Most bike lanes in Queens are right next to motor vehicle lanes. The bike lane is supposed to be for riders only, but that relies on drivers being alert and respectful of cyclists’ space. And we all know you can’t always count on motorists to do the right thing around bicycle riders.
Some stretches of bike lanes in the borough have plastic barricades to separate them from motorized traffic. But the barricades can get knocked down by cars, and if the city does not replace them, bikes are left vulnerable again. Tragedy can result, as it did in the Sunnyside section in November.
Rider killed in formerly protected bike lane
A 58-year-old rider was killed when a commercial truck crashed into him while attempting a right turn. It happened on a section of 47th Avenue with a painted bike lane that used to be barricaded. The driver was cited for driving with a suspended license. The rider might still be alive today if the city had replaced the damaged barricades promptly.
Traffic deaths are up in New York City
Sadly, this rider’s death was part of a disturbing trend for New York. The Department of Transportation reports that 229 people died in traffic accidents through Nov. 2 (prior to the Sunnyside bike accident death), a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2020. Sixteen of the 229 killed were riding bicycles, though with the tragic death we discussed above, the city reached at least 17 for the year. Still, that would be a small improvement on 2020, when 20 riders were killed.
Queens’ bike users deserve lanes that are practical and safe. Even experienced riders can do very little to defend themselves against a reckless or out-of-control driver who, as the truck driver in this case seemed to do, turns right without looking first.