Queens Boulevard Safety Overhaul in Rego Park Clears Community Board 6 Committee

The project extends walking and biking improvements to Yellowstone Boulevard. The full board is set to vote on it next week.

A rendering of the redesigned Queens Boulevard once it's built out with concrete and street plantings. Image: DOT
A rendering of the redesigned Queens Boulevard once it's built out with concrete and street plantings. Image: DOT

Last night, the public got a look at the next phase of DOT’s Queens Boulevard redesign, which will extend protected bike lanes, pedestrian safety improvements, and traffic calming treatments through Rego Park to Yellowstone Boulevard [PDF]. The project got a thumbs up from the Queens Community Board 6 transportation committee in a 7 to 3 vote.

So far, DOT has overhauled 2.5 miles of Queens Boulevard in Woodside and Elmhurst by expanding pedestrian space and adding bikeways along the service road medians. Once dubbed “the Boulevard of Death,” Queens Boulevard has not had a single traffic fatality since the redesign process began in 2015. More people are riding bikes on the redesigned section, while cyclist injuries have declined.

Those two sections enjoyed strong support from the local City Council members, Jimmy Van Bramer and Daniel Dromm. But Council Member Karen Koslowitz has been noncommittal about the segment slated for a redesign this year, which runs through her district in Rego Park and Forest Hills, implying that she will not speak up for the project if the community board votes against it.

Image: NYC DOT
The redesign template repurposes asphalt in the service roads to make room for a bikeway and expanded pedestrian space. Image: NYC DOT

The next phase extends the same redesign template from Eliot Avenue to Yellowstone Boulevard. To limit traffic cutting across the median bikeway between the main line and service roads, the plan calls for close two slip lanes, just past 64th Road on the south side and between 66th Avenue and 65th Road on the north side.

In addition to repurposing space on the medians and service roads for walking and biking, DOT is beefing up pedestrian space at crossings and side streets, like at 63rd Drive/63rd Road, where 101 pedestrians were injured from between 2010 and 2014:

DOT plans install leading pedestrian intervals and extended medians at the intersection with 63rd Road/63rd Drive. Image: DOT
Image: DOT

Overall, the project repurposes 198 parking spaces that were installed in 2001 as a traffic-calming measure. DOT is also removing parking meters on the south curb between 67th Drive and Yellowstone Boulevard, a predominantly residential area, and shortening meter hours between 62nd Drive and 64th Avenue.

While the committee voted for the project, it wasn’t without some dispute. Committee chair John Dereszewski voted against the plan and made it clear that car storage was his top priority.

“What if every single thing [proposed by DOT] was done except extending the bike lanes and eliminating two hundred spots?” he asked. “What would be, in terms of safety — what would be the difference?”

Dereszewski tried to delay the process, insisting that the meeting represented “the first part of… an extended phase” of the board’s involvement. Ultimately, a healthy majority on the committee did not share that assessment and voted to recommend the project when the full board meets next week.

Even some former detractors, like committee member Steven Goldberg, decided to support the project. “I have to consider the overall improvements that they’re trying to make, and weigh that against the loss of parking that is crucial for some peoples’ lives,” said Goldberg. “By improving signaling, crossing Queens Boulevard, for pedestrians, by making it safer to make turns onto Queens Boulevard and off of Queens Boulevard, they’re making it a little safer for drivers, they’re making it safer for bicyclists.”

Queens CB 6 meets next Wednesday at 7:45 p.m. at 80-02 Kew Gardens Road, and is expected to vote on the project. DOT reps said last night that they hope to begin installation over the summer.

In the fall, the city will begin outreach for the final phase of the project, which will end at Union Turnpike. A concrete build-out of the first phase of the project, in Woodside, is scheduled to begin next year as well.

  • J

    While overall, the project is great, DOT is still having a hard time getting some of the details right. For example, on one section, cyclists are forced to cross to the other side of the street, then double back a block later. This is a design that will be roundly ignored, putting cyclists safety at risk. If you make people go way out of their way for safety, they simply won’t do it.

  • Max

    Things definitely got feisty during the vote, but there was at least a coherent conversation between the committee members (until the issue of parking was brought up, of course…)

    I do hope that the committee chair “does his job” (as one member put it) and present the committee’s support to the full board at next week’s vote.

  • Jeff

    Anyone feel that DOT is deluding themselves with this whole idea of widening the medians between the service road and mainline by five feet and calling it a “mall” and expecting it to be useful to pedestrians in a meaningful way? Even with the expansion it still doesn’t have the width to create an Ocean Parkway-style experience.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The teases of the capital project such as the picture up top leave me thinking that it might be better to stick with the temporary design. If you can’t learn from the Dutch at least learn from London. Put a raised curb between the cycleway and the adjacent road lane. Make the cycleway wide enough for 2 people to ride side by side. Add bollards near any car dealership or police station.

  • guest

    I’ve always been excited about Queens Blvd bike lanes until I got to ride in them for the first time just this weekend… Yikes. The pollution and dirt from the omnipresent cars made it such a miserable experience. It frankly felt more unpleasant than riding on 2nd Ave in Manhattan. I’m still thrilled this project is moving on and I know there’s no parallel calm route that could be repurposed for cycling but wow, am I glad I don’t have to bike commute on that nasty street. We really need fewer cars in this city.

