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Protected Bike Lanes

BIKELASH! DOT Waters Down Northeast Queens Protected Lanes

"It's an issue of people prioritizing convenience over safety," said one community board member.

Photo: Sophia Lebowitz|

Lawn signs protest protected bike lane in Eastern Queens.

It’s the tour-de-lawn-signs in northeast Queens. 

The Adams administration has once again bowed to bikelash — scaling back a two-year-old plan to connect multiple northeast Queens schools with protected bike lanes after outraged homeowners put up bright red "NO BIKE LANES" signs along the first phase of the project.

#StopTheBikeLanes sign on 53rd Avenue in northeast Queens. Photo: Sophia Lebowitz

City officials will opt for unprotected, standard bike lanes and sharrows on 46th Avenue between Oceania Street and Cloverdale Boulevard instead of bike lanes safe from motor vehicle traffic — reversing previously announced plans, Department of Transportation reps told the local community board last week.

A small section — between Springfield Boulevard and Cloverdale Boulevard — will still have a protected bike lane in one direction, but the project's safety benefits will pale in comparison to what was initially promised by DOT, an agency that is already far behind on construction of legal requirements for bus- and bike-lane construction under the Streets Master Plan.

“I expected DOT to follow through on what they committed to,” said Laura Shepard, Queens resident and organizer with Transportation Alternatives. "They’re falling behind on their Streets Plan [bike lane construction] targets so I would expect them to want to install every bit of protected bike lane they had already committed to.

“It’s a problem because those lanes were really going to create a seamless spine from the Eastern Queens Greenway to Northern Boulevard, connecting two schools and becoming the east/west spine of this network," Shepard added.

DOT’s earlier effort in the neighborhood repurposed parking on Oceania Street and 53rd Avenue to make room for protected bike lanes in both directions while maintaining two-way traffic for cars.

Green lines show the planned protected bike lanes. Work on 53rd Avenue and Oceania Street has been completed.Graphic: DOT

The design removed parking spots along suburban blocks with single family homes, manicured lawns, driveways and garages. Community Board 11 voted against the plan, but DOT went ahead anyway last fall — and opposition grew, visualized with lawn signs and girded with an 800-signature petition.

Hence, the watered-down project. DOT's capitulation to opponents is the latest in a long line of capitulations by the Adams administration, including rolling back promises to redesign McGuinness Boulevard in Greenpoint, abandoning a planned Fordham Road bus improvement plan in the Bronx, truncating a bike lane on Ashland Place in Downtown Brooklyn, among others.

As Streetsblog reported last year, DOT projects that are deemed "controversial" are overseen by the mayor's transit- and bike-shunning chief adviser Ingrid Lewis-Martin and a longtime land-use aide to Mayor Adams, Richard Bearak.

"We've seen this administration continuously roll-back promised projects — leaving New Yorkers vulnerable to traffic violence. We can't let politics get in the way of saving lives," Elizabeth Adams, deputy executive director at Transportation Alternatives, told Streetsblog.

DOT has held firm on the work it's already done in the area despite political pressure to rip out the lanes, but reiterated that it is willing to change plans in response to backlash.

“During our public outreach, DOT committed to continued collaboration with the community and has accordingly made adjustments to the initial plan, namely 46th Avenue which will now utilize different treatments to maintain current curbside activities,” agency spokesperson Anna Correa said.

"Current curbside activities" is the agency's way to describe parking, and "different treatments" include sharrows, which have proven ineffective at protecting cyclists.

The original plan called for a protected bike lane on 46th Avenue to match this one on Oceania Street.Graphic: DOT

The harsh tenor of the lawn signs contradicts the reality on the street. On a recent visit, Streetsblog found the roads where DOT already installed bike lanes to be calm and safe for cars, pedestrians and cyclists alike.

“The lanes are great, they really do make it possible for a middle schooler to bike to school,” said Shepard, who grew up in the area. “It’s really funny because you ride out there and everything is so calm and peaceful, but in meetings, and from the way it gets covered, you’d think there was chaos.” 

A #StopTheBikeLanes sign next to private off-street parking.Photo: Sophia Lebowitz

Shepard remembers not being able to use her bike to get to school as a child in the neighborhood because it was too dangerous. The original proposal would have connected Queensborough Community College and Benjamin N. Cardozo High School. Now, these schools will not have that protected infrastructure. 

One area bike advocate questioned opponents' anger over lost parking spaces given the number of private off-street parking spots on the block.

"Most of the houses have driveways where they can park several cars, which is frustrating," said CB11 member Ben Turner. "It's an issue of people prioritizing convenience over safety."

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