BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
Following two incidents that resulted in one cyclist dead and another severely injured at the same intersection within a 10-day period, the Sunnyside community gathered last week to call on the city’s Department of Transportation to implement safety improvements at the site.
Last Thursday, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) joined representatives from Transportation Alternatives, Make Queens Safer and Community Board 2 as well as the families of cyclist Gelacio Reyes, 32—who was killed on April 1—and cyclist David Nunez, 27—who was seriously injured on April 11—at the intersection of 39th Street and 43rd Avenue to call on the DOT to immediately implement vital street safety improvements.
“Two cyclists killed or seriously injured in 10 days in the same intersection is not where we need to be when it comes to realizing Vision Zero,” Van Bramer said. “I am calling on the Department of Transportation to make immediate and vital safety improvements to this dangerous intersection before another cyclist, pedestrian or motorist is killed.”
Van Bramer and transportation safety advocates called for protected bike lanes with physical barriers, a leading pedestrian interval, better enforcement of motorists who speed and run red lights and more visible signage that alerts drivers to cyclists along 43rd Avenue.
Reyes was riding his bike home from work eastbound on 43rd Street at approximately 2:53 a.m. when Cristian Guiracocha, 25, who was driving a red 2002 Ford Escape and heading south on 39th Street, slammed into Reyes and allegedly fled the scene. Reyes was rushed to Elmhurst Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.
Guiracocha was allegedly found four hours later covered in vomit while sitting in his damaged car outside of Brian’s Auto Shop, located at 51-04 59th Place in Woodside, police said. Guiracocha was arrested in the alleged hit and run and charged with a DWI, driving without a license and refusal to take a breathalyzer test.
Nuñez was riding his bike east on 43rd Street when a white truck, which was driving in the same direction, tried to turn right onto 39th Street and hit the cyclist, leaving him severely injured. He was put into a neck brace and transported to Elmhurst Hospital by EMS. According to police, the truck driver, Francis O’Brien, 61, was arrested at the scene and charged with failure to yield to a bicyclist and failure to exercise due care.
“It has become evident from yet another crash at 43rd Ave and 39th Street in Sunnyside that we need swift action to protect cyclists who use the key commuting corridor on 43rd Avenue,” said Paul Steely White, the executive director of Transportation Alternatives. “The DOT already has all the tools it needs to prevent deaths and injuries at this intersection and others like it around the city. Now that Mayor de Blasio has made an additional budgetary commitment to street redesigns, the city needs to move quickly to fix dangerous corridors like 43rd Avenue with protected bike lanes and intersection safety improvements that meet a Vision Zero design standard.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org