Bike lane mileage in Long Island City and Sunnyside, Queens, is set to double next year, under a preliminary plan from the Department of Transportation, with significant expansions to follow in subsequent years. The nine miles of new routes — along 11th Street, Skillman Avenue, 47th Avenue and 39th Street — were selected in a community planning process convened earlier this year by Community Board 2 and City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.
Queens’ disjointed street grid poses a particular challenge for cyclists. With relatively few streets that provide a through route from neighborhood to neighborhood, cyclists often find themselves on the same handful of wide, busy streets with the most dangerous automobile traffic. In this plan, DOT is making room for cyclists on those in-demand routes. “These are major routes,” said CB 2 member Emilia Crotty. “They cut all the way through the neighborhood.” 11th, for example, feeds into the Pulaski Bridge. Additionally, new bike lanes will extend down into Hunters Point on the smaller streets of 2nd Street, and 50th and 51st Avenues.
The very busiest path, however, will remain free of bike infrastructure. DOT deemed Queens Boulevard to have traffic volumes too high to allow a bike lane, according to the Queens Chronicle, despite community interest in putting a lane there.
The Department of Transportation is still developing the designs for the new bike lanes, which could be painted lanes, sharrows, or even — in the case of the 39th Street bridge over the Sunnyside rail yards — placed on the sidewalk. “I know that members of the community will push for the most robust designs possible,” said Crotty.
The design options will be constrained by DOT’s commitment to avoid eliminating on-street parking with these bike lane projects. These will not be protected bike routes.
DOT is currently collecting additional traffic data in the neighborhood and should have a proposal before the community board by the fall. If approved, the bike lanes would be built next spring.
At that point, DOT would move right into another round of bike lane construction in the neighborhood, tentatively scheduled for the following year. DOT and local residents have already identified a number of feasible routes, which community members have ranked at public workshops. In all, the goal is to develop a four-year plan for bike lane expansion in the district, according to the Chronicle.
By an overwhelming margin, said Crotty, the top choice for a bike lane is Greenpoint Avenue, where two cyclists have been killed in traffic crashes since April. She noted that it might be impossible to design a bike lane on the Queens segment of Greenpoint Avenue, however, before the city decides how to improve conditions for cycling on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge. DOT had proposed adding buffered bike lanes to the bridge, but the agency shelved that plan and started over after encountering opposition from area businesses that run trucks over it.
DOT also plans to add new bike racks to the neighborhood, particularly around Queensboro Plaza.