Feb. 3, 2023 By Bill Parry
To mark the one-month anniversary of the death of Astoria cyclist Tamara Chuchi Kao, who was struck and killed by the diver of a cement truck at the intersection of 29th Street and 24th Avenue, the neighborhood’s elected officials called on the city to build more bike lanes.
They stood at the southwest corner of the intersection where the 62-year-old woman was killed and demanded that the Department of Transportation build, at minimum, a north-south bike lane and an east-west protected bike lane in Astoria by September.
“This is not a suggestion, this is not a request, this is a demand. Four of my constituents have been killed riding their bikes in just the last two and a half years, and it is insufficient to blame this on reckless driving solely,” said Assemblyman Zohran Mamdani. “These are deaths by virtue of reckless policies and insufficient infrastructure– and building a network of protected bike lanes across our neighborhood this year will finally remedy that.”
State Senator Michael Gianaris remembered the many victims of street carnage in western Queens through the years.
“Bike infrastructure saves lives, period. Had the proper infrastructure been installed, lives like Ms. Kao’s could be saved,” Gianaris said. “We must do better, and I join my colleagues in urging the city to put better bike safety tools in place now.”
The neighborhood features protected bike lanes on Vernon Boulevard and Crescent Street running north-south and an east-west lane on Northern Boulevard and 20th Avenue, but the electeds demand more.
“What happened on Jan. 5 should not be considered an accident; it should be considered a policy failure,” State Senator Kristen González said. “There are no bike lanes on either 24th Avenue or 29th Street. In fact, less than 2% of streets in Council District 22 have protected bike lanes, according to Spatial Equity NYC.
“Nearby, on Astoria Boulevard and Ditmars Boulevard, promised bike lanes have failed to materialize. Now is the time for the DOT to provide the infrastructure our community desperately needs. My heart goes out to the Kao family, and our office is here to provide support in any way we can.”
Councilwoman Tiffany Cabán put the onus directly on the Adams administration.
“Traffic safety is a key pillar of public safety,” said Cabán. “This is a viable, sensible plan to enhance traffic safety in Astoria. Unfortunately, the Department of Transportation has suffered repeated budget cuts under the Mayor’s austerity agenda that has greatly reduced its ability to promptly execute even simple plans like this one.”
Before Kao’s death, the DOT had been working on scheduling a workshop this year to identify new protected bike lane routes and build out a new cycling network through Astoria.
“This is a tragedy. DOT mourns the loss of Tamara Chuchi Kao and our thoughts are with her family and loved ones,” DOT spokesman Vin Baron said. “In line with our commitment to Vision Zero, we took immediate action at this crash location and we plan to present the community with proposals for new protected bike lanes in Astoria this year.”