Transit advocates say Sunnyside street where cyclist was killed needs protected bike lanes

Photo courtesy of Transportation Alternatives

Gelacio Reyes, 32, was on his way home on April 2 when a drunk driver crashed into his bicycle and killed him.

Reyes, who was riding along 43rd Avenue and 39th Street and lived in Corona, left behind a wife and three children. Just 10 days later, at the same intersection in Sunnyside, a 27-year-old cyclist was hit by a box truck while riding in a designated bike lane.

Though 43rd and Skillman Avenues have designated bicycle lanes, cyclists are calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to add additional safety measures in the form of protected bike lanes.

Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that aims to “encourage and increase non-polluting, quiet, city-friendly travel” has started a petition asking the DOT to memorialize Reyes by installing posts along the lanes to protect cyclists. Reyes’ wife, Flor Jimenez, helped draft the petition.

“Safety improvements like protected bike lanes and lead pedestrian intervals are proven to reduce crashes and fatalities for pedestrians and cyclists where they are implemented,” the petition read. “Were these put in place earlier, we could have prevented Gelacio from being killed.”

After both incidents, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer held a press conference with Jimenez and called on the city to make safety improvements to the intersection, arguing that the dangerous intersection does not meet the mayor’s Vision Zero standards.

“Two cyclists killed or seriously injured in 10 days in the same intersection is not where we need to be when it comes to realizing Vision Zero,” he previously said in a statement. “I am calling on the Department of Transportation to make immediate and vital safety improvements to this dangerous intersection before another cyclist, pedestrian or motorist is killed.”

So far, the petition has 607 of 782 signatures the organization is seeking. Once all of the signatures are received, the letter will be sent to elected officials such as Van Bramer and state Senator Michael Gianaris, Queens Borough Commissioner Nicole Garcia and Community Board 1.

Juan Restrepo, a member of Transportation Alternatives, said that protected bike lanes would decrease the dangerous conditions that cyclists face along the avenues.

“They physically separate you from car traffic and reduce many of the hazards involved in cycling — double parked cars, car doors opening up onto cyclists riding the bike lane, drivers veering into the bike lane,” he said. “Hazards like these are potentially fatal and we should be doing more to prevent them from happening.”

A spokesperson for the DOT said they are in the process of completing an analysis and will bring a proposal to the community by the end of the year.

“DOT has heard from many supporters of this petition,” the spokesperson said. “We are in the process of investigating the crashes at this intersection and reviewing what improvements could be made.”

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