A popular new bike lane in Queens has been bombarded with thumb tacks, in what cyclists and elected officials suspect is a vigilante attack launched by an increasingly hostile contingent of neighborhood NIMBYs.
The tacks were first spotted Wednesday by Sunnyside resident Peter Shore as he was biking with his kids along the 43rd Avenue protected lane. The objects, all of which seemed to be placed sharp-side-up, blew out one of his tires and one of the tires on the attached bike cart carrying his two children. When Shore returned Thursday morning, he says he saw thumb tacks scattered across at least four blocks of 43rd Avenue.
"I just want it to be known that whomever did this is obviously in opposition against this already existing bike lanes and their protest could have seriously injured or even killed me or one of my kids," he wrote on Facebook. "If this is a 13 year old kid doing this, I could maybe understand, but I assume it isn’t."
We have received reports of thumb tacks being intentionally left in the bike lanes along 43rd Avenue in Sunnyside. This represents a new low and a violent and dangerous turn by those opposed to the bike lanes. pic.twitter.com/IlIHZUa2Gg
— Jimmy Van Bramer (@JimmyVanBramer) November 29, 2018
Since their installation in August, the paired lanes have proved hugely popular with cyclists, who were previously forced to navigate a notoriously dangerous route between Queens Boulevard and the Queensboro Bridge. But they've also faced fierce opposition from certain neighborhood voices, including the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce, ousted Rep. Joe Crowley, and the local community board, which voted against the lanes and was overruled by the city.
Even by typical bikelash standards, the opposition has been intense, at times even threatening; Streetsblog, which was the first to report the story, notes that an anonymous bike lane naysayer recently commented on a Sunnyside Post article: "Bring on the carpet tacks!" This past Sunday, a group called Queens Streets For All hosted a rally against the bike lanes, furiously noting that the redesign could cost the neighborhood approximately 150 parking spots.
"Sunnyside residents already spend an inordinate amount of time looking for parking due to the lack of spaces," proclaims one flyer, distributed by the Sunnyside Chamber of Commerce. "Transportation Alternatives are pushing an agenda of protected bike lanes at all costs to the detriment of our community."
On Thursday, City Councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer, who represents the neighborhood, took to Twitter to affirm his support for the bike lanes and condemn the tack-attack. "While people may disagree, the increasingly desperate campaign against them is now riling up the worst elements of our community and inspiring criminal vigilantism," he wrote.
"No matter where you’ve stood on this debate, we should all be disgusted by how negative and now dangerous the opposition against them has become," he added. "Now little children have been placed in harm’s way because some will never come to accept that we have bike lanes in our community."
Van Bramer also called on the NYPD to investigate the tacks as a criminal act. We've reached out to the police and will update if we hear back.