – never understood that stupidity) or cross against the light. Near my house, cars will go through 4 traffic lights – they’re going so fast that the lights are green. Give the roads back to the people who actually support this State! Now they’ve changed the timing of the traffic lights when cars can go to give people more time to cross the street, which leads to cars going through the red lights because they think they’re broken or some butthead road rage honking his horn for the car in front of him to move. Oh, can somebody PLEASE tell Hatzolah ambulances to stop blaring their horns (also the “unmarked” cars that lead/follow them that you can hear from 10 blocks away? Hatzolah makes more noise than any other ambulance in the area and they make more noise than 5 fire engines. I’m near North Shore and it’s unnerving – it sounds like a WWII air raid!

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Queens Streets for LOL

This is pretty sick. Indeed it reads like a typical comment to posts by the anti-safety group Queens Streets for “All” (Motorists).

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A Woodsider

I drove from Roosevelt to 39th Street four times today. Once in morning, once at 10 am, once at 1 pm and once at 3:20 pm. I saw only one bike, a delivery bike coming at me on the left side. What I did see that was disturbing was at 3:20, a school bus dropping off children. Despite having both stop signs out and lights flashing, four black limo cars and one SUV, actually squeezed past on left, ignoring lights and stop signs. They squeezed past me on left annoyed that I had stopped! People complaining about firemen, hope your home or business never catches fire. Hope you or a member of your family never needs EMS. If you do call a bike rider or JVB or his husband for help. OR anyone else who thinks these bike lanes are great!

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These bike lanes are great!

Stop with the emergency services nonsense already! That spurious and completely contrived argument failed decisively. It’s over!

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Heads Up

Thanks for this post it shows how little some people care about the life and limb of others.

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Crazier things have happened

Its really a war on citizen mobility. People are most mobile with cars. There is going to be a phase out of cars over the next 20 – 50 years via Local Agenda 21 under the guise of “environmental safety”

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makes sense

Agreed, making it easier to get places safely is a “war on citizen mobility”

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Whoop

I never understood this. Can anyone explain the benefit of reducing this stretch to 1 lane? There’s definitely congestion at 52nd to 49th street as a result. It all seems so unnecessary.

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Carbie Barbie

I think it’s part of a deliberate policy to slow traffic down, isn’t it? I mean, isn’t “traffic calming” a stated goal of Vision Zero? Dunno, but think I heard that.

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Whoop

So the DOT wants to create a bottleneck for a few blocks only to let the traffic flow again at 49th Street? I still don’t get it. Are the streets really safer that way? The street lights are set up so you really can’t go over 20 MPH. I wish the Post would have asked more direct questions regarding the benefit of having one lane because I really don’t see any.

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Carbie Barbie

Don’t really know, but I think the idea is to deliberately make driving less attractive so people drive less city wide. I don’t know if they’ve given really specific thought to this intersection, but that in service of the general goal, they’d be okay with the slowdowns there.

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Kudos to DOT

Low traffic volume there simply does not warrant two lanes. You don’t design a street around peak volume. That only induces demand and increases both traffic and dangerous collisions. We now have a functional neighborhood slow zone, and this stretch is clearly the safest part of the redesign. Why would we want to revert to a more dangerous design when we have schools and after school programs on both sides of the avenue? Who would advocate for that and why? It is absolutely necessary to have the safest treatment possible here. Bravo to DOT!

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Gardens Watcher

“…if there were real issues with Skillman and 43rd Avenues she would have heard about it via the police.”

LOL. Police not driving by enough, or walking the beat here to witness the congestion and near-misses.

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Princess Vespa

Correct. Just the other day the police FINALLY got around to towing a car that has been parked on our block for “two years”. What took so long?

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skillzman

why are there 18 wheelers on skillman in the first place? Other than fresh ands ave no reason for them on this local street.

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gagf

Most of them are actually illegal to drive in the city but the NYPD doesn’t enforce it.

