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Hit-and-Run Driver Kills Steven Morales, 36, Cycling on LaGuardia Access Road

Police are searching for the driver who struck and killed Steven Morales before fleeing the scene near this intersection at LaGuardia Airport last night. Photo: Google Maps

A hit-and-run driver struck and killed Steven Morales, 36, as he biked on an access road by LaGuardia Airport last night.

Morales lived in Queens and worked for air cargo-handling company Swissport. The perpetrator struck him at around 7:20 p.m. and fled the scene, according to Port Authority police. Morales was taken to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

The Port Authority did not provide further information on the crash. According to unnamed police sources cited by the New York Post, the collision occurred at Marine Terminal Road and Runway Drive. The driver has not been apprehended.

For airport employees, biking to work has become an increasingly attractive option as ongoing construction and rising for-hire vehicle trips slow down motor vehicle traffic. The MTA makes Q70 bus service to the airport free during busy travel weekends, but the bus is still stuck in mixed traffic with private cars and taxis.

Eric Harold works as an aircraft technician at LaGuardia and has commuted by bike from his home in Flushing for several years. The area where Morales was killed has no bike infrastructure and is poorly-lit because it runs adjacent to the runway, he said.

The conditions pose risks for a growing number of people bicycling at LaGuardia, according to Harold, who says bike racks at the airport have gotten more full over time. In addition to bike commuting, many airport workers are employed by multiple companies and use their bikes to get from one job to another, he added.

Park-and-bike commutes are also common. "You have a lot of construction workers who park in East Elmhurst or whatever, and you get airport workers who cannot afford the parking lot,” Harold said. "They park on the street and they pull out a bicycle from their cars and they bike over."

That's not all. Delivery workers and neighborhood residents picking up or dropping off rental cars comprise another significant source of bike traffic at the airport, said Cristina Furlong of the local advocacy group Make Queens Safer.

The Port Authority's 2010 "Bicycle Master Plan" called for bike lanes at two of the airport's entrances, 102nd Street and Marine Terminal Road, by the end of 2011 [PDF]. The latter bike lane would have extended almost to the site where Morales was struck. Neither bike lane has been implemented, according to the latest images on Google Maps.

If the Port Authority had followed through on that plan, Steven Morales might be alive today. And as long as there's no safe cycling access at the airport, many more LaGuardia workers and visitors will remain at risk.

"Bike commuting from Astoria, from Jackson Heights, from Flushing is a real viable way [to gather there]," Furlong said. "This should be a warning sign to make it accessible and safe for the people working there."

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