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Queens Chronicle

A fun ride that also makes a point

Family bike cruise highlights the new lanes in Woodside some oppose

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Posted: Thursday, November 15, 2018 10:30 am

To show that the neighborhood’s new bicycle lanes work — and to just enjoy them — a group of Woodside families took their bikes and their kids out for a spin last Saturday.

Along Skillman Avenue, complaints are growing that the protected bike lanes installed by the city last summer are not just a nuisance but a safety hazard.

But not everyone in Woodside sees it that way, says Evan O’Neil, one of the organizers of what was billed as a Family Fun Bike Ride.

“We’d noticed a lot of chatter online against the bike lanes,” he said. “And we just formed a group to show our solidarity. This is a celebration of a necessary change.”

“There was so much animosity and it was such a difficult process to get them in,” groaned Cristina Furlong, a Jackson Heights mom who several years ago helped found the advocacy group called Make Queens Safer.

The Woodside parents “just said, ‘Come on, let’s use them.’ It was an organic thing, from the parents, not a backlash to the community,” she said.

Elsewhere, city transportation officials have been grappling with serious local opposition to bike lanes, especially in Willamsburg where Orthodox Jews have been fighting for nearly a decade to get them banned.

“It would be a massive setback” if the city changed its mind now, Alan Baglia, another organizer, said. “And that’s not even getting into the cost of it.”

Still, few of the riders last Saturday seem to believe there is a serious threat of the new network of protected lanes being torn out because of complaints.

Meanwhile, a bike-lane opposition group is staging a “Queens Streets for All Rally” this Sunday just a block away (1 p.m. at 43rd Avenue and 51st Street) to “restore the road on Skillman ... before someone is seriously injured,” according to fliers.

Already, organizers claim, some merchants on Skillman have seen business drop 18 percent since the lanes went in.

For the kids who posed for cellphone pictures in their bike helmets, bundled up against a stiff November wind, the debate over making New York a place that embraces bicyclists is not that pressing.

Ellie and Agnes, both 8 and best friends from Sunnyside, squirmed just a little in an unusual cargo carrier built right into the frame of a bike ridden by Agnes’ mom, Susie.

“When we were 4, we used to fit in perfectly,” said Ellie.

Murray Johnson, 4, has been riding in a kid seat attached behind his father since he was one. “I love this,” he said.

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