Electeds advocate for bike infrastructure a month after tragic death

By Alicia Venter


Zohran Mamdani, Tiffany Cabán, Kristen Gonzalez and Michael Gianaris called for more bike lanes.

Last Friday, a month after the tragic death of 62-year-old cyclist Tamara “Tammy” Chuchi Kao in Astoria, the neighborhood’s elected officials gathered at the intersection that she was struck by a cement truck driver to demand the Department of Transportation (DOT) build a north-south bike lane and an east-west bike lane — at the very least.

Assemblyman Zohran K. Mamdani demands it by September, and that the DOT begins commencing workshops immediately to determine where these protective corridors should be built.

“What we need to be clear about is that these are reckless policies that allowed for such deaths to occur,” he said.

In the two and a half years Mamdani has been in office, four cyclists have been killed in the 36th State Assembly District he represents.

According to Crash Mapper, 63 cyclists were injured in collisions from January 2022 to January 2023 in Assembly District 36, with one fatality.

“We see this happening again and again and again,” Mamdani said. “What we are calling for is protected bike lanes in Astoria — not just a north-south [corridor], not just an east-west [corridor], but both.”

He shared that he bikes daily, as do many Astorians, and that greater efforts should be taken by the DOT to ensure that street safety for the neighborhood becomes a priority.

Currently, there is one protected bike lane in Mandani’s district: the north-south corridor on Crescent Street. As for the rest of the neighborhood — more than 98 percent of City Council District 22 according to Spatial Equity NYC — all that counts for a bike lane is paint.

“[These are just] suggestions for where cars should not go. That is where our neighbors are being killed,” Mamdani. “These are preventable deaths, and these are deaths that we must ensure that they stop.”

Councilwoman Tiffany Caban, who represents the 22nd City Council District, denounced the recent proposed budget cuts by the mayor’s office, which would lower the budget over the DOT by over $35 million.

“Street safety is public safety,” Caban said. “We have to do better than these skeleton groups. We need really robust personnel and services.”

The intersection Kao was struck, 29th Street and 24th Avenue, is along the route to the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, State Senator Michael Gianaris shared. As such, there are often trucks traveling down the street, which poses a danger to bikers and pedestrians.

”We are here today for something that is a tragedy but is remarkably simple in terms of why it happened and how we can fix it. There is not enough infrastructure to protect cyclists in our city, and in this neighborhood specifically,” Gianaris said.

New York State Senator Kristen Gonzalez reinforced that what happened to Kao was not an accident — it was a policy failure. These are preventable crashes, she expressed, and there should be funding to create the infrastructure needed to protect bikers in the community.

Queens needs better bike lanes

If listening to DOT spokespeople has taught us anything, it’s that “jersey barriers” and “baffle walls” are the appropriate lingo to use for a cement barrier.

It is something that Transportation officials really need to consider with regards to the “protected bike lanes,” because it’s apparent they are not very well protected at all.

Creating an interborough bike network is a fantastic idea, but DOT really needs to weigh its options when it comes to the implementation because there are some serious issues with some major thoroughfares in Queens.

For instance, placing bike lanes along Queens Boulevard really needs to be reexamined. They seem out of place along “the Boulevard of Death,” without some sort of physical buffer between the street traffic and bike traffic.

They have concrete dividers between cyclists and drivers in places like Downtown Brooklyn and parts of Lower Manhattan, where they have proven to be effective.

Earlier this year, DOT announced plans to fortify these delineated bike lanes, but thus far little has been done to deploy jersey barriers in Queens, with the first half of the project focused on Manhattan.

However, at other locations like Cooper Avenue in Glendale or Skillman Avenue in Sunnyside, there is literally nothing separating cyclists and motorists whatsoever. Just a few painted lines signifying where the lanes begin and end.

The way the “protected” bike lanes are currently situated poses a serious hazard to both motor vehicle operators and cyclists. The existing plastic road dividers do little to nothing to stop a speeding vehicle from charging into the pathway.

With the added use of e-bikes and scooters, these already busy thoroughfares have become even more treacherous for pedestrians. Dozens of irresponsible cyclists and drivers will blow through red lights, zip through pedestrian crosswalks at excessive speed, and sometimes people will even pop up onto the sidewalks.

To make matters worse, on any given day, there are guaranteed to be a few motorcycles and moped riders jumping in and out of the bike lanes in order to evade vehicular traffic patterns.