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Princess Vespa

There’s a construction site by my school at the Hub Bronx. I just saw a 22 wheeler flatbed trailer going to the site.

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rgf sunnyside

and donald trump is still president.. sometimes we make mistakes but don’t want to admit the folly of our decisions

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Reclaim Skillman

I am starting a petition to solve these problems once and for all…Skillman should become a pedestrian only street.

If we remove all traffic from the and create a pedestrian arcade we won’t have traffic backed up on Skillman or traffic accidents. Maybe we could install a dog run in the middle?

It will be beautiful.

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Gardens Watcher

“Immoral Society” is back under a different name as Reclaim Skillman. Go Dream big about Sunnyside Yards, but Skillman needs to stay open to fire trucks & all other vehicles.

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Heads Up

This accident has nothing to do with skillman being 1 lane at that stretch. The original video posted in the fall shows fdny unable to make a turn due to cars being double parked.

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No bagels for Sunnyside until it behaves

It is fascinating that a #shakyvideo from before Thanksgiving is still being discussed.

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Johnny

A foot of snow will close the whole neighbour hood the way these lanes are now.

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Just Curious

Is there an explanation as to why Skillman became narrower on these few blocks and not further done the road? It does not make immediate sense why the street narrows and then widens again.

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Gardens Watcher

The entire width of upper Skillman seems the same width as the lower section down the hill. But there’s an extra-wide perimeter around the parked cars bordering the bike lane on these upper blocks. WHY? Good question! Guessing it’s to slow traffic, but it has caused congestion, confusion & near misses. Speed limit is marked 20mph on the street but bikes, scooters, mopeds & motorbikes are exceeding that on a regular basis & blowing thru red lights.

DOT: Put in street cameras if you need proof. Don’t wait for a police report.

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Anonymous

No, I asked the community board and was not given an answer. If you’re a passenger being dropped off on this block and the small corner spot for pulling up is already in use, the car has to pull up in the middle of the block and double park which means the passenger has to either walk directly into the oncoming traffic lane as there’s no buffer space or walk into the bike lane which is now obscured by the line of cars.

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Princess Vespa

Eeehhh… The video only shows the (rare) disregard the fire truck driver had for safety. I get the tightness and why fresh and save sent Sunnyside post this video but all it really caught was second fire truck speeding (You could tell by the way the car bounced).

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P. Beadle

Actually that video isn’t even on Skillman – it is a side street with a regular class 2 bike lane, not the protected lane that is now on Skillman. And in any event, it shows a reckless FDNY driver. The first FDNY truck, same width, sped through with no problem. Its a bit confusing why this video is appended to the story

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Princess Vespa

No it’s not. It’s on skillman and you see the trolly corral! That is on skillman!

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Gardens Watcher

This is Skillman. Shopping carts are by the entrance, not on the side street.

And the second truck has the Ladder so it’s extra long and needs more room to make the turn onto Skillman. That’s the point of the video. Speeding? I hope so! I want my FDNY to get to the fire ASAP.

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Queens Streets for LOL

I love love LOVE the damper this news must have put on the Sunnyside Chamber’s bumbling NIMBY of the year award ceremony. They seemed so sure they had a win with this one, but alas, another stinging and completely predictable defeat for that odious group of people. How much losing can one take? It’s time to call it a day, methinks.

Florida sounds pretty good, Pat. But as a warning they’re expanding the bike lane network too!

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gagf

Good!

This is a residential neighborhood, not a freeway or a race track.

If you want to drive fast take the LIE.

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Carbie Barbie

Are you suggesting nobody drives fast out there on those long, straight stretches of highway in the midwest?

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Ken M

The midwest has much higher speed limits. Might wanna rethink your rehashed comback.

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Stick it to them!

Just start suing the DOT! They’ll change it faster than you can say “MTA Fare hike”

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VelvetKnight

To use one of the more common anti-bike lane arguments: Most of that traffic is from people who aren’t from the neighborhood anyway, so why change our roads to accommodate them? Let them drive on Queens Blvd.

