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Cyclist mourned in Woodside

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The line of bicycles leaning against the fence on the narrow traffic island in Woodside Friday night formed a daisy chain of jittery, strobing taillights as rider after rider laid flowers and other tributes at a memorial to the 38-year-old cycling activist who died there this summer.

Maspeth resident James Langergaard had been involved with Transportation Alternatives since the mid-1990s and was well-liked among cycling circles. On Aug. 14 at 6:26 p.m., Langergaard was headed south on 69th Street when his family said he ran a stoplight at Queens Boulevard. He was hit by a Volkswagen Jetta traveling westbound on Queens Boulevard and pronounced dead at Elmhurst Hospital shortly thereafter. The driver was not charged.

The nonprofit group, which advocates for methods of transportation other than cars and has long pushed for a bicycle lane on Queens Boulevard, set up a “ghost bike” — a derelict cycle painted white and bearing the name of a deceased rider — there in Langergaard’s honor. It will become a regular stop on the group’s monthly tour of the sites of Queens bicycle fatalities.

“Transporta­tion Alternatives was very important to him,” said his mother, Linda, who attended the memorial ceremony. “I’m very glad that they are doing this. I think it would mean a lot to him.”

Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said he met Langergaard for the first time in 1997 at a social gathering for bicyclists.

“He made me feel at home in a new city, a place that was strange and foreign to me,” he said.

Langergaard was fond of science fiction movies, comic books, video games and philosophy, his brother, Brian, said.

“The most senseless part of this accident was being in a hurry and unfortunately running a light,” Brian Langergaard said. “I’ve been in a rush, same as anyone. But I don’t do it anymore.”

Langergaard was also named Transportation Alternatives’ Volunteer of the Month in 1998 for feats like transporting a table, chairs and lumber by bicycle from the East Village to Staten Island to set up a booth for an event there.

“He was legendary for taking his work bike around New York City laden with hundreds of pounds of Transportation Alternatives brochures,” said Ken Coughlin, noting Langergaard’s fondness for the works of existential authors and thinkers. “He became known as the bicycle philosopher.”

“I can think of dozens of ways a competent traffic engineer could change this intersection in a matter of weeks to make it more hospitable to all users,” he added.

The group is working on naming a rest stop in an annual cycling event after Langergaard.

Reach reporter Jeremy Walsh by e-mail at jewalsh@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Posted 6:28 pm, October 10, 2011
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