Nov. 29, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Thumbtacks have been found in Sunnyside’s newly-installed protected bike lanes, with many believing that the sharp objects were intentionally placed by opponents of the controversial lanes in an attempt to damage bicycles and hurt cyclists.
The alarming incident first came to the fore in a Facebook post on a local Sunnyside page just before 10:30 a.m. today, where a man, father to young children, wrote that the tires on his bike and on the bike cart he carried his kids in were blown out yesterday as he rode through 43rd Avenue.
He then wrote that he found thumbtacks in the 43rd Avenue bike lanes yet again this morning, scattered through four unspecified blocks.
“I just want it to be known that whomever did this is obviously in opposition against this [sic] already existing bike lanes and their protest could have seriously injured or even killed me or one of my kids,” he wrote.
The incident eventually reached Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, who wrote just after 1 p.m. today that the thumbtacks represent a “new low” by those opposed to the lanes.
“I regard this as a criminal act and we have asked the 108th Precinct to investigate it as such,” the council member wrote on Facebook.
Van Bramer’s post was accompanied by an image of thumbtacks in a protected bike lane and another showing multiple thumbtacks picked up from the lane in a gloved palm, which were taken by his office shortly before the 1 p.m. post.
The council member’s office said they scoped out the 43rd Avenue protected bike lane between 43rd and 47th Streets shortly after the incident reached their ears through multiple reports, and removed at least 17 thumbtacks from the lane.
“…The increasingly desperate campaign against [the bike lanes] is now riling up the worst elements of our community and inspiring criminal vigilantism,” Van Bramer wrote. “No matter where you’ve stood on the bike lane debate, we should all be disgusted by how negative and now dangerous the opposition against them has become.”
It is unclear if thumbtacks were also strewn through the protected bike lanes on Skillman Avenue.
The incident has rattled the neighborhood and is yet another episode in the more-than-a-year-long saga over the Department of Transportation’s redesign of Skillman and 43rd Avenues, which was implemented over the summer after receiving the go-ahead from Mayor Bill de Blasio.
It follows a protest held just last weekend by Queens Streets for All, a local group in staunch opposition to the redesign, which claims that the changes to the roadways have made the two avenues more dangerous and that it has cost businesses along the stretch.
It also comes after a family-fun bike ride held the weekend before that, which celebrated the bike lanes and overall roadway changes for enhancing safety in the neighborhood.
Queens Streets for All wrote on social media that the reports of thumbtacks in the bike lanes are “terrifying.”
“If true, no one associated with Queens Streets for All is responsible,” the group wrote on Twitter. “We condemn such a criminal act.”
Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives, which advocated strongly for the protected bike lanes, said thumbtacks have never been weaponized for this use in other boroughs, to his knowledge.
“Using thumbtacks as a weapon against the many commuters, families and delivery cyclists who use the 43rd and Skillman Ave protected bike lanes for their livelihood, is intended to create unnecessary danger and scare cyclists from using these lanes,” Restrepo said in a statement.
While the victim of the thumbtacks incident was not able to be reached by press time, he said on Facebook that the point of his post is to at least send a message to the culprit (or culprits) to stop before someone gets hurt.
“If you are in opposition to the bike lanes, then petition the city, start a campaign, do whatever you want, but please, do not take actions that can physically harm me, my kids and for all you know someone in opposition of the bike lanes if their [sic] in the path of a blowout,” he wrote.