  • Jeff

    It’s actually my favorite bike lane in the city–one of the only protected lanes I feel like I can really “open up”. Most protected bike lanes in the city feel like an obstacle course to me.

  • J

    Wait, you want the city to learn from the Dutch?? Haven’t you figured out by now that NYC is a unique snowflake and can’t (won’t) learn from anywhere else. That’s why we don’t have protected intersections, bike boulevards, or a variety of other no brainer ideas, because they don’t come from NYC. The only way to actually get halfway good design in capital projects from the city is to mount a multi-year advocacy campaign (see 4th Ave), and even then the DOT is likely to ignore you (Grand Concourse).

  • van_vlissingen

    There’s an existing 10′-13′ median now they are adding 5′ new feet. That makes for a pedestrian area of 15′-18′ which is fairly generous.

  • Hey, now! I like Queens Boulevard! There is one questionable spot: eastbound as just before you get to 64th Street.

    https://www.google.com/maps/@40.7410579,-73.9022369,3a,71.1y,88.45h,83.54t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sZUysfptXRs9yKOQMU80zGw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656!5m1!1e3?hl=en

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ad89b2828488cd67d94cc99ceb9195a3a12d40992cbd3dd8d951ead225afe10c.jpg

    The light stopping the bikes is soooo long. I stop for it, of course; but many bicyclists don’t. That spot is a disaster waiting to happen, considering the practices of too many bicyclists. Nothing good will come of it when the tragedy happens, and we find out that the driver had the green and the bicyclist blew a red.

    Still, that having been said, the entire stretch from Eliot Avenue up to almost Greenpoint Avenue is a delight. I used to just brave QB before the bike lane; and it is now completely tamed as opposed to before. Going west, we cyclists just have to remember to use our hands to signal to to the drivers to heed the stop signs at those few points where drivers change from the main road to the service road or the other way.

  • Joe R.

    For what it’s worth Queens Boulevard was a place where you could “open up” prior to the bike lanes. Back before they changed the light timing I could often average 20+ mph from Forest Hills to LIC.

    That said, I’m happy to hear these protected lanes still allow fast riding. At least for once protected lanes aren’t worse than street riding.

    When we finally set the design permanently in concrete I would love to see overpasses over the busiest intersections. Queens Boulevard has very long light cycles. The fact it’s one of the few major east-west trunk routes for cyclists probably justifies the expense of building the overpasses given the massive amount of time they’ll save bike commuters. I’ll need to look at a map to see where they should go but for now I think we wouldn’t need more than about 10 overpasses in each direction.

  • QueensWatcher

    The capital project does include a raised curb between the lane and the street. Hard to see in the image, but the capital plan envisions lifting the bikelane on to the wider median.

  • Joe R.

    That’s easily the most brain-dead part of the whole design. Cyclists aren’t going to essentially wait an extra light cycle and go through the effort of going to the other side, and then back again after a few blocks.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The curb should be higher than the bike lane and wide enough to provide separation from adjacent traffic, sort of like this: http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/images/pr2016/pr16-097-image2.jpg

  • guest

    That’s a good point. I’ll give Queens Blvd another shot sometime, maybe I was just overwhelmed by how huge that entire street is (I’m very rarely in the area and not familiar).

  • Vooch

    is 18′ wide enough for children to play in ?

  • Vooch

    “loss of parking that is crucial for some peoples’ lived”

    crucial for living

    he really said that

  • Joe R.

    Try it off-peak hours if you can, preferably between 10PM and 6AM. Hardly any traffic that time. I do see your point about auto exhaust. That’s exactly why I avoid riding during the hours of heaviest traffic.

  • Jeff

    Agreed–I’ve been using Queens Blvd since before the bike lanes as well. But back then the privilege of this high-speed route was reserved for people like us who are comfortable mixing with high-speed motor traffic. Now everyone gets to enjoy it!

  • snrvlakk

    That’s a great idea. Although changing the law so that bikes could view red lights as Yield signs might have a similar effect & save the construction money. And avoid the uphill ramp sides of the overpasses.

  • Joe R.

    Reds as yields could work during off-peak times. I’m thinking the overpasses would be most useful during peak times when it’s often not possible to pass red lights at busier intersections due to the volume of cross traffic. Really, having both would be a great idea. Obviously I would prefer underpasses because they allow you to use the speed you gain on the downhill side to go uphill but that’s a nonstarter given that the subway runs under Queens Boulevard. However, underpasses at busy intersections would work on a lot of arterials with no subway.

  • snrvlakk

    Subway under QB only east of Broadway/Grand Av. Underpasses may be possible west of there.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Boulevard of Life, Phase 2: DOT’s Plan for Queens Blvd in Elmhurst

|
Last night DOT presented a plan to redesign Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst with protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety improvements to Community Board 4 [PDF]. While local Council Member Danny Dromm has supported the project, DOT may have to proceed without an endorsement from CB 4, judging by the reactions of key board members. Queens Boulevard is designed […]

Queens CB 6 Eager for Safety Fixes (Just Don’t Touch Their Parking)

|
The Rego Park senior focus area, which includes several blocks of Queens Boulevard, is slated for pedestrian improvements. Click here to enlarge. Image: NYCDOT. As we’ve recently seen in Astoria, DOT doesn’t always bring innovative traffic calming tools to streets that need them. What happens when they do? At a community board meeting in Rego […]