By Bill Parry
Bicycles ruled the streets of Sunnyside Saturday afternoon as the neighborhood was designated a “Bike Friendly Business District,” the first in Queens.
Transportation Alternatives, the safe streets advocacy group, was behind the event that recognized more than 70 Sunnyside business owners as “Bike Friendly.”
“It was a huge success with 50 cyclists and another 20 on foot,” T.A. Queens Organizer Celia Castellan said. “We took them on a tour of the neighborhood with stops at six of the 70 Bike Friendly businesses. It’s a phenomenal business district where so many residents are friends with the mom-and-pop shops, it really makes it one of the friendliest neighborhoods on Queens Boulevard.”
Sunnyside landed the designation because of the number of entrepreneurs who know that a network of bike lanes and bike parking creates more vibrant streets, boosting the local economy. Many of the stores and restaurants offer discounts to 12,000 Transportation Alternatives members.
The event, co-sponsored by the Sunnyside Shines Business Improvement District, began with a gathering at Bliss Plaza, a newly created public space under the No. 7 station at 46th Street and Queens Boulevard.
City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), who lives in the historic Gardens district, said, “The launch of Sunnyside’s very own Bike Friendly Business District is an opportunity for our neighborhood to showcase its diversity as well as its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants and cafes. As ridership climbs in our city and the cycling infrastructure grows here in western Queens, Sunnyside hopes to capitalize by highlighting all we have to offer. I encourage you to cycle into Sunnyside and take advantage of all the deals offered at our bike-friendly businesses. There is no doubt you’ll be back for more.”
The group set out on a tour of the neighborhood with stops at six establishments along the way.
The first was Aubergine Cafe, at 49-22 Skillman Ave., where owner Gary O’Niell said, “It’s important that people get out of their cars and get on their bicycles because the more bicycles there are on the road, the safer it will be for everyone on the streets — plus it’s healthy, there are a lot of great reasons why we should all be on bikes.”
The tour also visited Arriba Arriba, Cafe Columbia, Go Natural, Bar 43 and Jack’s Sunnyside Ale House.
“Designating Sunnyside as a Bike Friendly Business District means that we’re committed to making the neighborhood safe, accessible and fun for everyone,” Sunnyside Shines Executive Director Rachel Tjieme said. “I am encouraged to see so many local businesses signing on to this important cause.”
Transportation Alternatives joined with merchants in advocating for a transformed Queens Boulevard with dedicated bike lanes that would make the roadway a more people-friendly corridor with local merchants taking the lead on street safety.
“Western Queens is one of the best areas to bike around in the entire city,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria) said. “The declaration of Sunnyside’s new Bike Friendly district only adds to that allure. Sunnyside continues to grow as a destination neighborhood for New Yorkers throughout the five boroughs, and I am glad to partner with Transportation Alternatives, Sunnyside Shines and Sunnyside’s businesses to help everyone get here on two wheels.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at email@example.com or by phone at 718-260-4538.