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Death By Delay: Queens CB 2 Keeps Stalling on Skillman/43rd Protected Bike Lane

CB 2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith, to the right of the podium, called for protected bike lanes alongside Flor Jimenez, whose partner Gelacio Reyes was killed by a driver as he biked on 43rd Avenue 12 days earlier. Photo: David Meyer

Seven months after DOT presented a plan for protected bike lanes for 43rd Avenue and Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, Queens Community Board 2 Chair Denise Keehan-Smith has yet to put the project to a vote at the board's transportation committee. Instead, she wants to disregard it completely.

On Monday, CB 2 will host a workshop where Keehan-Smith says she wants to hear "safety ideas other than simply putting in a bike lane," Sunnyside Post reports.

"We would like to have our own take -- take a look at it and see what we can come up with," Keehan-Smith said at a CB 2 meeting earlier this month.

Billed as a "safety workshop," next week's event would more accurately be described as a stalling tactic. The city has already put out a plan to improve safety on 43rd and Skillman after a series of severe crashes, including the hit-and-run killing of Gelacio Reyes as he was biking home from work on April 1, 2017

A year ago, Keehan-Smith and Van Bramer stood next to Reyes's widow, Flor Jimenez, and called for the city to take action. She said protected bike lanes on 43rd Avenue were "necessary" and "something that needs to be done."

But repurposing parking spaces to make these streets safer is a bridge too far, apparently. When DOT released the plan for protected bike lanes on 43rd and Skillman in November, Keehan-Smith said converting 158 parking spots would be "highly unreasonable." Last month, she urged DOT to scrap the project altogether.

"I don’t want people dying either, obviously, but you’re really gnawing away at the fabric of the neighborhood," she told DOT staffers at April's transportation committee meeting.

Instead of allowing a vote on the redesign, Keehan-Smith tried to get DOT to hold a second "town hall" meeting on the project because "a number of people in the community" "felt like a number of their questions weren't really answered."

To be more specific, any reduction in on-street parking appears to be too much for Keehan-Smith to bear.

DOT has modified its design to repurpose 25 percent fewer parking spots [PDF]. Opponents obstinately insist that local businesses would be ruined, despite the lack of any empirical evidence from New York's decade of experience with protected bike lane projects that retailers suffer from the projects.

Keehan-Smith can call Monday's event a "safety workshop," but she's delaying action on a design that's been proven to reduce injuries to pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists. While the endless procession of meetings and workshops drags on, 43rd and Skillman remain dangerously prone to speeding.

Clarence Eckerson recently compiled this footage showing how the type of design that DOT is proposing would make these two streets more pedestrian-friendly:

DOT is not officially participating in Monday's workshop. The agency could decide to go ahead with the redesign with or without the support of CB 2 or Van Bramer, who seems content to let the project be delayed to death. Last month, he defended CB 2's desire to hold more town halls as "democracy in action."

After Gelacio Reyes was killed last year, Van Bramer told Streetsblog that putting protected bike lanes on 43rd Street was an urgent matter. “Quite frankly DOT should be out here right now, going over not if they’ll put a protected bike lane, but how they’ll put in a protected bike lane,” he said. “Who’s to say that this weekend, someone else won’t be killed?”

Thirteen months later, he has yet to endorse DOT's plan.

Streetsblog contacted Van Bramer earlier this week for his take on the CB 2 workshop and how delaying the city's plans for Skillman and 43rd would make the streets safer for biking and walking. We did not receive a reply.

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