SUNNYSIDE — Transit advocates are calling on the city to install protected bike lanes along two major thoroughfares in Queens, including one street where a cyclist was struck and killed by a drunk driver in April.
Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives launched a petition demanding the protected bike paths — which would include a physical barrier between cyclists and the traffic lane — along 43rd and Skillman avenues.
Locals leaders have been pushing for safety upgrades on 43rd Avenue since April, when Gelasio Reyes, 32, was struck and killed by a drunk driver at the intersection of 39th Street while cycling home from work.
Another three cyclists were injured in crashes along 43rd and Skillman avenues during the first five months of 2017 alone, according to the city's Vision Zero map.
Both streets are popular east-west corridors for cyclists riding through Long Island City and Sunnyside, and while they currently include painted bike lanes, riders say the paths are often blocked by double-parked cars.
"You're forced into traffic," said Derek Magee, who lives in Sunnyside and cycles to work in Manhattan each day along Skillman Avenue, then takes 43rd Avenue east on his way home.
"[A] protected lane — it makes a big difference," he said. "[It would] also have the impact of narrowing the roadway somewhat and making cars drive slower."
A Department of Transportation spokesman said a number of people have reached out in support of protected bike lanes for the streets, and that the agency is specifically studying the intersection of 43rd Avenue and 39th Street for potential safety changes.
The DOT expects to present a proposal to the community later this year, the spokesman added.
Nearly 300 people had signed Transportation Alternatives' petition as of Friday afternoon.
"These are two of the most heavily trafficked east-west connections," said Juan Restrepo, an organizer with the group.
"It's a little bit more universal than, 'Oh, it's just for Sunnyside,'" he added. "This is all of Queens who really needs this connection, it's so integral to the bike network."