State traffic laws do allow for e-bikes and scooters to use the designated bike lanes, but they do not allow mopeds, motorcycles, ATVs, or any other form of vehicle that are required to be registered with the DMV.

Even though operating these vehicles in the bike lane is a violation, law enforcement doesn’t seem to be doing much to prevent this from happening. This is why people continue to do it.

Without penalties, people think its perfectly acceptable to drive their 40 mph mopeds in and out of the lanes and onto the sidewalks, not realizing that they’re still going fast enough to cause serious harm to cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers.

Ridgewood locals form bike collective

Ridgewood Rides to focus on community rides, activism

Last week, concerned Ridgewood cyclists gathered at Grover Cleveland Park to voice their safety concerns and ideas for improved bike infrastructure in the community.

By the end of the meet-up, a new biking group, “Ridgewood Rides,” was formed—which will focus on hosting group bike rides, spreading awareness about bike safety, and advocating for protected bike lanes.

Rachel Albetski, an urban planner, resident of Ridgewood, and former chair of North Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives Activist Committee, organized the meet-up in the park, encouraging neighbors to join and talk about the most troublesome areas for cyclists in the area.

“I think the intention is that we want to continue doing community building through these weekly community rides that would just be open for anyone,” Albetski said.

“We go around and bike, but then another contingent would be more going towards the advocacy route, actually starting to really push the electeds, the DOT, and the community board to come and do a comprehensive neighborhood traffic study and improve the bicycle network.”

Several attendees brought up the concern for bikers on Metropolitan Avenue, due to the fact that the bike lane is simply painted and not protected, as well as other bustling streets such as Fresh Pond Road.

“The infrastructure is not there. Metropolitan is really bumpy. I think one of the biggest pet peeves that I have for biking in Ridgewood is that cars are really aggressive on these streets—even though we have a lot of one way pairs,” Bree Mobley, a Ridgewood resident said at the meet-up.

“We’ve also had a ton of construction on Himrod and Harman…and the access to the Ridgewood Reservoir is shady in certain parts, and it just doesn’t feel that great,” she continued. “It’d be great to expand the network and then make those connections better.”

Juan Ardila, who won the Democratic Primary election for Assembly District 37, also attended the meeting to show support for the group’s efforts.

“The biggest pet peeve about Maspeth is that we are absolutely aggressive with cars. There are no bike lanes; it just does not exist there,” Ardila said.

“So trying to see what we can do to bring some of that good energy down to Maspeth, see what we could do to expand it in Ridgewood as well to make it safe and accessible for people who do want to bike,” he continued. “I want to bike a lot more than what I currently do, so having these protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety is a big issue that needs to be addressed.”

Albetski said that throughout her career as an urban planner, she’s advocated for street safety for many years, and feels that the biking community has a great opportunity to achieve their goals now.

“If people are up for it, I think we kind of have a really great opportunity now to take energy and translate that into really advocating for what we want to see for change,” she said. “And now we have Juan [Ardila] which is awesome, because we have someone who can support our goals on a broader level. I’m just super excited that we have this momentum.”

Ridgewood Rides plans on petitioning, bringing those signatures to Community Board 5, and asking that they request the DOT to do a comprehensive study of the area’s streets to ensure that cyclists’ needs are being met.

But another main component of the group’s mission is to hold community bike rides throughout local neighborhoods.
This was inspired by Mollie Lauffer, also known as “Ridgefood” on social media, who first organized a pool noodle bike ride in Ridgewood during May.

“The significance of the noodle is that it prevents people from getting too close, because drivers do what they call a ‘close pass’ and want to get around you,” Lauffer said.

“It shows them that they can’t just get right on top of us and they have to give us space,” she continued. “You getting around in your car is not more important than me getting somewhere on my bike.”

Ridgewood Rides will hold their next group bike ride in and around Ridgewood on Thursday, July 14.

Its total distance is 10.2 miles with an average speed of 10-12 mph, and will make stops at Juniper Valley Park, Ollie’s Ice Cream Shop, and Fresh Pond Cocktail Club.

With opposing views in mind, the group discussed that having protected bike lanes would benefit everyone on the street, not just cyclists.

“It’s less about an individual bike lane and more just about creating an overall feeling of safety for everyone,” Albetski said.

“So from your 90-year-old grandma to your eight-year-old kid, we just want everyone to feel like they can come and ride a bike in the neighborhood,” she continued. “I think that would be best accomplished through a network design and fully integrating into the existing bike network that already exists.”

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