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Eyes on the Street: The Northern Boulevard Protected Bike Lane Takes Shape

1:30 PM EDT on September 18, 2020

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It's happening: The city is making Northern Boulevard safe for (believe it) cycling.

Earlier this week, DOT workers began painting a bike lane on the notorious Queens roadway (aka "the New Boulevard of Death"), and installing delineators to keep cars at bay. Currently, the protection begins just west of Broadway and continues westbound until roughly Steinway Street. Eventually, the protected bike lane will go all the way to 41st Avenue, where an existing protected bike lane spirits riders safety to the Queensboro Bridge. Currently, workers are only doing the north side of the roadway, but the city has promised that cyclists will get protection in both directions.

When it was announced earlier this year, the temporary protected bike lane was supposed to be completed this summer, which now seems a bit delayed, given that summer ends on Monday. But still, here's what we saw this week:

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

At its best, the lane features a wide buffer and delineators, as the photo above shows.

Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Not all the delineators are in place yet, but at least the paint is down in the above photo, which shows a stretch around 50th Street.

It's unclear if drivers know it yet, but one of the two travel lanes in both direction is going to be a parking/loading lane. (We asked DOT if those lanes will be repainted to reflect that, but we're waiting to hear back). Here's how DOT explains the new configuration:

Graphic: DOT
Graphic: DOT

The challenge for cyclists, of course, comes when the protection ends, currently at around Steinway Street. That's when bridge-bound riders enter the meat grinder below:

northern boulevard current ending shitshow
Near the Queensboro Bridge on Northern Boulevard. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

The good news? According to the DOT, the protected bike lane will continue through this area once it is finally completed.

"The bike lane will end at 41st Avenue, where we plan to install signs directing bicyclists to turn right onto 41st Avenue and follow it to the protected bike lanes adjacent to Queens Plaza North to connect to the Queens Plaza bike path," DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen said.

Here's what that looks like on a map. The protected bike lane starts at Dutch Kills Green below:

The protection for cyclists was part of the city's limited effort to protect bike riders after encouraging them to commute on two wheels at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Since the start of the crisis, the city has built roughly 20 miles of temporary protected bike lanes in two main batches (see here and here). Not all of them are perfect (we've written about the Second Avenue stretch just north of the Midtown Tunnel) and, as you can see from this week's pictures, the protected bike lane on Crescent Street is almost always filled with cars or trucks:

crescent street shitshow
Crescent Street. (Reminder: It's not a protected bike lane if you can park on it.) Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Have you tried the Northern Boulevard temporary protected bike lane? If so, tell us your experience in the comments below.

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