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.”

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