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Support bike lines in Sunnyside, Woodside

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As a Sunnyside father and husband, I support the installation of protected bike lanes and safer crosswalks for pedestrians on Skillman and 43rd avenues. Let me tell you why.

One year ago, another father, Gelacio Reyes, was killed on 43rd Avenue by a drunk driver as he biked back home to his family in Corona from his job in the Upper East Side. This hit close to home. You see, for the past two years, I have been biking my 3-year-old son to and from nursery/day care.

Maybe that sounds crazy to you — my wife thought it was crazy, too. She was used to bike lanes in Beijing, which were wider than car lanes, so when she saw what it was like to bike in Sunnyside, she was very hesitant. I was eventually able to convince her after taking our boy to day care a few times on the back of the bike, but her cautiousness remains when we are on unprotected bike lanes.

Biking has meant a lot to me as a father. I have less restraint in my schedule, which makes me freer for my son. I save money on transit that I can put back into our family. We tried driving, but it was slower than biking. Uber was too expensive. Taking a kid on a train is too stressful — especially around rush hour. But our streets could still be so much safer for families who bike like mine.

At last week’s Town Hall, I listened to several PTA officials from Sunnyside public schools express grave concerns over the danger of protected bike lanes. While I get that fear of change can be overwhelming, their concerns just don’t mirror the reality of our city’s recent experiences. Over and over again, protected bike lanes have been installed near schools with young students, and over and over again the schoolchildren are safer than before. Simply using common sense or basic physics would suggest that a 200-pound person/bike going 10-15 mph is objectively less dangerous than a 2,000-pound car going any speed.

These PTA officials are correct in observing the streets are dangerous for our children, but bike lanes aren’t. It’s the road conditions they should be worried about.

I used to work as a bike messenger so maybe I am used to this lifestyle, but I would like to see other parents (preferably those who haven’t worked as a messenger) biking their kids around. I’d like to see my wife biking with our son. And protected bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd avenues will help make that happen, creating more safety for my wife and for other parents to feel comfortable when biking with their kids.

I strongly support the plan to bring protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to Sunnyside and Woodside. I hope our local city officials, including Community Board 2 and Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, do the same.

My family is counting on them to do the right thing and approve this safety plan.

Will O’Meara

Sunnyside

Updated 12:32 am, July 10, 2018
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Reader feedback

Ron from Rego Park says:
I would bet a new inner tube that the "safety" issue referenced above isn't really about safety at all, but about space. Specifically, parking space and traffic lanes.

See William Kregler's letter dated Jan. 2 ("CB 2 should fight against bike lanes") for an honest perspective on this issue. It's all about parking spots.

It sounds a little whiny and entitled to say "It's hard to find street parking and I don't want to pay for a parking spot for my car." Doesn't it? It sounds much better to couch your argument in "safety" concerns.

This is a conflict between those who think public street space should be used to store private cars vs. those who would like to see cycling become a safer alternative to driving or mass transit.
April 5, 9:36 am
Please be truthful says:
Reyes would still have died in this terrible incident with a protected bike lane or not. He went through a red light and was struck by a drunk driver. Protected bike lanes do nothing to protect bicyclists who run red lights.
False argument.

"One year ago, another father, Gelacio Reyes, was killed on 43rd Avenue by a drunk driver as he biked back home to his family in Corona from his job in the Upper East Side. This hit close to home. You see, for the past two years, I have been biking my 3-year-old son to and from nursery/day care."
April 5, 10:56 am
Jay from Sunnyside says:
I'm an avid biker and I was hit by a car once on Skillman Ave by a driver who didn't look before crossing the shared lane while making a right turn. Protected bike lanes are overdue as they've already been installed in the connecting neighborhoods of Woodside and Long Island City.
April 5, 5:43 pm
JT from Sunnyside says:
Bike Lanes are a boon to local businesses and improve the health and safety of residents - support a #saferskillman!
April 6, 10 am
Hannah from Woodside says:
Protected bike lanes would save lives, decrease congestion on the trains, connect more Queens residents to local businesses and increase quality of life. There is a very vocal minority in this area that opposes all change and values parking over all else. I hope that our electeds will realize this group may be loud but they are not necessarily representative of the neighborhood as a whole.
April 9, 8:34 pm
Chris Wattenbarger from Sunnyside says:
I am not sure what transportation alternatives and DOT are trying to get here but I know it is not bike safety. Common sense will telll you that DOT made a mistake in 2008 when putting in existing bike lanes and mapping them in such a way to suggest that the 43rd ave/Skillman is the safest way through Sunnyside. Let's be real. There is more traffic of all kinds (automobile and bicycle) than on any other streets in our area. Is it just that the average biker cannot understand that one block south of Queens Blvd is the same distance as one block north of Queens Blvd and has virtually no auto traffic at rush hour. If you are looking for bike safety it already exists if bikers are routed South of Queens instead of in the congested Skillman 43rd Ave corridor. Yet transportation alternatives and the DOT will not entertain the notion. Tell me how you can argue that either of them is for bike safety.

Also note the some 85% of Sunnyside/Woodside residents are against the plan. It could be said that DOT and transportation alternatives have no regard for democracy as well.
April 12, 5:10 pm

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