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Jimmy Van Bramer

Protected Bike Lanes on 43rd and Skillman Will Make Woodside Streets Safer. Will Van Bramer Support Them?

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer in January alongside P.S. 11 students, parents, and teachers. Photo: David Meyer

NYC DOT is following through on Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer's request for pedestrian crossings at P.S. 11 and P.S. 343. Van Bramer had made those crossings a precondition for supporting protected bike lanes on 43rd Avenue and Skillman Avenue, though he still won't endorse the DOT project. The next step, says Van Bramer, is to hold a "town hall" on the redesign.

Queens residents who bike on 43rd and Skillman, meanwhile, want to regain momentum for a street safety project that's ready to go and promises major benefits for the borough's bicycle network. As the winter recedes, more people will be biking on 43rd and Skillman to access the Queensboro Bridge, and the current design has proven inadequate to keep them safe.

Last April, Van Bramer and Community Board 2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith called on DOT to install protected bike lanes on these two streets, after a driver struck and killed cyclist Gelacio Reyes at the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 39th Street.

Seven months later, DOT came to the CB 2 transportation committee with a redesign that delivered on that demand [PDF]. By then, however, Keehan-Smith's zeal for street safety had dissipated. She said the conversion of 158 parking spots to make room for the bike lanes was "highly unreasonable."

The parking issue appears to have spooked Van Bramer as well. He told Streetsblog two weeks ago that his reluctance to endorse the redesign stemmed from "grave concerns from business owners."

While the redesign of 43rd and Skillman was simmering on the backburner, Van Bramer pressed DOT to improve pedestrian crossings at P.S. 11 on Skillman and P.S. 343 on 47th Avenue, which he said the agency had to address before he would consider supporting the protected bike lanes. Then two weeks ago, he said action on the school crossings was a precondition just for holding a town hall on the redesign.

Last week, DOT said it will install signalized crossings at Skillman and 54th Street, and it is working on pedestrian safety strategies for P.S. 343.

We contacted Van Bramer this morning to see how that has affected his position on the redesign of 43rd and Skillman, which would further improve safety at P.S. 11 by narrowing the right-of-way for motor vehicles.

Van Bramer said he trusts DOT's assurances that it will deliver an effective solution at P.S. 343, and that DOT is looking to schedule a new date for a town hall on the protected bike lanes. (Van Bramer's office postponed the initial town hall, which was scheduled back in November.)

Van Bramer did not say that he supports the redesign of 43rd and Skillman.

Queens bike advocates, meanwhile, are reminding Van Bramer, CB 2, and DOT that lives are at stake. Transportation Alternatives' Queens committee turned out more than 50 people the Sunnyside St. Pat's for All Parade to proudly declare their support for the redesign. They received mostly positive reactions from onlookers, said committee chair Macartney Morris.

"DOT's plan to make Skillman and 43rd Avenues safer should be given a fair hearing by the community without further delay," said Morris. "The thousands of Queens pedestrians and cyclists who use this corridor daily deserve the safest streets possible and nothing less. Each day we delay only continues to leave their lives at risk."

We contacted DOT for more information about the forthcoming town hall. Keep your eyes on the calendar for updates.

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