Queens CB 2 Votes Unanimously in Favor of Queens Blvd Protected Bike Lane

Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]
Queens Boulevard will be redesigned this summer before being reconstructed in 2018. Image: DOT [PDF]
Big changes are coming to Queens Boulevard in Woodside this summer after a unanimous vote last night from Queens Community Board 2 for a DOT redesign.

The plan will add protected bike lanes and expand pedestrian space on 1.3 miles of the “Boulevard of Death,” from Roosevelt Avenue to 74th Street [PDF]. Six people were killed on this stretch of Queens Boulevard between 2009 and 2013, including two pedestrians and one cyclist, according to DOT. Over the same period, 36 people suffered serious injuries, the vast majority in motor vehicles.

DOT plans on implementing the design in July and August with temporary materials before building it out with concrete in 2018. It’s the first phase in a $100 million, multi-year project to transform the notoriously dangerous Queens Boulevard between Sunnyside and Forest Hills.

“It was an incredibly important and, dare I say, historic moment for Queens and for the safe streets movement,” said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. “Having a bike lane on Queens Boulevard — I can remember several years ago, people saying to me, ‘That is the most pie-in-the-sky, ridiculous harebrained notion ever. It’ll never happen.’ But, you know, it’s gonna happen. It’s happening. That is seismic, in terms of the shift in where the thinking has gone.”

“We have come up with what I consider to be one of our most creative and exciting proposals that this department has ever put together,” Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told CB 2 last night. “It’s going to greatly enhance safety. It’s going to make the road more pleasant and more attractive for pedestrians, for cyclists, for the people who live and have their business on Queens Boulevard. And it will keep the traffic flowing, as well.”

The plan cleared the CB 2 transportation committee on Tuesday, but it almost didn’t get past the full board last night. “They came rather close to tabling the decision for the next community board meeting, which apparently would be in September. There was a lot of discussion about how that would delay the project for almost a year,” said Sunnyside resident Paul Mucciarone. “You were going to get into the winter months and it would be 2016 before these changes would get made.”

After remarks from Trottenberg, Van Bramer, and a presentation from DOT, the board voted 34-0, with one abstention, to support the plan.

The proposal has been tweaked since its first brush with CB 2 in April. The current plan calls for more visible bike markings at the intersection with Roosevelt Avenue, and for westbound drivers to come to a full stop instead of merging where they cross the bike path on the way from the service road to the main lanes near 61st Street.

The biggest changes are near the ramp from eastbound Queens Boulevard to the Brooklyn Queens Expressway. Drivers will access the BQE ramp from the service road after using a new slip lane west of 65th Place. While that creates an additional conflict point between drivers and cyclists, it also allows for fewer conflicts between motorists and pedestrians at the on-ramp to the BQE at 66th Street.

new_slip_lane
Drivers will access the BQE from a slip lane west of 65th Street…
BQE_ramp
…enabling a car-free pedestrian space at 66th Street instead of a highway entrance.

Previous versions of the plan reduced the eastbound service road to one lane beneath the Long Island Rail Road overpass. The final version keeps two car lanes and squeezes in the bike lane by separating it from car traffic with a raised curb.

An earlier version of the plan shifted the protected bike lane to the main roadway between 69th and 73rd streets, but CB 2 voted last night to keep cyclists in the service road, even though it will remove on-street car parking.

“This vote wasn’t just a statement, it’s actually the final sign-off on a project,” Van Bramer said. “It’s great. It’s gonna save lives.”

  • Alex

    It’s a little ironic that the tabling motion actually was proposed by a big supporter of the plan, who (mistakenly) thought that the redesign would fail if it went to a full vote last night.

  • Reader

    A good plan, but the stop lines for cyclists should be AHEAD of the stop lines for drivers to improve visibility. And the concrete should be built out more at these spots to force drivers to make sharper turns across the bike lane.

    Otherwise, a very ambitious project. Big high five to the advocates in Queens for pushing for something like this for so long.

  • Ben_Kintisch

    Wonderful and tremendous. Congrats TA Queens and the whole activist community for an inspirational win. Huzzah!

  • JK

    Outstanding! Big thank you to CM Van Bramer, T.A. and the DOT. But one wonders, if we can do this on the Boulevard of Death itself, can we get a protected lane on Amsterdam Avenue in Manhattan? Or does doing anything “creative and exciting” require a unanimous vote from the community board? #StillWaiting

  • One problem is that for cyclists, the temporary version is superior to the proposed permanent version. In the temp version, cyclists have 5 feet, and could pass one another in the 5 foot pedestrian area, when safe, or go around a flex post and pass in the traffic lane. In the permanent version, youre stuck at 5 feet, and you cant exit on either side to pass. The permanent version needs to allow at least 7 feet so faster cyclists can pass slower ones.

  • ganghiscon

    When I read about the terrible community boards in upper Manhattan who complain about everything and refuse to compromise on anything, I’m always relieved to see projects like this and the Greenpoint Ave. bridge lane being approved by my own community board.

  • BBnet3000

    Absolutely correct but unfortunately few advocates in New York seem to care about design specifics. Why don’t the people who design them care either?

  • Joe R.

    Agreed. While we’re discussing potential improvements I’m also disappointed the permanent version doesn’t include either overpasses or underpasses at major intersections. Light cycles on Queens Boulevard are ridiculously long, to the point getting stuck at ten red lights (easily possible given the light timing) can incur a delay of 15 or 20 minutes. We still have a few years to advocate for these changes in the final version.

    We probably should also consider flyover junctions at the busier transitions between the main and service roads, particularly the one to the BQE tunnel.

  • BBnet3000

    That slip lane at 65th St looks dangerous. Who even has the right of way there? Why isn’t the green bikeway continued straight across the junction?

    My guess is that they don’t want to do stop control or signalization there because it could affect Level Of Service for the volume of cars going to the BQE. Couldn’t they time it with the previous light to avoid backups though?

    I wonder whether this bikeway will end up well used. Its in the middle of the road, narrow and still rife with conflicts. Building it out in permanent materials rather than a nicer Dutch boulevard design (with local traffic only on the side roads) will lock Queens in as a cycling backwater for a generation.

  • ahwr

    The slip lane west of 65th? Doesn’t it say in the graphic there will be a traffic signal?

  • van_vlissingen

    Where the LIRR Mainline crosses over Queens Blvd (At Queens Blvd & 69th St) it appears as though the pedestrian walkway would disappear. This is because instead of the typical steel columns holding up the overpass, there is some kind of stone/concrete structure which takes up the entirety of the proposed pedestrian walkway.

    However, If you check the LIRR overpass on Google Maps Street-view, you’ll note there is a covered over doorway on each side of the overpass and on both the north and south sides of the street. Could that be used (or was it used in the past) as a pedestrian tunnel? (Checking historical records, the Winfield Junction Station seems to have been a couple of blocks south of the intersection – so I doubt it was the entrance for the railroad station).

    Anyone with local / institutional / historical knowledge on what the purpose of those doors was? If it’s simply a pass through – could the MTA be convinced to open up those doors and allow pedestrians through?

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