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Queens born and bred

Exactly! People can use other roads, particularly main ones like Queens Boulevard. There are too many cars on the road anyway.
And the argument that bike lanes aren’t being used is ridiculous; they have only recently been implemented! It will take a bit for people to feel safe and use them because currently most drivers are very aggressive and frankly bad.

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VelvetKnight

They were used. It takes time for new people to get used to the idea of biking and start doing it. You build infrastructure for the needs you WILL have, not the needs you had 50 years ago.

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Princess Vespa

It takes time for people to get used to it? Really?

It only takes time to get used to making sure we look both ways before crossing the bike lane regardless of the white walk man symbol. The. Don’t. Stop.

I personally thank those who do. So I have thanked 4 people so far.

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VelvetKnight

I think you misunderstood my comment. I was saying it takes time for NEW people to start biking as it gradually becomes safer and they learn how much better it can be to get around.

The safer streets become, the more NEW people start biking and using the lanes. It’s not about how many people used the lanes the day they opened, it’s about how many will start using them in the future.

Looking both ways is a totally different topic, but regardless I’ve never understood why people don’t look both ways before crossing a street under any circumstances. If you’re anything like me, you had the idea pounded into your head since elementary school to the point it’s automatic. You actually have to make a point of un-learning it to not look both ways on a one-way street. Doesn’t seem worth the effort.

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bikes are toys for kids

most bikers go through red lights, stop signs, drive aggressively & recklessly. driving in and out of the city each day I see nothing but tour de france wannabes breaking the law. I’m surprised more aren’t hit. They are more of a danger to pedestrians than cars in sunnyside.

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Great point, motorists have never broken a single law and always drive responsibly

Have you ever ran a stop sign or driven faster than the speed limit?

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Princess Vespa

Many drivers get caught and fined doing these infractions. Cyclists are too fast for the cops to do anything about. That is if the cops happen to see it.

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princess

Hey, how about we all park within the bike lanes to make the driving lane wider?

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VelvetKnight

Better yet, remove a lane of parking. Cars already get 3 of 4 lanes on that street. Let them choose how they want to use those 3 lanes.

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Les Grossman

It will take the loss of someone’s life for DOT to realise their mistake while CB 2 is ignored. Meanwhile JVB’s husband got his seldom used bike lanes

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Native New Yorker

Somebody did die, Les. That’s how we got the protected bike lanes in the first place.

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silly bike lanes

A complete overreaction to that death. Guess what…another biker will get killed eventually on this same stretch of road, especially with the way bikers flaunt the rules of the road. What will the DOT do then? Make an elevated track for all 10 people that use them each day?

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Princess Vespa

The bikers need to pay attention and obey the traffic laws. End of story!

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Princess Vespa

All the downvoters apparently are cyclists who think they crap rainbows and ice cream cones. You. Are. The. Problem.

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Ever driven faster than the speed limit?

Agreed. As soon as drivers start paying attention and obey the traffic laws, the cyclists will to.

Carbie Barbie

Hadn’t seen that video. But sorry–that just seems like bad driving on the part of the firetruck. How do you hit a parked car?

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Princess Vespa

THANK YOU!!! FT2 was speeding and obviously not looking!!! That car flew!

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VelvetKnight

Unfortunately the video only shows the actual hit, not what happens before it.

People are claiming the truck turned onto Skillman and didn’t have a wide enough turn radius. But if that was true it would make a lot more sense for it to have hit the cars on the far side of the road, not the near side as the video shows.

My assessment could be wrong too (though it’s more likely than the alternate), but without seeing the context it’s impossible to know the truth for sure. But that hasn’t stopped people like Keehan-Smith and Queens Streets for “All” from claiming otherwise.

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Princess Vespa

How could they claim that? You can’t struggle with maneuvering a turn when you go BARRELING DOWN the street!!!

