A Driver Killed a Cyclist at LaGuardia, So the Port Authority Restricted Biking

Instead of taking steps to make cycling safer after a hit-and-run driver killed airport worker Steven Morales, the Port Authority banned cycling on the road where Morales was killed.

Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero
Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero

In February, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed LaGuardia Airport worker Steven Morales as he was biking home from the central terminal. But instead of taking steps to make streets safer for the growing number of people biking to the airport, the Port Authority has banned cycling on the road where Morales was killed and at all but two designated routes on the airport campus.

As of this past Sunday, cyclists must enter the airport at one of two entrances, Marine Terminal Road or 94th Street, and park their bikes at nearby “approved bicycle rack locations” at Hangar 7 South and the Terminal B Garage. The rules were laid out in an April 11 memo from LaGuardia General Manager Lysa C. Scully [PDF].

Cyclists are no longer permitted on Runway Drive (where Morales was struck), the 27th Avenue entrance (which provides access to the eastern end of LGA from Flushing Bay Promenade), or on any interior airport roads other than the two designated routes. Except for the two approved bike parking locations, all other bike racks will be removed.

The two designated routes have “distinguished pavement markings and signage” directing cyclists to the bike racks, a Port Authority spokesperson said.

In order to access airport locations where biking is not allowed, people have to take shuttle buses, which LaGuardia workers have said are cumbersome and time-consuming.

Cyclists are not only permitted to enter and park their bikes at two authorized locations. Image: PANYNJ
The green routes mark the only places where people are allowed to bike at LaGuardia as of this past Sunday. Image: PANYNJ

More people are biking to LaGuardia, particularly since airport construction expanded about a year ago. At certain times of the day, automobile traffic is so bad that biking is the only way for airport employees to get to work on time. In addition, delivery workers and neighborhood residents picking up or dropping off rental cars bike at the airport.

And yet, the Port Authority has done little to build safe infrastructure to accommodate cycling, let alone encourage it. In 2010, the agency released a “bicycle master plan” that proposed bike lanes at the Marine Terminal Road and 102nd Street entrances [PDF]. Neither bike lane was implemented. By the Marine Terminal Road entrance, there’s only signage indicating a bike route.

A Port Authority spokesperson told Streetsblog the bike policy will be reevaluated again in a year, and annually thereafter.

After Morales’s death, airport workers who spoke to Streetsblog predicted a knee-jerk Port Authority bike ban. The agency proved them right.

Eric Harold, an airline technician who bikes to LaGuardia from his home in Flushing, said the new bike racks by Terminal B are “plentiful,” but unsecure. The Port Authority recently eliminated staff car parking spots, but hasn’t put serious effort into improving bike access in and around the airport, Harold said.

The entrance at 27th Avenue from the Flushing Promenade was the safest route for cyclists. Now that it’s sealed off, they’ll have to enter from Ditmars Boulevard, which Harold described as a “highway-like experience.”

“You’re not giving people enough parking spaces and you’re not giving them any alternatives,” he said. “Leading up to the airport, there’s no infrastructure for bikes.”

“The plan seems more aligned to get people to a point than directly to their destination,” said air traffic controller Aazam Otero, another bike commuter. “So people will subvert it, naturally.”
  • Setty/Steven

    Are those streets not public highways? If they are, doesn’t state law require that they allow bikes?

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    This is simply immoral and regressive, and to do so while the Airport is being renovated shows how backward looking the people in charge are.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If the Port Authority wants them to drive, it should make sure they are paid enough and have enough free parking to drive.

    But since such a small share of New Yorkers are in that situation, why would they do that? And since parking is the biggest revenue generator at the airport, why would they want their employees taking up spaces?

    The only way to redeems this is to have an extensive bike circulation and parking plan implanted when the airport is finished.

  • J

    sounds like the Black Hawk, CO case, where they tried to ban bicycling in the town, and it was ruled unconstitutional.
    https://www.denverpost.com/2013/02/04/colorado-supreme-court-overturns-black-hawks-ban-on-bikes-in-city/

  • Elizabeth F

    LGA is currently under construction. Rather than fighting over bicycle access in 2018, what’s the status of the long-term strategy to include bicycle accessibility in the overall rebuilding project?

  • Elizabeth F

    Englewood, NJ has banned biking from a road. So far, no one has challenged it to the best of my knowledge.

  • Adrian Horczak

    If someone committed a hate crime in the airport by killing an LGBT individual, by the same logic, Port Authority would ban LGBT people from some areas.

  • you’re looking at it. “Banned”, that’s the strategy

  • Elizabeth F

    No… I mean, the strategy of bike advocates to do something about it. Apparently, bike lanes were PA’s 2010 master plan for LGA, but then they silently “forgot” about them. Who is going to take PA to task over this one? Where is TA?

    In the meantime, PA’s ban may be illegal. I’d like to see their legal justification, and see the ban tested in court. The last time anyone tried to ban bikes in NYC, it was deemed illegal.

    https://www.nytimes.com/1987/07/23/nyregion/new-york-to-ban-bicycles-on-3-major-avenues.html

  • The PA’s ban SHOULD be illegal but the PA is incorporated into a legal nether-region where nothing applies to them. They can do as they like, as if they were diplomats who owned consular land here. That should be a political issue for both states, and it’s the reason why goons like Robert Moses were so insidious (that generation laid the framework for this & set off a whole other bunch of ill-effects), but it never comes up with elected officials because voters largely do not react to it. We need to do an entire generation’s work to convince voters that infrastructure with modern design = humane infrastructure, and that government that underfunds infrastructure is unacceptable.

