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BREAKING: Cement Truck Driver Fatally Strikes Woman on Citi Bike in Astoria

10:32 PM EST on January 5, 2023

File photo: Dave Colon

A trucker fatally struck a woman riding a Citi Bike in Astoria on Thursday evening, the fourth cyclist to be killed in the western Queens neighborhood in less than three years, according to officials.

The cement truck driver heading east on 24th Avenue and made a right turn onto 29th Street around 5:04 p.m. when he hit 62-year-old local Tamara Chuchi Kao, who was also going east on 24th, knocking her into the road, cops said.

Kao died at the scene, which was less than a mile away from her home on 30th Avenue and Crescent Street.

The 48-year-old male driver remained there too, and police said they don't suspect criminality, despite the death and the outrage from area pols, such as Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, who said the "gut-wrenching" scene unfolded just steps from his office.

"Absolutely heartbreaking," the lawmaker wrote on Twitter about an hour after the incident. "I don’t know her name & her family likely doesn’t even know that she’s dead. All I know is that she’s the fourth cyclist to be killed in Astoria in 2.5 yrs."

Another state lawmaker slammed the poor street design for creating deadly conditions, saying the hundreds of crashes in the area were no accidents.

"In 2022, 249 people lost their lives and four cyclists have been killed in the last 2.5 years, in Astoria alone. These are not 'accidents,'" State Sen. Kristen Gonzalez wrote on Twitter. "Traffic violence is the outcome of poorly designed streets and is a solvable problem."

There are very few protected bike lanes (shown in green) in the area of the crash. Map: DOT
There are very few protected bike lanes in the area of the crash. Map: DOT

There are no bike lanes on either street of the intersection where the crash happened, and there are very few protected bike paths for cyclists in the vicinity.

In 2022, there were a whopping 1,979 crashes in Community Board 1, which comprises Astoria and the Ditmars Steinway section to the north, more than five per day. Those crashes injured 856 people in just one year — including 120 cyclists and 163 pedestrians. Two walkers were killed.

In 2021, a driver ran over and killed delivery worker Xing Long Lin on 35th Street, and a year earlier, an MTA bus driver fatally struck a 50-year-old cyclist in nearby Woodside.

People responded to Mamdani's tweet with a mix of outrage and a call to action.

"Will you sit down with [Assembly Member and Transportation Committee Chairman] Bill Magnarelli and help move forward the long backlog of good transportation bills that will make our streets safer and our cars & trucks smaller?" asked Jehiah Czebotar, adding that "24th Ave is 44 feet wide — more than enough room for safe cycling infrastructure."

Make Queens Safer added, "Too often drivers are allowed excuses, and rarely lose a license or eve[n] drive with a suspended license. At state level, we must be vigilant that every protection for victims is in place, justice is swift and more than anything DMV and NYC_DOT work to change this car culture."

One person on Twitter blamed the local precinct for doing little to rein in reckless drivers.

"The 114 [precinct] is utterly uninterested in doing anything to help road safety, especially for cyclists and pedestrians," posted @vidiot_.

Another resident alluded to the lack of police enforcement.

"The situation on the roads in Astoria has been terrifying all year," posted Andy Hickner. "Virtually every time I leave the house, I pass drivers parked in crosswalks, drivers parked or idling in the bike lane, drivers blocking intersections as they try to creep through a red light. Zero enforcement."

One of the moderators of a Reddit mobility page referenced the hit book, "There Are No Accidents."

"This is what the city and Astoria have CHOSEN," posted Twitter user Miser. "We have literally 1 'protected' bike lane in Astoria that doesn't run along an extremity. Literally only one (Crescent). Vernon is along the river and a disconnected truck stop, and 20th Ave is the very north edge."

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