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Native New Yorker

Yeah, that fire truck wasn’t steering around any obstacles. Do firefighters who drive the trucks need CDL licenses? That driver should’ve gone back to drivers ed.

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Tiredo Umorons

You obviously haven’t driven a large Vehicle. Firemen are supposed to respond to Emergencies QUICKLY.

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VelvetKnight

I’ve driven large enough vehicles to know that a wide turn radius means if I’m not careful I might hit the cars on the FAR side of the street, not the near side like the video shows.

I can’t even imagine a way I’d pass the far cars with no problem and then smack the near cars apart from overcompensating, which would be MY fault, not the street’s.

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bartstone

Leave the lanes as is! We have to do everything to protect bike riders from getting hurt!!! Except require them to wear helmets, they don’t look cool. Or require them to obey the rules of the road – they can run red lights and turn whenever because they aren’t using a car. Oh and if the lanes snarl up traffic and delay the FDNY that’s ok too, safety first.

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Native New Yorker

I’ve never seen a cyclist kill a vehicle driver in an accident but the other way around has happened far too often.

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Stoppa deNonsense

Bicyclists should be Licensed and Insured, if not they shouldn’t be permitted on the Public Roads. They have caused pedestrian deaths and injuries, and tend to pass vehicles on the right side, which is contributing to their own accidents. They frequently move into motor vehicles “Blind Spots”, because they don’t observe Traffic Rules.

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No bagels for Sunnyside until it behaves

Ah, the Licensed and Insured trope. And are Sunnyside’s (ahem) fiscal conservatives gonna support an entirely new branch of licensing and admin bureaucracy from City Hall? Tell us Ideas Guy, what are costs associated with licensing bikes?

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Princess Vespa

Who cares about the costs? They don’t obey the laws of the road and they are in general dangerous and selfish. They are considered operators of vehicles so they should be held accountable.

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just sayin

there are no costs associated with licensing…the fees that will be charged will cover the administration and processing of the licenses

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Gardens Watcher

Not City Hall, but at a minimum NYS DMV could issue bike licenses. Bikers could and should be required to have insurance.

Now that Congestion Pricing is coming, bikers could be required to have an EZ Pass to enter the Fee Zone in Manhattan. Share the road, share the responsibilities & costs. Why should bikers, scooters, etc. get to use the bridges for free, but drivers & mass transit riders have to pay?

No bagels for Sunnyside until it behaves

Do you honestly think DMV would just absorb those tasks & costs? I’d love to see your business plan for that trick. (And to your CP proposal, no, because Albany passed the CP because the adults are finally in the room to check Cuomo and not his IDC dirtbag buddies)(you should get off SSP and organize better. The CP supporters did and that’s why IDC got swept away). Hey, you should organize a Safe Streets rally (in the middle of an intersection again) that no sitting elected will come within 500 yards of.

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bikes r scary!

From 1996 to 2005, 11 pedestrians across New York City died after being struck by bicyclists.

Most of the victims were older than 60, and THREE had disregarded traffic signals. From 2006 to 2013, there were just four pedestrian deaths, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. That’s about 1 death every 2 years.

Cars killed 114 pedestrians LAST YEAR.

Are you THIS misinformed about every you rant about?

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Princess Vespa

No, but stop thinking that bicycles and bicyclists are impervious to negativity.

No one can write down your license plate when you mow an elderly person down.

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lol

The cyclist that struck a pedestrian in Central Park a while ago was arrested.

How is that possible when “No one can write down your license plate”??! 🤣

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Put this to rest

Good on DOT to finally definitively put this to rest. The design was not and is not flawed. That video was of a driver error, nothing more nothing less. The street is safer for everyone, including firefighters. Rejoice!

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Gardens Watcher

Not really. The single lane is a problem and the honking noise in that stretch is noticeably worse. Midday today I watched the ladder truck squeak by a double-parked car on Skillman near 49th Street. Luckily this time it was not racing to respond to an emergency.

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