May 29, 2018 By Nathaly Pesantez
Activists will be forming a human bike lane in Sunnyside next week in a final bid for the city to install protected bike lanes before Community Board 2 votes on the measures for Skillman and 43rd Avenues the following day.
The “people-protected” bike lane, organized by Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Volunteer Committee, will form near the intersection of 39th Street and 43rd Avenue on June 6 from 6:15 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The intersection was where Gelacio Reyes was killed while cycling last year, and where another cyclist was hit just days later. The two incidents sparked the call for safety improvements through the corridor, which resulted in the DOT’s controversial plan featuring installing protected bike lanes through the two avenues while eliminating a combined 116 parking spaces.
Community Board 2 is scheduled to vote on the plan at its monthly meeting June 7.
While many support the DOT’s plan, opponents fear that the loss of parking spaces would hurt businesses and make a bad parking situation in the neighborhood worse.
The “people-protected” bike lane, the first to be formed in Queens, is an attempt by advocates to demonstrate the physical separation they believe is needed between cyclists and cars. A painted bike lane, where cars can dip in and out of, is simply not enough, they say.
“When the city won’t provide the infrastructure, cyclists provide their bodies for safety,” said Macartney Morris, Chair of the Transportation Alternatives Queens Activist Committee. “When the city, Community Board 2, and other leaders won’t give us the safety that we need, we put our bodies on the line.”
Morris said the event is also a way for safe streets advocates to come out and show their support, and remind the community of the decisive vote taking place the following evening.
The length of the people-protected bike lane will depend on the number of volunteers and supporters that show up, but could see at least 25 to 30 people—enough to form on one block. Attendees will not be at the intersection itself, but rather on the eastern side of 43rd Avenue, along the painted line of the existing bike lane.
Cones, flags, and safety vests will be laid out at the event, and attendees are welcome to join from the sidelines or take part in the protected bike lane itself, Morris said.
The Transportation Alternatives volunteer added that attendees will make sure cars are able to park and go during the event.
People-protected bike lanes have formed in Manhattan and other parts across the country, and have been met with a positive response by cyclists and pedestrians, Morris said.
Those interested in attending can RSVP through the Facebook event page or contact Transportation Alternatives at [email protected].
Community Board 2’s vote may have no real impact on the plan in any case.
In 2016, Community Board 4 voted no to protected bike lanes along Queens Boulevard, but were overruled by Mayor Bill de Blasio and Council Member Daniel Dromm. And last week, the agency told Community Board 6, while presenting phase four of the Queens Boulevard redesign, that it would not require the approval of the board to move ahead, as the project is a “mayoral priority.”
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has not taken a stance on the plan, instead noting that he wanted to hear from as many people as possible before making a decision.