The Most Controversial Bike Lane That Should Not Have Been Controversial At All Is Under Construction In Queens

Paired protected paths on Skillman and 43rd avenues in Sunnyside — much decried by people who like to store their cars on public streets — are going in now.

The missing link connector in Sunnyside is under construction.
The missing link connector in Sunnyside is under construction.

Talk about a fact on the ground.

Department of Transportation contractors have begun construction on a pair protected bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd avenues in Sunnyside, Queens — a safe-streets improvement that became needlessly controversial amid opposition from car owners and some local business owners who argued that cyclist and pedestrian safety is less important than their freedom to store private vehicles on public streets.

Clarence Eckerson Jr. of Streetfilms shot the video below to document the installation:

Once completed, the paired lanes [plan, PDF] will connect existing protected bike lanes on Queens Boulevard with existing routes to the Queensboro Bridge. Many cyclists saw the Sunnyside project as the “missing link” for commuters to get safely to the bridge from points east — and, indeed, crashes dropped dramatically on Queens Boulevard after improvements there. The impetus for the project came after a driver ran down cyclist Gelacio Reyes in 2017 — and local Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and the head of the community board stood next to Reyes’s widow and called for a protected lane on 43rd Avenue.

But critics trotted out the usual complaints that protected bike lanes adversely affect businesses (untrue) or that the lanes are less safe (also untrue) — and the well-proven street safety strategy gained additional controversy when Van Bramer flip-flopped (though he later admitted he was wrong).

Mayor de Blasio, in a decision that need not have gotten all the way to his desk, dismissed the naysayers, touting the plan’s documented benefit for safety for all roadway users.

In the end, the city will remove just two to four parking spaces per block to create better visibility for drivers so they don’t crash into cyclists or pedestrians — hundreds of whom have been injured on the strip because the existing bike lane was not protected.