DOT Adding Badly Needed Protected Bike Lanes on Cross Bay Boulevard

Coming soon to Broad Channel.
Coming soon to Broad Channel.

A dangerous, speedway-like stretch of Cross Bay Boulevard is getting a safety upgrade in the form of protected bike lanes on both sides of the wide street.

The Department of Transportation announced that it will build a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of the street and a southbound protected bike lane on the east side of the street on the .4-mile stretch between East First and East Sixth roads sometime this month.

The bike lanes are being installed after cyclist Bogdan Darmetko was killed by a driver on the boulevard at East Fourth Road in October, 2019. Darmetko’s death exposed a litany of failures across multiple city and state agencies and elected officials who had allowed drivers to treat Cross Bay Boulevard as a race track for years.

There were 288 crashes on Cross Bay Boulevard from 2016 though 2019, including 66 injury-causing crashes that hurt eight cyclists, four pedestrians, 86 motorists, in addition to the death of Darmetko. Protected bike lanes are welcome, but there are still miles of unprotected bike lanes on the boulevard, both headed south towards Rockaway and headed north towards Howard Beach.

How Streetsblog covered the story.
How Streetsblog covered the story.

The bike lane on the Joseph Addabbo Bridge is an unprotected bike lane that gives no protection from drivers speeding over the bridge or from rogue ice cream truck drivers parking in their path. And the connection to Rockaway, the Cross Bay Bridge, is an MTA span where cycling is punishable by a fine from state police, despite the fact that the bridge has a wide pedestrian walkway on its east side. The resulting hostile architecture leaves a lot to be desired, say frequent riders.

“It’s a treasure of New York City summer, biking down to the Rockaways, but no one is fixing glaring issues with it,” Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Juan Restrepo said about the state of southeast Queens bike infrastructure. “It’s going to take multiple agencies to make biking south through Queens a seamless enjoyable experience for anyone besides people comfortable biking next to cars going 60 miles per hour on a murderstrip or getting a ticket on the Cross Bay Bridge.”

Restrepo also pointed out that even getting to the Addabbo Bridge from most of Queens is a fraught experience, since the most direct route, Woodhaven and then Cross Bay Boulevard, is essentially a highway that drivers treat as such. Local side streets are no good either, with no street running completely parallel for the length of the major road on the way to the bridge.

“Installing this protected bike lane only underscores the bigger systemic issues behind how we make this route a safe, seamless option for lots of people,” said Restrepo. “We want it comfortable for people from 8 to 80. If [agencies] leave the approach on Woodhaven, the murderstrip on the Addabbo Bridge, this is still only going to attract younger fitter riders who are willing to grapple with the risk of a crash.”

The DOT is working on Addabbo Bridge access as part of a larger Jamaica Bay Greenway access project, and proposed two bike lane projects in Howard Beach as part of that plan. One bike lane would be a two-way protected lane on 165th Avenue, which connects to Cross Bay Boulevard, and the other would be painted bike lanes running on 84th Street between 157th Avenue and 165 Avenue. Those bike lanes were presented to Queens Community Board 10 in December, 2019.

However, the larger question of what happens south of these new bike lanes and to the unprotected lane on the Addabbo Bridge itself is still not solved. A DOT spokesperson told Streetsblog that numerous capital projects are still being done and are in the planning stages in Broad Channel.

As for the Addabbo Bridge, a spokesperson for the state Department of Transportation said a proposed traffic study that the agency was supposed to do was actually a city DOT responsibility — which city DOT denied, telling Streetsblog, “This is a state bridge and we are continuing to work with our state partners on this issue.” In 2018, the city DOT and the Regional Planning Association released a report on the most feasible pedestrian and bike infrastructure for the entire Jamaica Bay Greenway, a report that suggested a two-way protected bike lane on the west side of the Addabbo Bridge (PDF, page 52).

The lack of coordination left Restrepo frustrated.

“Every agency has to come together to say, ‘We won’t ticket on the Cross Bay Bridge’ and ‘We’re going to extend a protected lane all the way down Broad Channel’ and ‘We’re going to fix the murderstrip’ and ‘We’re going to figure out a way to move people safely on or parallel to Woodhaven Boulevard,'” he said.

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