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Bicycle Safety

New Bike Lanes Coming to Howard Beach — But Not on the Damn Addabbo Bridge

Streetsblog will never run this file photo of the painted bike lane on the Addabbo Bridge ever again. We hope. File photo: Gersh Kuntzman

It's a bridge too far.

The city will begin filling in an important gap on the Jamaica Bay Greenway this fall, adding a protected bike lane on a street that leads to the Addabbo Bridge. The work is making advocates hopeful that the bridge itself will be next in line for a crucial safety upgrade.

The new two-way protected bike lane, on 165th Avenue in Howard Beach, will add an east-west connection on the greenway, a ring around the Jamaica Bay that will provide 28 miles of bike lanes between Brooklyn and Queens once it's finally done.

A completed greenway can also provide cyclists a protected route into and out of the Rockaway Peninsula, but cyclists are still waiting for major pieces.

The main link — the Joseph P. Addabbo Bridge — still offers only cyclists an unprotected bike lane that's been called a "murder strip" and has been particularly annoying because the bridge already has jersey barriers that separate the shared car and bike lane from pedestrians. The resulting setup provides an uncomfortable ride for anyone who isn't used to drivers blowing by them at 50 miles per hour. It is unclear why the barriers (pictured above) can't simply be moved into place so they can also protect cyclists. (The unprotected bike lane has also provided ample opportunity for a psychotic Mister Softee driver to park on the bridge and force cyclists to merge into that fast traffic.)

Once the 165th Avenue bike lane goes in, it will also mean that the Addabbo Bridge will be a nonsensical stretch of unprotected bike lane, surrounded by the protected path on the Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge and the new two-way protected bike lane.

The city says such a protected bike lane require "an engineering study related to moving the existing jersey barriers on the bridge deck," said a city Department of Transportation spokesperson. Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the state DOT, the department that actually controls the bridge, said the state will work "collaboratively with the city as they develop the study and will provide comments as appropriate."

The city DOT offered no details on what the engineering study will look at or how long it will actually take, conjuring the specter of the Brooklyn Bridge cable study that was supposed to be a prerequisite for widening the bridge's pedestrian and cycling promenade. That study was announced in 2017 and never happened as of 2020. In the end, the de Blasio administration simply created an on-road bike lane by installing — you guessed it — tens of thousands of pounds of concrete jersey barriers on a bridge whose cables never ended up being studied.

The work on 165th Avenue will, nevertheless, bring welcome traffic calming upgrades for cyclists and pedestrians. The two-way protected bike lane on 165th Avenue between 84th Street and Cross Bay Boulevard will run next to Spring Creek Park, and has been in the works since 2019 when the DOT proposed creating a safer greenway experience on a block that the city and locals have said is a drag racing hotspot.

The safety upgrades on the avenue will include new travel lane markings and refurbished high-visibility crosswalks. The city is installing a pedestrian island at Cross Bay Boulevard and 165th Avenue, which will add a refuge for pedestrians who currently need to make it across even lanes of traffic in a single light cycle in order to cross the street. Safe streets advocates praised the move as creating safer connections for cyclists getting around Queens.

The future of 165th Avenue.
The future of 165th Avenue. Graphic: DOT
The future of 165th Avenue.

"We are thankful for the new two-way protected bike lane on 165th Street," said Transportation Alternatives Senior Organizer Juan Restrepo. "It will be a much safer connection between the Addabbo Bridge and existing bike lanes in Howard Beach."

The Addabbo Bridge isn't the only section of the greenway that will need work.

Further south, past the wildlife refuge, the DOT installed a short protected bike lane on Cross Bay Boulevard at the entrance to Broad Channel in 2020, but the agency has said that lane won't see an extension until ongoing capital work to raise streets and install new storm sewers finishes. The first phase of that work, which stretched from West 11th Road to West 13th Road, was finished in August 2020. The second phase, which will do the same upgrades from West 14th to West 17th roads, is scheduled to be finished in 2024.

Beyond that is the Cross Bay Bridge, where an MTA haunted by the vengeful spirit of Robert Moses still does not allow bike riding on any bridges run by the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. The Cross Bay Bridge pedestrian path is a popular route with cyclists despite the potential of getting a ticket. That issue could possibly be resolved if Gov. Kathy Hochul signs a bill passed by the legislature this year that requires the agency to create a strategic plan around cyclist and pedestrian bridge access and adds pedestrian and cyclist voices to the MTA's rider councils.

Restrepo also urged the city and state to use the new work to think big about how to get people from the ocean to the forest.

"We need additional interventions from state and city agencies to better connect the beach and Rockaway Peninsula to mainland Queens. This includes the city creating a safe and protected north-south bike route from Forest Park down to Howard Beach, and state agencies protecting the bike path along the Addabbo Bridge and legalizing biking across the Cross Bay Bridge," he said.

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