By NATHAN DUKE
Sunnyside residents and community leaders protested against the implementation of the Vision Zero protected bike lane at Skillman and 43rd avenues last week.
Next to the Sunnyside arch and under the 7 train stop, several of the rally’s speakers stated that they are bikers and support cyclists, but not the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) plan to take away 113 parking spots along the two avenues.
Trisha Dorfman, the executive director of the new Queens Streets for All, said that the purpose of the rally was to get the attention of Mayor Bill de Blasio and persuade him to agree to a meeting with the community and change his Vision Zero plan for the streets.
Dorfman believes that the protected bike plans will be inherently unsafe, as cyclists do not pay attention to pedestrians or to the rules of the road.
“They will run us over,” she said. “We live the nightmare every day. Why are we not looking at Northern Boulevard? We have children dying there all the time.”
Rev. Neil Margetson, the pastor of Sunnyside Reformed Church, said that Manhattanville was once a quiet “pocket community” like Sunnyside. He fears that the bike lane would change the demographics of the neighborhood. He sees Sunnyside as “a city under siege,” and pointed out that it takes 20 minutes now for his parishioners to find parking near the church.
Mindy Bichler-Greene, the PTA president at PS 11 on Skillman Avenue, believes that children could be in danger when crossing the bike lane as they come and go from school.
Gary O’Neill, the owner of Aubergine Cafe on Skillman Avenue, is an avid cyclist and a member of Transportation Alternatives, but does not agree with his fellow cyclists about the plan.
“Even though [the DOT] said they are going to put in a protected bike lane in August, it doesn’t mean the fight is over,” he said. “Because if we let them think it’s over, they would run over every community in Queens, not just ours.”
In literature distributed at the rally, Queens Streets For All contended that the DOT misled the community and mayor regarding the need for bike lanes. The group wrote that when the DOT counted how many cyclists use the route, it did so on Bike to Work Day. They also believe that the DOT and Transportation Alternatives exploited the widow of Gelasio Reyes for their cause. Reyes was killed on April 1, 2017, by a drunk driver after the driver ran a red light while crossing 43rd Avenue and 39th Street at 2:53 a.m.
The group also criticized the DOT for not providing information on who was at fault in incidents of car and bicycle crashes in the area.
Queens Streets for All is asking the city to keep the current bike lanes as they are but paint them green, change lights to lead pedestrians and cyclists ahead of cars, and add rumble strips at dangerous intersections to let bike riders know they are coming to an area that requires heightened awareness.