Call to transform LIC into a bike community

Following the 18th bicyclist death in New York City this year, cycling advocates held a press conference on the Long Island City side of the Pulaski Bridge to push for more.

“We are in a state of crisis,” said Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer said. “We need to act now.”

On July 29, 30-year-old cyclist Em Samolewicz was killed in Sunset Park after colliding with a tractor trailer. Six days prior, there were two cyclists killed on the same day in Brooklyn and Staten Island.

In all of 2018, there were ten bicyclists killed.

Van Bramer is proposing that Long Island City become a “bike neighborhood” by creating a connected network for cyclists.

“Nobody should have to be more than a couple of blocks from a protected bike lane,” said Laura Shepard of Bike New York.

To illustrate the hazards cyclists face, Van Bramer detailed his bike commute to the conference.

“I saw a lot of cyclists forced into the middle of the road because there was no place to go to avoid double-parked cars, cars parked in bike lanes and aggressive drivers,” he said.

The city currently has four safety measure for cyclists, including protected bike lanes, conventional lanes with painted lines on the street, shared lanes, and signed routes.
“The bike lane ends at Skillman and Queens Boulevard,” said Joby Jacob, a professor at LaGuardia Community College, of his commute to the school. “If you’re coming from the eastern portion of Queens, there’s no safe way there.”

Shannon Rudd, a member of WE Bike NYC and Women’s Cycling NYC, says she bikes nearly every day.

“I need to safely be able to get from Astoria to Central Park without fear for my life,” Rudd said. “We’re sick of the lip service the mayor is giving us. Action needs to happen quickly.”

Last month, Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled his “Green Wave” bike plan, which includes the construction of 30 miles of protected bike lanes each year.

There have been three transportation-related lawsuits filed against the Department of Transportation by residents in the Bronx and Upper West Side opposing new bike lanes.

However, litigation does not deter Juan Restrepo, Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives.

“People are recognizing that street safety and Vision Zero is increasingly more popular,” he said.

Van Bramer said riding a bike should not be a death sentence in New York City.

“Ending car culture is very difficult,” he said. “We have got to prioritize people’s lives over parking spaces and cars once and for all in this city.”

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