Yes, There’s Room for a Protected Bike Lane on 43rd Avenue

Queens advocates are pressing DOT for a protected bike lane on the heavily-used bicycle route where a drunk driver killed Gelacio Reyes in April.

This concept for a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside emphasizes safety for cyclists and pedestrians at intersections. Image: Max Sholl
This concept for a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside emphasizes safety for cyclists and pedestrians at intersections. Image: Max Sholl

In April, a drunk driver killed Gelacio Reyes, 32, on 43rd Avenue at 39th Street as he biked home in the early morning from work in Midtown Manhattan. Now advocates are renewing their call for DOT to install a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue and its westbound counterpart, Skillman Avenue, which connect the Queensboro Bridge to the protected bike lanes on Queens Boulevard.

Both streets have painted bike lanes that are often blocked by double-parked cars. Paint was not enough to protect Reyes from the driver that struck and killed him, nor did it prevent another driver from critically injuring David Nunez, 27, at the same location ten days later.

Following those crashes, Reyes’s widow Flor Jimenez joined local advocates and Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer at the intersection to demand a protected bike lane on 43rd Avenue. In the last month, 350 people have signed a Transportation Alternatives petition calling for protected bike lanes on both 43rd and Skillman.

One supporter is Queens native and Williamsburg resident Max Sholl, who put together a concept, above, for a redesign of 43rd Avenue that narrows the existing car lanes to make room for a five-foot bike lane with a two-foot buffer.

This stretch of 43rd Avenue is 42 feet wide. In Sholl’s concept, the motor vehicle travel lanes are 10 feet wide, but they could be narrower, since neither 43rd Avenue nor Skillman Avenue are bus or truck routes, which would allow for a wider bike lane. Skillman Avenue is as wide or wider than 43rd Avenue in this area.

Sholl’s intersection design borrows from the concept DOT put forward for protected bike lanes on Brooklyn’s 4th Avenue, which puts concrete pedestrian islands on both sides of the intersection, and places the stop bar for cyclists past the crosswalk in order to make them more visible to turning drivers.

Both 43rd and Skillman streets play an integral role in Queens’ burgeoning bike lane network. So far, however, DOT hasn’t said that protected bike lanes are under consideration. A DOT spokesperson told DNAinfo last week that the agency will present a proposal for safety improvements at the location where Reyes was killed, but did not indicate plans to redesign the whole street.

  • AnoNYC

    I like his proposal but why does the bike lane dip towards the crosswalk? Why not just extend the crosswalk to the actual sidewalk? And yes I’m aware that the DOT proposed the same layout for 4th Ave, but why?

  • Nick Ober

    I think the idea is to allow cars making rights to make a complete 90 degree turn so that they are able to see crossing cyclists and pedestrians head on. Unless the bike lane is slightly recessed, it’s impossible for the car to make a complete turn.

  • J

    So DOT is going to fix the ONE intersection where Reyes was killed and not the dozens of identical intersections along the corridor? Will someone have to die at each intersection for DOT to make it safe? Is this seriously what Vision Zero looks like?

  • AnoNYC

    Is this a common practice in other cities with protected intersections?

  • rao

    That is the proper way to do a protected lane at an intersection–not DOT’s dangerous mixing zones. And it mimics actual cyclist behavior at intersections–many cyclists dip into the crosswalk.

  • Jason

    How important is that in a city with no right-on-red?

  • Nick Ober

    Pretty important unless DOT adds split phase signaling to all intersections. Until that happens, we’ll still have the dangerous situation of cars making turns into folks on bikes and on foot. The hope is that this design at least slows the turn and gives everyone more visibility than the current “mixing zones” do.

  • Nick Ober

    This isn’t the greatest implementation of a protected intersection — ideally that zebra section to the right of the pedestrian island would be cast in concrete for instance — but most international designs I’ve seen have at least some form of a recessed bike lane.

  • Jason

    Ah, somehow my thoughts got stuck on cyclists coming from the driver’s left. Good point, thanks.