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Jimmy Van Bramer

Vigilante Throws Thumbtacks to Injure Cyclists Along 43rd Ave Protected Bike Lane

Thumbtacks spotted in the 43rd Avenue protected bike lane. Photo: Office of Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer

Queens bike lane opponents are resorting to vigilante tactics bordering on terrorism — and endangering people and families who use Sunnyside's new protected bike lanes.

Sunnyside parent Pete Shore was biking on 43rd Avenue with his kids on Wednesday when he ran over multiple thumbtacks strewn across the bike lane. On Thursday, Shore biked four blocks of the corridor and saw thumbtacks everywhere.

"Whomever did this is obviously in opposition against this already existing bike lanes," Shore wrote on Facebook.  "Their protest could have seriously injured or even killed me or one of my kids."

It's been more than three months since DOT installed protected bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd avenues, and they've been an unmitigated success, as Streetfilms' Clarence Eckerson has documented.

But opponents refuse to accept reality. Mayor de Blasio and local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer have said the bike lanes are here to stay, but opponents continue to spew bogus concerns about emergency vehicle access and pedestrian safety — all of which have been debunked by public officials.

The 43rd Avenue protected bike lane in action. Video still: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.
The 43rd Avenue protected bike lane in action. Video still: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.
We need more of these, says Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez. Photo: Clarence Eckerson, Jr.

Streetsblog was unable to reach Shore. In a comment on his original post, he said he preferred not to involved the police, and that he hoped that his experience would inspire a less vitriolic approach from bike lane opponents.

"If you are in opposition to the bike lanes, then petition the city, start a campaign, do whatever you want, but please, do not take actions that can actually physically harm me, my kids and, for all you know, someone in opposition of the bike lanes," he wrote.

Unfortunately, it's not surprising to see bike lane opponents resorting to dangerous vigilantism.

In September, one opponent, writing under the name "Sonny," shared his opposition to the bike lanes on Sunnyside Post article with the comment: "Bring on the carpet tacks!"

In response to Shore's post, bike lane opponents condemned the thumbtack attack.

"Regardless of someone’s position this is disgusting and the individual(s) responsible need to know they can’t get away with this / do it again," wrote Eric Barthels, a bike lane opponent who owns Cooldown Juice on Skillman.

"Hopefully there are some cameras that caught this piece of shit," added Twitter user QueensNative1. "I don’t know anyone in opposition of these lanes that would act so reckless." (Except, presumably, "Sonny.")

But Van Bramer pinned the deadly vigilantism on bike lane opponents. On his Facebook page, he argued that their vitriolic campaign against the project — and constant attacks on its supporters — had fostered hostility.

"The increasingly desperate campaign against [the bike lanes] is now riling up the worst elements of our community and inspiring criminal vigilantism," said Van Bramer, who himself has expressed regret for not being forceful enough in defending his early support for the bike lane. "No matter where you’ve stood on the bike lane debate, we should all be disgusted by how negative and now dangerous the opposition against them has become."

"Little children have been placed in harm’s way because some will never come to accept that we have bike lanes in our community," he added.

Read Van Bramer's full statement below:

We have received reports of thumbtacks being intentionally left in the bike lanes along 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside. This represents a new low and a violent and dangerous turn by those opposed to the bike lanes. Yesterday, a father from Sunnyside biking with his children had his tires blown out and they could have been seriously injured or worse. I regard this as a criminal act and we have asked the 108th Precinct to investigate it as such.

Let me be clear: the bike lanes are not going away. I support them. And while people may disagree, the increasingly desperate campaign against them is now riling up the worst elements of our community and inspiring criminal vigilantism. No matter where you’ve stood on the bike lane debate, we should all be disgusted by how negative and now dangerous the opposition against them has become. Now little children have been placed in harm’s way because some will never come to accept that we have bike lanes in our community.

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