By Will O’Meara
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.