De Blasio Won’t Say Words ‘Bike Lane’ and ‘Queens Blvd.’ Together

Pressed by Streetsblog, the mayor would only commit to "the vision that we put forward" — but declined to address the future of the bike lanes included in that vision.d

In May 2017, Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Karen Koslowitz touted the city's efforts — including the installation of bike lanes — with a visit to the boulevard. Koslowitz now opposes the project. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office
In May 2017, Mayor de Blasio and Council Member Karen Koslowitz touted the city's efforts — including the installation of bike lanes — with a visit to the boulevard. Koslowitz now opposes the project. Photo: Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office

He won’t say the words “bike lane.”

Mayor de Blasio declined to commit to installing a protected bike lane — which is his own administration’s plan — as part of the long-delayed final phase of the Queens Boulevard safety redesign.

Under questioning from Streetsblog on Thursday, de Blasio apparently felt he could not even utter the words — bike lane — regarding a project that is his signature Vision Zero achievement, but is opposed by Queens Council Member Karen Koslowitz, whose support de Blasio needs for an unrelated jail he hopes to build.

Question: When is the bike lane going to get implemented on Queens Boulevard?

Mayor: “We have to work out the timing. There’s more to be done on that. Obviously, we’ve been very committed to addressing the issues on Queens Boulevard. It’s been one of the number one priorities under Vision Zero. More to come, but there’s a lot of details to work through.

Follow-up: Can you promise that the bike lane is going to happen?

Mayor: “I can promise that on Queens Boulevard we’re going to ultimately follow through on the vision that we put forward. I can’t tell you the exact timing and details because we’re still working on them.”

The protected bike lane is a key element of the first three phases of the Queens Boulevard project installed between 2015 and 2017 — improvements that have reduced crashes along the roadway formerly known as “the Boulevard of Death.”

The mayor’s comments echoed what he said back in Nov. 1, when he assured the public of his “commitment to Queens Boulevard” — again without mentioning the bike lane that was at one time central to that commitment.

Mayor de Blasio, today in Queens. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio, today in Queens. Photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Indeed, the “vision” the city put forward last spring included extending the protected bike lanes from their current terminus at Yellowstone Boulevard to Union Turnpike. But de Blasio’s refusal to commit to a bike lane in phase IV is contrary to his position in 2016, when he overruled Queens Community Board 4, which had opposed the second phase of the bike lane project.

“Achieving Vision Zero means protecting the lives of everyone on our streets, whether they are walking, in a wheelchair, in a car or on a bike,” Hizzoner said at the time.

That mindset informed the DOT’s approach to the project’s subsequent phases: Queens Community Board 6 overwhelmingly endorsed the Rego Park segment of the project in June 2017. Last year, DOT officials told the CB6 members that the Forest Hills phase would be implemented in July, regardless of the board’s support or opposition, because it was a “mayoral priority.”

July came and went, then seven more months. The bike lane and accompanying safety improvements have still not been installed.

One clear explanation for the mayor’s newfound reticence: Koslowitz turned against the project last year after some Queens Boulevard merchants complained that their business would be hurt in the exchange of some on-street car storage for safety. Last week, Gothamist reported that the bike lanes are caught up in the politics of the jail, since the city is counting on Koslowitz’s support for the jail project. Streetsblog had reported on that possible quid-pro-quo back in November.

Of course, parking alone fails to explain the financial struggles of Queens Boulevard small businesses — particularly since the spots in question were only added in recent decades. More likely, changing tastes and shopping patterns, as well as rising rents, have hurt those businesses bottom lines.

Thursday’s comments from the mayor came just one day after he met privately with Koslowitz and other neighborhood civic groups to pitch his plans to build one of four new borough-based jails in nearby Kew Gardens.

De Blasio told Streetsblog that the bike lanes did not come up during his meeting with Koslowitz.

But Koslowitz has been running scared from the bike lane project ever since the owner of Ben’s Best kosher deli closed shop and blamed his demise on the bike lanes — failing to acknowledge the role of his own management practices, or the ongoing decline of Jewish delis that has touched every corner of the city. When it was still open, Ben’s charged $16.95 for a brisket sandwich — a high price in a changing neighborhood with many cheaper lunch options.

Meanwhile, the first three phases of Queens Boulevard bike lanes and pedestrian improvements have been a resounding success. The roadway once had as many as 25 fatalities per year, but just three people have been killed in traffic crashes there since DOT began its upgrade in 2015.

Pedestrian injuries have dropped 63 percent and cycling injuries have increased only slightly despite a huge jump in the number of people riding.

  • Zero Vision

    Bill de Blasio and the fierce urgency of maybe a few traffic deaths so long as no one important gets too mad at Bill de Blasio.

  • If Bloomberg were still mayor, this lane would have been installed according to the original schedule. (And Bloomberg would have told all its detractors to go jump in a lake.)

  • TruthTold

    Actually to be fair, Bloomberg never overrode a Community Board on transportation. Mayor de Blaiso has done it at least 1/2 a dozen times for bike lanes. So be careful about revisionist history.

  • TruthierTold

    But let’s also be careful about holding both mayors to the same standard. During the Bloomberg years a lot of these things were new and, at least to many on community boards, unproven. So I can understand why he was hesitant to override them.

    Things are different now. There are countless examples of bike lanes working all over the city and no one is unfamiliar with the concept of traffic calming. De Blasio, however, has no excuse at this point to not not move forward at full speed. He could even – gasp – remind all community boards they only have advisory power over such projects. His stalling on Queens Boulevard and elsewhere is inexcusable.

  • The Truthiest

    A different time. But there were many times Bloomberg towards the end of his term could have stood up. Especially on things like car-free parks, which by then were a no-brainer. I loved Bloomberg but I just don’t think he would have gone as far as de Blaiso has on some stuff. Especially the Sunnyside bike lanes. I think Bloomberg might have ducked that. Still they both have their positives and negatives.

  • Arrow E-Bike

    LEGALIZE EBIKES ONCE AND FOR ALL !!

    BULLSHIT TICKETS AND ILLEGAL CONFISCATIONS !

  • Nicholas L

    Are you kidding? You can’t use electric bicycles? Where?

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