A 58-year-old Queens man who started biking to work due to his fear of COVID was fatally struck by an unlicensed truck driver, his grief-stricken wife and the NYPD said Thursday.
Qiang Tu was pedaling west on 47th Ave. in Sunnyside when the box truck driver hit him at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday, cops said.
“He was scared of the enclosed areas, like the subway or bus, because of COVID-19. He started taking the bicycle. He was thinking it was safe, but all of a sudden it happened,” the victim’s wife, Zhimei Gao, 56, said at her Forest Hills home.
Her husband had recently returned to in-person work at the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China in Manhattan.
“I started to take the subway, and he would ride the bike all the way to Manhattan. I said, ‘Why don’t you take the subway with me,’ and he said the mayor built a very safe bicycle lane on the street to Manhattan,” said Gao, who hadn’t slept since her husband’s death.
The driver had just turned onto the avenue from 47th St. and was heading in the same direction as Tu when the front passenger-side of the truck clipped the bicyclist, police said. Tu was knocked off his bike and run over by the truck’s rear wheels.
He was riding on a designated bike route with “sharrows” on the pavement indicating drivers should share the road with cyclists.
EMS rushed Tu to Elmhurst Hospital Center, but he couldn’t be saved.
Driver Shakai Waye, 33, of Newark, remained at the scene and was taken into custody when cops realized his driver’s license had been suspended. He was charged with aggravated unlicensed operation of a motor vehicle, police said.
Juan Restrepo, senior organizer and Queens organizer at Transportation Alternatives, a pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy group, said Tu was the 230th person killed in a vehicular crash this year and the 1,849th killed since Mayor de Blasio took office.
“Bloodshed on our streets is only getting worse as Mayor de Blasio’s time in office comes to a close,” Restrepo said. “Instead of getting closer to Vision Zero, we are getting further away. But let’s be clear: Vision Zero isn’t failing. Mayor de Blasio is failing.”
In addition to his COVID fears, Tu started cycling because parking in Manhattan had become more of a hassle, his wife said. She worried about the future of her 17-year-old son, who is a senior in high school.
“He’s applying for college this year. We didn’t expect too much of a financial issue. Now everything is changed. We have to change everything without my husband. I didn’t tell my son yesterday. I wanted to at least let him sleep well for one night,” Gao said.
Restrepo emphasized that Tu was pedaling a route without protected bike lanes.
“Qiang Tu’s life could have been saved if Mayor de Blasio prioritized people over parking. Instead, even though he was biking along a so-called ‘designated bike route,’ there is zero physical protection from deadly cars here, only painted sharrows on the road,” he said.
“While there is a bike boulevard and three different protected bike lanes north of Queens Blvd., the southern section of Sunnyside only has sharrows and painted bike lanes, offering no protection to residents commuting through the area,” Restrepo added. “This area needs a comprehensive safety plan ... Paint is not protection. Saving lives should come before saving parking spots.”