By Bill Parry
Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee and Make Queens Safer will host a Kids Bike Rodeo Day Oct. 22 in partnership with the Variety Boys & Girls Club to bring the Astoria community together to celebrate kids on bicycles and to call for safer streets to ride them on.
The event is part of TA Queens’ continuing Campaign for Traffic Calming on 21st Street, which began in 2013 and now represents 22 area nonprofits and schools and more than 1,600 residents, who have signed letters and petitions calling for the city to renew its efforts to remake the road as a neighborhood street instead of a dangerous speedway, organizers say.
“We shouldn’t have to wait for people to be killed to get the safety implementations we need,” TA Queens volunteer Macartney Morris said. “The Department of Transportation must heed the community’s desires and use all options to narrow the roadway and slow the traffic down, including pedestrian malls, protected left turns and protected bike lanes.”
21st Street between Queens Plaza and Hoyt Avenue is a densely populated residential area with many schools, apartment buildings and senior centers. Cars, trucks and other heavy vehicles use 21st Street to “toll shop” and travel between the Queensboro and Triboro bridges.
Between July 2012 and September 2016, 21st Street was the site of three fatalities and 469 reported injuries, according to the NYPD. The Variety Boys & Girls Club is located at the southeast corner of 21st Street and 30th Road, the same intersection where 45-year-old Sean Crume was struck and killed April 6 by a hit-and-run driver who is still at large.
“For years, 21st Street has been left to function as a highway cutting through our neighborhood,” Variety Boys & Girls Club Executive Director Matthew Troy said. “Children and parents visiting our club would often run through speeding traffic to cross 21st Street.”
The Campaign for Traffic Calming on 21st Street applauded the DOT’s installation of a traffic light at the intersection last month and immediately called for measures at 28th Avenue, 33rd Road, mid-block between 34th and 25th Avenues and 39th Avenue.
“We’re joining with the Variety Boys & Girls Club on Oct. 22 to celebrate the installation of the traffic light that will save lives,” TA Queens volunteer Angela Stach said. “But our work on 21st Street is not done, and we will keep organizing until pedestrians and cyclists who use 21st Street are no longer treated as afterthoughts and second-class road users.”
At the Bike Kids Rodeo Day youngsters will be able to test their skills, learn how to ride with lessons from Bike New York and get a safety check by mechanics from Nomads Cycle. Kids must bring their own bike and helmet to participate and a parent or legal guardian must also be present to sign a participation waiver.
“We’re organizing Kids Bike Rodeo Day because we think every kid and adult should be able to safely ride a bicycle in his or her neighborhood,” Make Queens Safer Co-founder Cristina Furlong said. “There’s no better way to fight for safer streets than by showing everyone the joy that comes from riding a bike.”
The rodeo runs from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr