11th Street Should Be a Great Bike Connection for Western Queens

Both designs proposed for the foot of the Pulaski Bridge route cyclists east down 49th Avenue. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons
The proposals for the foot of the Pulaski Bridge don’t include an intuitive connection to 11th Street. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons

With the Pulaski Bridge bikeway set to open this spring and Long Island City streets in line for a total rebuild, DOT has a rare opportunity to improve the western Queens bike network. One of the most important connections in the neighborhood is 11th Street, which forms the most convenient path between the Pulaski and the Queensboro Bridge/Queens Plaza. So far, though, DOT’s design options for 11th Street come up short.

11th Street is the most desirable route for cyclists hoping to get to the Queensboro Bridge. Image: Google Maps
11th Street is the most direct route between the Queensboro Bridge and the Pulaski Bridge. Image: Google Maps

Earlier this month, DOT and DDC presented potential street redesigns for Long Island City. None of the options for 11th Street included a protected bike lane, even though several blocks of the street are wide enough to add one easily. Nor do the proposals for the foot of the Pulaski Bridge include an intuitive bike connection to 11th.

Instead, the city’s design for the foot of the bridge only creates a good bike connection to 49th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, which runs by the waterfront. A better connection to Vernon will be helpful, but a safe and convenient link to 11th Street is needed as well. The easiest path from the Pulaski to the Queensboro Bridge and the Queens Plaza bike path runs through 11th Street.

At around 70 feet wide, curb-to-curb, 11th Street has enough room for a protected bike lane. But DOT’s current proposals for 11th Street add pedestrian space via an extended east sidewalk or an expanded concrete median and don’t call for protected bike lanes.

A protected bike lane on this stretch would make walking and biking safer. On other streets with protected bike lanes, pedestrian injuries have fallen 22 percent, according to DOT.

The chance to completely overhaul a neighborhood’s street network doesn’t come along that often. It’s important to get the 11th Street design right and make the most of the opportunity to create a seamless bike connection linking northern Brooklyn, Long Island City, and Manhattan via the Queensboro Bridge.

11th Street is a major bike connector, but none of the redesigns being considered by the city included a protected bike lane. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons
None of the city’s proposed redesigns of 11th Street include a protected bike lane. Image: DDC/DOT/Parsons
  • r

    “Instead, the city’s design for the foot of the bridge only creates a good bike connection to 49th Avenue and Vernon Boulevard, which runs by the waterfront.”

    Why is it that every parking space – and wide parking lane – is needed so that drivers can pull up to every last home and business, but DOT continues to think that people who bike only need routes from one distant point to another? They might be surprised to find that people use bikes to get to these same homes and businesses.

  • Tattler

    But where are they gonna put the streetcar?

  • J

    When there’s clearly space for protected bike lanes, DOT should put them in as standard practice. Anything else is just laziness.

  • AlexWithAK

    The city has a huge aversion to protected bike lanes. It really makes no sense. Prospect Park Southwest and Shore Road (which was just resurfaced last year) are two examples I’m familiar with that would be perfect for protected lanes. Both have plenty of room and run along parks with very little cross auto traffic. Protected bike lanes on the park side of each of these streets should be a no-brainer as they’d have minimal impact on car traffic and parking.

    Instead, PPSW has one of DOT’s classic wide parking lanes and Shore Rd has unprotected lanes that are chronically blocked by cars, as is the case with virtually all unprotected lanes throughout the city. All it would take to create these is some paint. Shore Road could have been done last year when it was restriped for next to nothing. And yet, the city doesn’t do it. It’s infuriating.

  • Eric McClure

    Can someone from NYC DOT please explain in the comments how widening an existing median is a better solution here than adding protected bike lanes? Feel free to use an anonymous handle. If there are reasons why curbside lanes or a median path aren’t doable or safe, you really need to explain them to the masses. Otherwise, this just looks like kowtowing to don’t-touch-the-parking NIMBYs or Community Boards or some imaginary NBBL wannabes.

  • J

    The problem is risk-averse career technocrats at DOT who were there before JSK arrived and who plan to stick around until they retire. It’s incredibly hard to hire or fire these people so they make their own lives easier by doing the established type of projects that make the fewest people angry. They don’t innovate except in VERY small amounts around the edges, and they back down nearly instantly whenever they encounter any resistance. Basically, they have a playbook for easy wins that they follow, and without prodding from Trottenberg or DeBlasio, this pattern will continue indefinitely.