    As for “what’s our strategy” you should ask each organization what they plan to do. Just send them each an email.

    As far as I know, the lack of any visible announcements is a glaring cue that they’re not interested in taking on the PA. I have been attentive to this on a daily basis for 4-5 years and nothing has come up. There are some things I feel about this topic that I’m not saying, things that are cynical and pessimistic, but advocacy orgs can unite to address this if they are told by their members that this should be a priority. If you don’t see it being treated as a priority, there’s no secret effort or low-key plan… it’s just not being addressed.

  • Jeff

    Where in Englewood are bikes banned?

  • Elizabeth F
  • djx

    I assume that it was the Palisades Interstate Park Commission that controls that road and banned it, not the town. Am I wrong?

    PIPC, like PANYNJ, is one of those weird governmental hybrids

  • JarekFA

    Also can’t bike at National Historic Site Green-Wood cemetery. For safety and spiritual reasons. Oh, you can drive a car there. You don’t need an official purpose. But a bike, GTFOH. I tried going with my son on back and they literally kicked us out . Im’ like, I’m supposed to rent a Zipcar? I want to see the sites and I’m not gonna walk all over this place nor rent a car. Fuck them. https://www.nytimes.com/2006/08/13/nyregion/thecity/13gree.html

  • macartney

    “Where is TA?” Doing hundreds of other campaigns? Stretched too thin already? As Chair of the Queens Committee, I’d gladly welcome you leading a campaign around bike access to LGA and other airports and stand ready to help you. Honest offer. Tuesday May 1 is our next meeting at the Queens Pride House.

    Not to be too snarky, but when people ask “where is TA?”, they should probably just look in the mirror.

  • macartney

    Bike to LGA was one of our ideas for new campaigns at the Queens Committee last summer. We had an online and in person vote, in which over 100 people voted. Bike2LGA didn’t win. There’s a campaign here for sure. But people have to join the fight and push for it. Things just don’t happen by magic or from a top-down directive.

  • MatthewEH

    Yup, this. The history is that for the longest time, bikes were entirely banned from the park. The compromise that allowed them in was that bikes still wouldn’t be allowed on Dyckman Hill Road between the parkway entrances and Henry Hudson Drive, but would be okay on other roads.

    In local roadie parlance the road is called “Forbidden Hill”. For the record, I may hypothetically have biked on it a few times before I realized its verboten status and I didn’t find it troublesome or that I was endangered by motor traffic to any significant degree. fwiw.

  • Komanoff

    The ban on cycling on Upper Dyckman Hill Road is enforced by the Palisades Interstate Park police and not by the City of Englewood. It was agreed to by area cycling advocacy groups (Trans Alt, NY Cycle Club, American Youth Hostels, Bicycle Touring Club of NJ) as a condition of the 1989 agreement with the PIP Commission eliminating the decades-long ban on cycling and walking on Henry Hudson Drive except on weekends from 6 am to 12 noon. Occasional overtures since then to the Commission to waive the ban have been rebuffed.

  • kevd

    riding a bike would disrespect the dead!
    driving a car, of course, does not. because bikes are for fun, not like serious old cars.
    its part of the out dated mid century mind set that see bikes as toys.
    We’ll all be much better off when those people are permanently in green wood.

  • Larry Littlefield

    You can drive through if you don’t have someone buried there? I just assumed that was not allowed.

  • Larry Littlefield

    While bike lanes are held up in years of “process,” and then overturned without any, where was the process on the rebuilding of LaGuardia Airport? Where is the design? Can I see it online?

  • Vooch

    it might be illuminating to see how many drivers have killed other drivers in and around LGA.

    I can guarantee you more deaths have occurred

    logic therefore deems banning private cars from LGA access roads

  • Bryan K.

    PA has an updated bike plan and a few really great people working on these things, but there needs to be an emphasis both on incorporating bike infrastructure into capital improvements (the same way things like Environmental Justice needs to be considered) and then having facility operations and maintenance folks help carry out access improvements across the board.

  • JarekFA

    There are very few entrances and exits and the roads are windy so it doesn’t work out as a short cut for drivers. But yes, anybody with a car can drive through without any official purpose. In my case, I wasn’t going for a leisure ride. I really wanted to see some of the famous grave sites. But I wasn’t about to walk a mile or so to get there. Just an incredibly stupid policy.

  • Larry Littlefield

    I was finally able to download the revised plan for LaGuardia. The transportation section emphasizes free flowing traffic, and does not mention bikes or buses at all.

  • Larry Littlefield

    Traveling between Windsor Terrace and Sunset Park, it would be a shortcut. You are going slow, but all that distance with no lights and no traffic — until everyone does it.

  • BortLicensePlatez

    Nobody hates cyclists more than rich drivers. Disgusting.

  • What if you are visiting the grave of a loved one?

    I visit the grave of my best friend in Maple Grove Cemetary by bike. Can one not do the same at Green-Wood Cemetary?

  • JarekFA

    You cannot visit a deceased friend at Green-Wood via bike. They will gladly point you to the bike racks at the entrance.

  • Cristina Furlong

    Just looked at the border map. The 27th Ave bridge is not PANYNJ property and is an important access point to other public land, the Flushing Bay Promenade. Will contact CB3 about this, And…TA….my friends. This much, the bridge access can be reversed, and we’ll push for more changes to the bike plan there.

  • Andrew

    Cemetery.

  • Oops! Thanks for the correction.

    Fixed.

  • steely

    just reached out to our contacts at the Port. Hopefully we can make some progress on this before May 1! 🙂

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