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DOT Proposes Protected Bike Lane To Fill Crucial Gap In Queens

The westernmost segment of Queens Boulevard will finally get protected bike lanes, Department of Transportation officials said.

Photo: DOT|

Cyclists riding on Queens Boulevard

The westernmost segment of Queens Boulevard will finally get protected bike lanes as part of a city plan that could also bring safety to a dangerous street outside LaGuardia Community College, the Department of Transportation revealed last week.

The proposed bike lanes would run along a one-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard between Skillman Avenue and Roosevelt Avenue — the current western terminus for bike lanes DOT installed under Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014 — and potentially continue four blocks east down Thomson Avenue to Jackson Avenue.

DOT's proposal, presented to Queens Community Board 2 last Tuesday, builds on previous protected bike lane projects in the area on Queens Boulevard, Skillman Avenue and 43rd Avenue.

The city's redesign of Queens Boulevard east of the new proposal led to a 68-percent reduction in traffic deaths between Roosevelt and Hillside avenues, according to NYPD figures — transforming a corridor once dubbed "The Boulevard of Death." But the effort neglected the westernmost portion where the corridor runs along the elevated 7 train.

“This has been a missing link for a really long time,” said Laura Shepard, a member of the community board and an organizer with Transportation Alternatives.

At 50 feet wide, Queens Boulevard consists of five car lanes in each direction at rush hour, with the two curbside lanes transitioning to parking at all other times. DOT's proposal cuts that to three travel lanes in each direction to make room for eight-foot parking-protected bike lanes.

The bike lanes would be protected on each side of the street by a three-foot buffer and eight-foot parking lane. Eleven-foot-wide painted islands would protected cyclists at intersections, while shortening pedestrian crossing distances and encouraging drivers to make slower turns.

Proposed redesign of Queens Boulevard.

Over 300 daily cyclists ride the mile-long stretch today despite the absence of safe bike infrastructure, according to DOT. The strip also sees high pedestrian volumes thanks to its proximity to the train and surrounding schools.

From 2019 to 2013, traffic crashes injured 351 people on Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and Skillman Avenue — including 11 severe injuries. This year alone there have already been 32 crashes through the end of April in the proposed redesign area — causing 21 total injuries, according city data compiled by Crashmapper.

Locals expect more cyclists and pedestrians on the corridor when congestion pricing launches on June 30.

"For pedestrians crossing Queens Boulevard to access the 7, it has been dangerous and difficult for a long time," said Shepard. “With congestion pricing coming it's pretty essential that we do this."

The proposal also includes a study of changes on Thomson Avenue, where LaGuardia Community College has waited over ten years for improved safety. 

DOT’s concept for Thomson Avenue would repurpose the lanes closest to either curb, with a barrier-protected two-way bike lane in one and a nine-foot painted sidewalk extension separated from traffic by plastic flex posts in the others.

LaGuardia students and faculty have pushed for safety improvements on Thomson since a curb-jumping driver killed 16-year-old Tenzin Drudak in 2013.

"It's exciting, it really opens up a lot of opportunities for students to get to and from campus,” said Joby Jacob, a professor at LaGuardia Community College who has been involved in fighting for a redesign of Thomson since 2014.

“This is the first proposal from DOT that is what we've been asking for — more sidewalk space, not adding to speeding and congestion problems, and making it possible to bike to the school,” said Jacob. "It's absolutely necessary."

Thomson Ave in Queens. Above: Existing Conditions. Below: Initial design proposalGraphic: DOT

The Thomson Avenue portion of the proposal is still in early phases, officials said. The city plan to "investigate" whether the plans to add a protected bike lane between Van Dam Street and Jackson Avenue possible.

“I’d like to see something a little bit more solid that can be implemented, because we have been fighting for so long,” said Jacob.

Over 10 years of advocacy
DOT's 2016 plan for Thomson Avenue drew harsh criticism from LaGuardia Community College.Graphic: DOT

Students and faculty have fought to get DOT to redesign the dangerous Thomson Avenue corridor for over a decade.

DOT present an initial redesign proposal in 2016 that would have expanded the sidewalk next to the college in exchange but reduce sidewalk space on the opposite curb. LaGuardia's president at the time rejected the proposal for not adequately addressing the safety concerns of the community.

Then-Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged $17 million to improve the street in 2017. The next year, DOT came back with a similar plan: Officials added new crosswalks, pedestrian ramps, and signals but did not build alter the sidewalk widths.

"It seemed like mostly cosmetic changes,” said Jacob, "The college said at the time, 'That's not acceptable to us either.'"

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