City Finally Commits To Finishing Queens Boulevard Bike Lane — Again

Queens Boulevard in its early days. File photo: Stephen Miller
Queens Boulevard in its early days. File photo: Stephen Miller
It's our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do these kinds of important stories. So please click here.
It’s our December donation drive. Your gift helps us do these kinds of important stories. So please click here.

Sorry, Karen!

The city will finally break ground on the last phase of the long-delayed Queens Boulevard protected bike lane next year — despite Mayor de Blasio asking the Department of Transportation in February, in the 11th hour at the behest of car-loving Queens Council Member Karen Koslowitz, to reconsider its plan for the pathway.

It’s the first time DOT has definitively said the Queens Boulevard bike lane will happen in 2021 as originally designed — on the service road to align with the other segments that were first installed back in 2015.

“We’re committed to giving Queens the expanded … options it deserves. That means working closely with our state and federal partners to move forward on this project as quickly as possible when the weather turns in 2021,” said DOT spokesman Brian Zumhagen. “DOT is committed to the design as presented to CB6.”

Back in February, just hours after then-Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg announced that the delayed Queens Boulevard bike lane would finally be completed this summer, Mayor de Blasio backpedaled and asked the agency to reconsider its plan, even though doing so would cause more delays that would injure dozens of people.

Hizzoner asked Trottenberg to see if her team could alter the already-approved design so as not take away as many parking spots from a roadway long known as the “Boulevard of Death” because of its many pedestrian and cyclist fatalities.

Koslowitz said during that town hall that she’s not anti-bike lane, she just would rather see the path in the middle of the boulevard rather than on the service road — a format that DOT had already rejected.

“I want this to be given absolute total consideration,” the mayor said. “I want to see both proposals, and I will make the ultimate decision.”

Mayor de Blasio, and Council Member Karen Koslowitz in the background are backtracking on the Queens Boulevard bike lane. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office
Mayor de Blasio, and Council Member Karen Koslowitz in the background are backtracking on the Queens Boulevard bike lane. Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office

Safe street advocates immediately pushed back, saying that that design had already been rejected because it’s unsafe.

“The center median idea has been rejected for years,” Peter Beadle, a Queens Community Board 6 member and cycling activist, said at the time. “This tired fantasy of car drivers has been around a long as there has been talk of fixing Queens Boulevard. It’s the classic, ‘Use the center median and stay away from our parking!’ There’s no actual thought or engineering behind it.”

The mayor’s requested review eventually got bogged down in the coronavirus; several months after the town hall — during the height of the first wave of the COVID-19 crisis — DOT confirmed that completing the project was not anywhere on the agency’s radar.

“There were some things we were trying to wrap up with that project before corona hit — with a design firm and state overseers,” Trottenberg told the City Council in May. “I don’t have totally clear answer when we move forward with that project.”

But since the mayor’s wavering and pandering on a proven life-saving safety, there’s been even more carnage on the “Boulevard of Death.”

Since the fourth phase of the project was announced to Queens Community Board 6 in June, 2018, there have been a total of 363 crashes, causing 117 injuries, including to 15 cyclists and 27 pedestrians on Queens Boulevard between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike, according to Crash Mapper. And since that town hall in February, when de Blasio paused the project to study an already rejected design, there have been 51 crashes, causing 33 injuries, including to seven cyclists and seven pedestrians — injuries that simply did not have to happen.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

Council Member Karen Koslowitz, far right, said in 2015 that she would support "whatever it takes" to make Queens Boulevard a safe street. Photo: Ben Fried

Karen Koslowitz Walks Back Her Pledge to Support a Safer Design for Queens Boulevard

|
Two years ago, Council Member Karen Koslowitz stood with people who'd lost loved ones to traffic violence and said the city should do "whatever it takes" to turn deadly Queens Boulevard into a "boulevard of life" -- even if that entailed the removal of travel lanes or parking spaces. Now that the city is ready to redesign Queens Boulevard in her district, however, Koslowitz is losing her resolve.