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DOT Wants a Permanent Protected Bike Lane on Northern Boulevard, But How Protected Will it Be?

The temporary bike lane on Northern Boulevard (after it lost all its temporary delineators during snow removal operations). File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Don’t make the same mistake twice.

The Department of Transportation wants to put a permanent protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard, a key route for Queens cyclists to get to the Queensboro Bridge and into Manhattan — but members of Community Board 1 say they refuse to settle for anything less than strong protective barriers that will physically stop cars from entering the bike lane, and hitting and killing them.

DOT installed a temporary bike lane on what’s called the "New Boulevard of Death“ between roughly Broadway and Queensboro Plaza in September, as part of the city’s recovery effort from COVID-19. Now, transportation officials say they want to make the pathway permanent, but presented the board with plans that show it protected only by flexible delineators — ineffective, and even dangerous, barriers that don’t do enough to keep cars out. (And, indeed, were destroyed by the Department of Sanitation during cleanup from the December snow storm.)

“The delineators are a big fail right now,” said board member Helen Ho, co-founder of Biking Public Project. "I’m really concerned the delineators will continue to be run over and it’s still possible to park your car even in between them, or park over them. I really think there needs to be more of a protected barrier between cyclists and pedestrians.”

Ho, who suggested something studier like jersey barriers instead, reminded DOT of the failure that’s already become of the Crescent Street bike lane, near where an e-scooter delivery worker was killed after getting run over by the driver of a massive beer distribution truck in November.

“Crescent Street suffers from a lot of the same things as Northern Boulevard, where the barrier is permeable it becomes dangerous for cyclists,” Ho said.

DOT's plan for a "protected" bike lane on Northern Boulevard. Photo: DOT
DOT's plan for a "protected" bike lane on Northern Boulevard. Photo: DOT
DOT's plan for a "protected" bike lane on Northern Boulevard. Photo: DOT

Police, who blamed the victim 35-year-old Alfredo Cabrera Liconia, had said he was not actually riding in the Crescent Street bike lane when he was killed, but on Astoria Boulevard — but video from the scene shows the truck’s front wheels in the green paint, which, activists say, would be impossible if the lane was truly protected, as it should be.

The fatal crash came after weeks of cyclists sounding the alarm about the lack of physical protection on the two-way bike lane, including drivers using it as a parking lot; motorists being directed to actually drive onto the green paint; and in one vile instance, one man spitting on a cyclist in the bike lane as he tried to get around slower traffic near the Queensboro Bridge.

Now, cyclists and board members say DOT better not make the same mistake twice, and actually make the Northern Boulevard bike lane truly protected the first time around.

Committee Chairman Mitch Waxman urged DOT to go back to the drawing board to come up with a plan that better protects riders along what DOT says is among the top 10 percent of dangerous corridors in Queens.

“Tell us a reason why we can’t have jersey barriers,” he said.

Update: After initial publication, a spokesman for DOT said the agency will "look into stronger protection," but the issue is that the lane must be "both plowable and sweepable" by the Department of Sanitation. 

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