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

But new routes proposed for Elmhurst, Corona, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights fall short of their supersized name.

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
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.

  • “The next step is for DOT officials to present their plan to Community Boards 3 and 4 this winter.”

    How long do we have to keep doing this? Bike lanes that don’t take parking or impact the number of travel lanes shouldn’t need community board approval! (Bike lanes technically don’t anyway, but you know what I mean.)

    The big jump forward would be if DOT could just install bike lanes where it sees the need. If there’s no impact on the actual design of the street, it shouldn’t have to jump through these hoops.

  • Joe R.

    It looks like more piecemeal stuff that doesn’t actually go anywhere useful. Putting in 8 or 10 blocks of disconnected bike lane just doesn’t accomplish much. It would be like building a subway consisting of many sets of two or three connected stations.

  • Simon Phearson

    A functionally useless protected bike lane on Ditmars is precisely the consequence of investing so much capital in getting a functionally useless protected bike lane on 20th Ave., yet no one here complained about that when it went in. You’re all about the edge road infrastructure around here. Why are you complaining now?

    And, as typical, the bitching about north-south protected lanes seems awfully bizarre. Do you even bike, bro? You want to revolutionize cycling through these neighborhoods, put a protected lane on 34th, or maybe 31st. The north-south streets are calmer residential streets and have far less to gain from protected infrastructure than those busy and unsafe arterials. I mean, jesus, which north-south street would you even put protected infrastructure on? Most of these aren’t through street arterials; cyclists would just take them to get the east-west corridors. Anyone who actually rode through these neighborhoods would understand that.

  • Jim Burke

    A real “BIG JUMP” would be to take away one parking lane from 34th Avenue and make that a two way protected bike lane for the length of it. It would make it great for all level of cyclists. It would could run right through Corona, Jackson Heights and Woodside and connect to so many other neighborhoods safely. No buses would be impacted, no businesses would be impacted. It would impact parking for the car driving minority. parking would go from terrible to more terrible. Some people might choose to give up their cars that they are currently using one day a week but primarily just move for alternate side of the street parking.

  • I was very pleased to see a new bike lane on my commute this morning: on Troutman Street between Woodward and Cypress Avenues.

    This is not the first time a bike lane appeared on a route that I had already committed to taking. I was using Catalpa Avenue to Woodward Avenue going to work and Onderdonk Avenue to 69th Avenue coming home for quite a while when those streets got bike lanes. And likewise for the sharrows on Central Avenue and on 78th Avenue.

    It’s tragic that the Onderdonk Avenue lane has been rendered unusable by a lack of enforcement that allows rampant incursion by cars. But that’s on the police department. The DOT is for the most part getting things done. (Still, the Woodward Avenue bike lane has been badly compromised by poorly-done street work, which is the responsibility of DOT.)

    We can quibble about the details of various new bike lanes, and also raise substantive objections where necessary. But, despite a pronounced lack of zeal on street improvements by the current mayor as compared to his dynamic predecessor, at least the DOT is still in the practice of making our City better.

  • Brian Howald

    How about flex-post-protected median-running lanes on 34th Ave. with no left turns off of 34th Avenue?

  • Brian Howald

    Everything you’re saying is correct, except that DOT must notify boards of these changes. I can’t find the law, and a letter might suffice, but a presentation is fine when coupled with DOT only presenting projects it fully intends to implement.

  • Jim Burke

    I would go for that in a heart beat. Right now what’s being offered is Ditmars Blvd. That’s fine for a recreational ride but if someone wants to commute to get to Flushing, Corona, Elmhurst, Woodside, Sunnyside, Astoria etc.- 34th Avenue or Northern was what most came up at the meeting as being the favorites to do so if this was a BIG Jump.

  • Sure, notification is fine. But that doesn’t mean a presentation is required. And it certainly doesn’t mean a resolution is needed.

