A Driver Killed a Cyclist at LaGuardia, So the Port Authority Restricted Biking

Instead of taking steps to make cycling safer after a hit-and-run driver killed airport worker Steven Morales, the Port Authority banned cycling on the road where Morales was killed.

Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero
Workers biking on the 94th Street walkway to LaGuardia's central terminal. Photo: Aazam Otero

In February, a hit-and-run driver struck and killed LaGuardia Airport worker Steven Morales as he was biking home from the central terminal. But instead of taking steps to make streets safer for the growing number of people biking to the airport, the Port Authority has banned cycling on the road where Morales was killed and at all but two designated routes on the airport campus.

As of this past Sunday, cyclists must enter the airport at one of two entrances, Marine Terminal Road or 94th Street, and park their bikes at nearby “approved bicycle rack locations” at Hangar 7 South and the Terminal B Garage. The rules were laid out in an April 11 memo from LaGuardia General Manager Lysa C. Scully [PDF].

Cyclists are no longer permitted on Runway Drive (where Morales was struck), the 27th Avenue entrance (which provides access to the eastern end of LGA from Flushing Bay Promenade), or on any interior airport roads other than the two designated routes. Except for the two approved bike parking locations, all other bike racks will be removed.

The two designated routes have “distinguished pavement markings and signage” directing cyclists to the bike racks, a Port Authority spokesperson said.

In order to access airport locations where biking is not allowed, people have to take shuttle buses, which LaGuardia workers have said are cumbersome and time-consuming.

Cyclists are not only permitted to enter and park their bikes at two authorized locations. Image: PANYNJ
The green routes mark the only places where people are allowed to bike at LaGuardia as of this past Sunday. Image: PANYNJ

More people are biking to LaGuardia, particularly since airport construction expanded about a year ago. At certain times of the day, automobile traffic is so bad that biking is the only way for airport employees to get to work on time. In addition, delivery workers and neighborhood residents picking up or dropping off rental cars bike at the airport.

And yet, the Port Authority has done little to build safe infrastructure to accommodate cycling, let alone encourage it. In 2010, the agency released a “bicycle master plan” that proposed bike lanes at the Marine Terminal Road and 102nd Street entrances [PDF]. Neither bike lane was implemented. By the Marine Terminal Road entrance, there’s only signage indicating a bike route.

A Port Authority spokesperson told Streetsblog the bike policy will be reevaluated again in a year, and annually thereafter.

After Morales’s death, airport workers who spoke to Streetsblog predicted a knee-jerk Port Authority bike ban. The agency proved them right.

Eric Harold, an airline technician who bikes to LaGuardia from his home in Flushing, said the new bike racks by Terminal B are “plentiful,” but unsecure. The Port Authority recently eliminated staff car parking spots, but hasn’t put serious effort into improving bike access in and around the airport, Harold said.

The entrance at 27th Avenue from the Flushing Promenade was the safest route for cyclists. Now that it’s sealed off, they’ll have to enter from Ditmars Boulevard, which Harold described as a “highway-like experience.”

“You’re not giving people enough parking spaces and you’re not giving them any alternatives,” he said. “Leading up to the airport, there’s no infrastructure for bikes.”

“The plan seems more aligned to get people to a point than directly to their destination,” said air traffic controller Aazam Otero, another bike commuter. “So people will subvert it, naturally.”