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Bicycle Infrastructure

Ignore the NIMBYs and See Sunnyside’s Bike Lanes in Action

8:54 AM EST on November 19, 2018

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

One day after 150 pro-parking cranks rallied in Sunnyside to protest safer roadways in their neighborhood, Streetfilms auteur Clarence Eckerson Jr. posted a counterpoint: the city's Safer Skillman plan in action.

At Sunday's "Queens Streets for All" rally, many speakers complained that the paired protected lanes on Skillman and 43rd avenues made the neighborhood ugly and more congested. But clearly they have short memories; as Eckerson's film shows, Skillman and 43rd were frequently clogged by double-parked cars that made the roadway less safe for cyclists and drivers.

Nearly 300 people were injured along the Sunnyside stretch of the two avenues, Mayor de Blasio said when he overruled the local community board and approved the street safety improvements earlier this year.

Opposition persists, but it is sometimes barely coherent. One woman at the rally complained, "Get rid of the bike lane before someone gets killed," ignoring, of course, that the city installed the bike lane because someone got killed. Another woman complained that now she has to look both ways when she crosses the street.

Look both ways? That's pretty much the very first lesson children are taught in school, and they're even given a handy mnemonic so they never forget: "Look both ways/Before you cross the street/Use your eyes and your ears/And lastly use your feet." (Reminder: the fear that many pedestrians have of crossing the street is caused almost entirely by drivers — but since many pedestrians are drivers, they would prefer to blame anything else but cars.)

The DOT plan converts unprotected bike lanes on Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue to parking-protected lanes. Image: DOT
The DOT plan converts unprotected bike lanes on Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue to parking-protected lanes. Image: DOT
The DOT plan converts unprotected bike lanes on Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue to parking-protected lanes. Image: DOT

Many speakers complained that the new configuration of the roadway — which was converted from a painted bike lane, plus two lanes of car traffic, into a protected bike lane, two lanes of car traffic, safety islands for pedestrians, view corridors for drivers and about 100 fewer spaces for on-street car storage — is now less safe. And some cited two recent crashes — one involving a motorcyclist speeding in the wrong direction and the other caused by a driver who struck a cyclist who had the light and was ticketed for failing to yield the right of way.

One old woman inexplicably held a sign reading, "Kids before bikes," suggesting that the city should make the roadway less safe for kids? (I publish it below for your viewing displeasure.)

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

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