  • BrandonWC

    Sounds like this project http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/bushwick-bicycle-network-update-oct2017.pdf which last I heard was being held up south of Cypress by CB4. Any signs on the ground that it’s going to continue past Cypress? There should also be a north-bound lane on Starr.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I think they *have* to hold a hearing: https://legistar.council.nyc.gov/LegislationDetail.aspx?ID=803592&GUID=A9FD01B1-E217-4AA6-BC43-5127068542F3&Options=ID

    A decent number of supposed allies voted for it ¯_(?)_/¯

    This is violated all the time for the removal of Class II lanes, 7th Ave in Sunset Park being perhaps the most egregious example. Of course, they painted doorzone sharrows in its place so they can say “it’s still a Class III shared bicycle lane, so we didn’t have to hold a hearing!”.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The current situation on 34th Ave is terrible, it would be better if it didn’t have a hard median. Vanderbilt in Brooklyn south of Atlantic has similar geometry but you can ride at the edge of the lane to stay out of the door zone and drivers can drive on the painted median to pass safely. On 34th Ave it’s just super tight between the door zone and passing drivers, and if you want to jump a light to stay safely ahead of traffic, the cops do regular ticket blitzes!

  • van_vlissingen

    The “Big Jump” grant / process included the community board from the beginning. If anything is being presented to the board it should be a final report not a request for approval.

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    And still no connection between Flushing Corona Park and the waterfront. HUGE miss there. Something needs to be done.

  • Streetfilms (928 videos!)

    As NYC DOT is pushing forward with looking at every idea and safety fix for Northern Boulevard, people should not bring up bike lanes on it – since no matter what is done they are not gonna work or be great. Instead we should push for the safest pedestrian measures on Northern but also express solidarity that we need to make 32nd and 34th Avenue bike lanes even safer. I think it will take 10 years, but of course I am well on board with the plans to make one side of 34th Avenue a green park with two way protected bike lane, dog runs, small parks with benches and more!

  • Jacob

    Yawn. If DOT actually want to do a Big Jump without removing parking, they should do what they do in the Netherlands, and restrict through access on some streets. Make 81st & 82nd be through streets for bikes, but have them both switch directions for cars every two blocks. Boom, those streets are no longer cut through. But wait, you say! Won’t the next streets over be pissed off that all your traffic get diverted to them? Yes! That’s why you don’t just do one street, you do a whole section of neighborhood. Divert the through traffic to the surrounding arterials where it belongs. Boom, a whole neighborhood of bike boulevards. The people that live there can still drive and park and whatnot, there’s only local traffic on their streets, their kids can bike to school. Everyone is happy… except the traffic engineers, who can’t fathom that anyone would ever switch from driving to cycling.

  • Ah. Good question. Unfortunately, this morning I woke up too late this to ride. So I’ll have to check it out over the weekend. (Or maybe I’ll jump on a Revel scooter this evening.) I will report back the next time I am there.

  • They are indeed installing the lanes south of Cypress. I saw preliminary markings down on Starr and Wyckoff last night, and the paint is already down on Troutman south of Cypress.

  • BrandonWC

    Good to hear!

  • Very nice. Thank you for checking.

    Now let me digress slightly and mention something that I find very interesting. Both you and @brandonwc:disqus characterise Cypress Avenue as going east-west and Starr Street as going north-south. But, I would call Starr Street an east-west road, as it is parallel to Flushing Avenue and DeKalb Avenue; and I would call Cypress Avenue a north-south street.

    Of course, the actual grid in that area is laid out in an off-kilter manner, such that Cypress Avenue runs from northwest to southeast, and Starr Street from southwest to northeast. But I am pretty sure that Cypress, Seneca, Onderdonk, Woodward Avenues, etc. are meant to be considered officially as going north and south (despite the fact that “avenues” in Queens typically run east-west), and that Starr Street and its parallel streets are meant to be considered officially as going east and west.

    OK, that’s enough map geekery for now.

  • Cain McDougal

    They need to do these initiatives in other neighborhoods too, like Northeast Queens. There is almost nothing there and it could serve well to have a bike infrastructure in place.

  • snrvlakk

    Apparently the problem with that from DOT’s perspective is that moving the bike lanes left, so they run along the planted median, necessarily shifts the auto traffic lane right, so that it runs close to the parking lane, putting auto traffic into the door zone. (Of course, that might finally force drivers to look over their damned shoulders before they open the door!)

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