  • Brian Howald

    I bike on the highway that is 11th street several times a month. There are very few pedestrians except near Murray Playground, and even fewer walking north/south along the street. While undoubtedly that is related to the noise and danger from speeding traffic, there are few businesses to attract pedestrian traffic compared to adjacent 21st Street (east) and Vernon Blvd (west), both of which carry one lane in each direction (though 21st is also in need of some calming).

    Why we would need to expand a median not intended for walkers (aside from the need for larger pedestrian islands) or widen a sidewalk with few walkers, when we have an opportunity for a protected connection from the Pulaski to the Queensborough is beyond me.

    Also of concern in DOT’s proposal (http://www.scribd.com/doc/299789103/LIC-Hunters-Point-Reconstruction-Project-DDC-DOT-Queens-CB2-Presentation) is the proposals for raised medians on 44th Drive and their extension on Jackson Ave. The medians are about four feet high and have trees, and are pretty good at giving that suburban roadway 40mph feel we are striving for with urban streets.

  • BBnet3000

    They don’t seem to understand that cycling needs a finer grained network than driving. The auto network should be more hierarchical and keep through traffic out of neighborhoods, while people walking and cycling can continue through.

  • J

    The city doesn’t seem to understand cycling period. The disjointed network of a few protected lanes, and mostly sharrows and bike lanes full of double parked cars does an exceedingly poor job of getting people from point A to point B by bicycle.

  • Simon Phearson

    I get the sense that the raised medians are more about controlling pedestrian traffic than slowing traffic. But even so, I’m not sure how raised medians increase the speed problems on 44th and Jackson SW of Davis, which right now are wide-open free-for-alls (especially Jackson).

  • Nick Ober

    I just can’t believe DOT and DDC would waste such a good opportunity to install protected bike lanes. There’s literally no reason not to. There’s plenty of space, negligible traffic volume, and money on the table.

  • Brian Howald

    Research from the U.K. suggests that the presence of center dividing lines on roads increases speeds compared to two-way streets without them. I would assume that concrete barriers increase that effect as it is the presence of approaching vehicles that causes drivers to slow down. This is why we don’t have high-speed undivided highways.

    You are correct that Jackson is a free-for all, though I think that 44th is a much less trafficked road outside of business hours. Instead of installing raised medians, their sidewalks can be extended and the lanes narrowed to effect traffic calming.

  • Simon Phearson

    But wouldn’t research also suggest that having road features close to the flow of traffic – as on Jackson NE of Davis – would tend to decrease speeds?

    I am not sure that the research you’re citing properly leads one to conclude that it’s “approaching vehicles” that cause the lower speeds seen on roads with center dividing lines, since those approaching vehicles would be there even with the center dividing lines. Further, I’m not sure that research on center dividing lines can properly be extrapolated into speculating what a raised concrete median, with trees and other plantings, might do for traffic.

  • Brian Howald

    All of those are fair points.

    Here’s a short paper from Transport for London explaining a trial removal of center lines: http://content.tfl.gov.uk/centre-line-removal-trial.pdf

    “Why are speeds higher with centre lines?

    Getting into the ‘minds’ of drivers is not easy. A theory is that centre lines and hatching can provide a psychological sense of confidence to drivers that no vehicles will encroach on ‘their’ side of the road. There can also be a tendency for some drivers to position their vehicles close to a white line regardless of the traffic conditions, believing it is their ‘right’ to be in this position. Centre line removal introduces an element of uncertainty which is reflected in lower speeds.

    Although not identifiable in the data, it was noted on site that speeds of individual vehicles appeared to be particularly lower when they were passing other vehicles travelling [sic] in the opposite direction. This supports the theory that uncertainty and additional cautiousness is responsible for the speed reduction.”

    Extrapolating from that possible explanation is that center barriers completely eliminate the possibility that vehicles traveling in the opposite direction will encroach upon a driver’s path. Center barriers never move and as such require less monitoring by drivers compared to oncoming traffic. All roads of 60mph or higher employ center barriers. This is why I think this particular road feature would not act to decrease speeds, but rather enables them.

  • Joe R.

    Ideally, the NYC grid should be composed entirely of superblocks about 1/4 mile on a side, at least with respect to motor vehicles. Any streets in between should either be blocked off entirely to motor traffic, or blocked off with retractable bollards which only emergency or delivery vehicles can operate, perhaps also paratransit. There’s zero reason you need private motor vehicle access to every block.

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