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DOT Plans Small ‘Big Jump’ into Bike Lane Expansion in Queens

Proposed bike lane projects for Corona, Jackson Heights, and East Elmhurst. The dotted lines indicate the proposed routes: blue for painted lanes, green for protected lanes, and purple for sharrows. Image: DOT

They're calling it "The Big Jump," but "baby steps" might be more accurate.

On Wednesday night, the Department of Transportation presented a preliminary map of bike lanes that the agency hopes to install next year in Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights and East Elmhurst — more than a dozen potential new routes in all [PDF].

By and large, however, the plan avoids removing parking or car lanes. Only one of the proposed routes — Ditmars Boulevard near by LaGuardia Airport — would be protected. And there are zero north-south protected lanes, which have long been sought by Queens cyclists.

"This large area of Queens was left behind on bike infrastructure, and all they’re doing is putting in the type of bike lanes they had in Brooklyn or Manhattan eight years ago," said Queens Bike Initiative's Sergio Jacó, who attended the meeting.

The Big Jump is a three-year, grant-funded initiative by DOT to dramatically increase the number of people regularly cycling in the Jackson Heights-Corona area (where Citi Bike has yet to expand, by the way). DOT reps on hand on Wednesday night said they hoped to put in as many new bike lanes as possible, but to avoid controversy (hence virtually no major loss of on-street car storage).

"They say, 'Well if you want a north-south protected lane, that means we’re going to have to lose parking,'" said Jacó, who lives in Jackson Heights. "I understand that it would be an uphill fight, but it is necessary, especially for families, to have the feeling of safety."

Aside from the exclusion of north-south protected routes, the protected bike lane on Ditmars Boulevard, which would connect to 20th Avenue in Astoria, takes cyclists to the far northern edge of the borough. That might benefit commuters biking in and out of LaGuardia Airport, but it's too far north to be of use to other neighborhood residents. (And the "Big Jump" may merely be a work in progress, given that the city is poised to redesign Northern Boulevard, which could, at least in theory, include a bike lane.)

Others welcomed the "Big Jump."

"It’s a step forward," said Elmhurst resident Matt McElroy. "This is not the promised land, but if they’re able to put in place what they’ve said, the situation for people riding bikes in these neighborhoods will be better."

The exact designs for these bike lane projects are still in the works. The next step is for DOT officials to present their plan to Community Boards 3 and 4 this winter. Bike lane implementation would happen in the spring, the DOT reps told participants.

One potential roadblock is Council Member Francisco Moya, who represents Corona and East Elmhurst. Moya fought bitterly against the 111th Street protected bike lane, which improved safety along the only street-level border of Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

An inquiry to Moya's office was not returned.

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