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Bicycle Infrastructure

Hundreds Enjoy Sunnyside Bike Lanes As NIMBYs Lie Twice and Plot Their Next Move

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Scores of cyclists showed their support for the paired protected bike lanes in Sunnyside on Saturday with a massive family ride — just as the dead-end opponents prepped their own protest next Sunday with more disinformation.

The protected lanes were installed earlier this year along Skillman and 43rd avenues to make cycling in Sunnyside safer, but opponents of the lanes claim that the roadways are now less safe, citing a crash over the weekend in which two people on a motorcycle died.

"As you parade down #saferskillman today, keep this in the back of your head — 2 fatalities on 38th/43rd ave & a cyclist hit by a school bus on 49th/Skillman... in 2 days," an anti-bike lane squeaky wheel who identifies him or herself as Queens Native, posted on Twitter. The account then added an inaccurate reference to street redesigns that eliminate travel lanes in favor of cyclists or pedestrians — which was done only on one block on Skillman. "#removetheroaddiet before more people get hurt or die."

The NYPD rebutted both allegations in Queens Native's tweet.

There was, indeed, a 24-year-old male cyclist injured in a crash on Friday at around 2:36 p.m. on Skillman when the 65-year-old driver of a 2005 Ford, making a right turn onto 49th Street from Skillman plowed into the bike rider, who had the right of way and the green light. An NYPD spokesman said the driver was issued a "failure-to-yield" summons for his poor driving.

And the NYPD also rebutted the claim about the two fatalities, pointing out that the two deaths came after a motorcyclist on a speeding Suzuki DRZ chose to go the wrong way down 43rd Avenue.

According to the NYPD, motorcyclist Steven Goddard, 22, and his passenger, Amy Gutierrez, 20, "were traveling southbound on 43rd Avenue, counter flow, at an apparent high rate of speed along the one-way street when the motorcycle struck a red Ford E250 van, operated by a 27-year-old male, traveling northbound on 43rd Avenue."

Both were killed in the crash — so at least that part of Queens Native's post was accurate.

When the facts were pointed out, Queens Native doubled down, "We’ll have to assume all accidents post #redesign will get an angled & amateur report by @TransAlt @StreetsblogNYC to further the #visionzero agenda." (Point of information: the "Vision Zero agenda" is one that seeks to reduce roadway fatalities, which currently number about 230 per year, down to zero — so, yes, definitely count us "amateurs" as signing onto this "agenda.")

The latest salvos in the war on the Skillman and 43rd Avenue protected lanes — which did not remove a lane of car traffic — comes as Queens Native and other opponents prepare for Sunday's anti-bike rally at 1 p.m. at 43rd Avenue at 51st Street, according to the Queens Chronicle.

The newspaper asserts that the group "Queens Streets for All" represents "residents, businesses and members of Community Board 2" — the irony, of course, being that CB2 initially called for a protected lane after cyclist Gelacio Reyes was killed in 2017 on then-unprotected 43rd Avenue, only to withdraw that support to protect a few dozen parking spaces.

It's not the first time that opponents have lied in their objections to the protected lanes in Sunnyside. Last month, opponents, including defeated Rep. Joe Crowley, complained that FDNY trucks were unable to make turns because the bike lane had narrowed local streets. Further review of the opponents' siren-filled videos revealed that in all cases, the roadways were blocked by illegally parked cars, not the bike lane.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people enjoyed a beautiful day on Saturday along the protected lanes. Streetfilms auteur Clarence Eckerson Jr. captured the glorious and safe day in a video that included comments from a woman who said she will start cycling again now that roadways are safer and from many children who appreciated the added protection so, as one put it, could "go to the park" safely.

Such comments provided a fitting counter-point to the anti-bike lane crowd that, apparently, opposes the city's ongoing effort to reduce fatalities to zero.

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