March 10, 2021 By Christina Santucci
Bike advocates are inviting the public to ride around western Queens this weekend with nearly a dozen political candidates who are vying to replace Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer.
The activities will begin with a rally Sunday, March 14 at 11 a.m. at Queensbridge Park, followed by a five-mile ride around District 26.
Organizers say that the gathering is a way for riders to share their concerns about “current bike infrastructure in the district“ with the candidates — and find out what those running for office would do if elected.
The two-hour ride, which will begin and end at Queensbridge Park, will start out on the Vernon Boulevard bike lane — then travel through Long Island City, Sunnyside, and Woodside.
“We want to really show candidates what we deal with everyday — when we are going to work, visiting friends and taking our kids to school,” said one of the event’s organizers, Chong J. Bretillon.
Bretillon and fellow organizers Laura Shepard and Alan Baglia are members of Transportation Alternatives Queens Volunteer Committee.
So far, 11 candidates — nine of whom plan to bike and two who are planning to attend the rally — have said they will be participating.
There are currently 21 candidates running for District 26, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. Of those, Jonathan Bailey, Amit Bagga, Julia Forman, Denise Keehan-Smith, Hailie Kim, Jesse Laymon, Sultan Maruf, Brent O’Leary, Micah Peterson, Steven Raga and Julie Won are expected at Sunday’s activities.
But the invitation remains open to all of the other candidates to attend.
Organizers said they want to show candidates the danger that cyclists face in western Queens by pointing out locations where riders have been killed. Those deadly spots are marked with bicycles spray painted white called “ghost bikes.”
“There are many parts of the district that are littered with ghost bikes, unsafe, and really in need of someone with a deeper sense of empathy to fix it,” said Juan Restrepo, the Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives.
Transportation Alternatives and Sunnyside Woodside Open Streets are sponsoring the event.
Organizers said the ride will also highlight intersections that are difficult for pedestrians to cross; locations where cars are often parked on the sidewalk; and ideal spots for bike parking to be built. Biking advocates want to work with the next Council member to improve these areas.
“Getting more people on bikes is kind of futile if people don’t have places to store them,” Bretillon said.
Riders will also visit the Open Street locations on 39th and Skillman Avenues, which are maintained by Sunnyside Woodside Open Streets. Bretillon said organizers want to show candidates how volunteers have transformed the roadways into community spaces.
The ride is free and open to all, and attendees are expected to wear masks and practice social distancing.
The route will include several Citi Bike docks, so that people who do not own bikes can rent them. Participants plan to meet behind ball field #2 under the Queensboro Bridge on March 14.