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QNS/Photo by Angela Matua
QNS/Photo by Angela Matua
Queens residents rallied for the full implementation of the Queens Boulevard safety plan.

Updated May 12, 2:05 p.m.

In a heated debate about the future of Queens Boulevard, Community Board 4 (CB 4) voted to approve the Department of Transportation’s (DOT) safety plan for the corridor with one stipulation – no bike lanes.

But on Wednesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio released a statement saying the DOT will go through with the full implementation of the plan regardless of the board’s opinion.

“I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work,” de Blasio said. “Today, I have instructed the Department of Transportation to move forward on the next phase of safety enhancements to Queens Boulevard, including a protected lane for cyclists.”

Prior to Tuesday’s CB 4 meeting in Elmhurst, a group of bicyclists gathered at the spot where Asif Rahman, 22, was killed after he tried swerving away from a double parked car with his bike. Rahman was hit by a truck and ever since the accident in 2008, his mother Lizi has advocated for major safety upgrades.

“Ever since I lost my son I have been fighting for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard,” Rahman said. “If we don’t start putting up a bike lane on Queens Boulevard, on this dangerous road, more people will die.”

Rahman collected 6,000 signatures from Queens residents who wanted to see the full plan, which includes safer pedestrian crossings and stop-controlled transition lanes from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue. The first phase of the plan, between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street was implemented last summer.

After a presentation by the DOT, board members discussed the concerns they had with the plan, including the loss of 88 parking spots and the addition of the bike lanes.

“You’re putting missiles on wheels on a corridor that is just not ready for this,” said District Manager Christian Cassagnol.

Board members agreed that the dangerous thoroughfare needs safety improvements – DOT data shows that this section of Queens Boulevard is the most dangerous, with 777 total injuries since 2010.

Al Perna, a board member and member of the Corona Volunteer Ambulance Corps, said he has personally seen how dangerous the corridor is and stressed that the full plan should be approved.

“My board members, we need change,” Perna said.

Chairman Louis Walker put forward a motion to approve the plan with the exception of the bike lanes after he said Queens Boulevard is not the place for this lane.

“This is not a park, this is a very heavily traveled vehicular roadway,” Walker said. “Let us not forget that. The current bike lane now is used for truck deliveries, motorcycles using it to avoid traffic.”

The majority of the board voted for Walker’s motion, with two members abstaining from voting.

Attendees stood up and turned their backs on the board before circling the room and walking out.

One cyclist shouted, “When I’m lying dead on the street … you know who to blame, it’s all of you!”

Implementation of the plan will begin in June.

“Queens Boulevard is a major transportation and commercial artery in our borough, and we believe that by including bike lanes in the DOT’s plan, the City is acknowledging the larger social and economic benefit of providing cost-effective and safe transportation routes for cyclists,” said a spokesperson for Queens Bike Initiative.

Queensborough President Melinda Katz said the city agency did not do enough to address the concerns of the community board and called on the DOT to postpone the bike lane implementation until they can provide a “truly community-generated, borough-wide plan.”

“Safety is paramount, including that of pedestrians, cyclists and motorists. To my repeated requests last summer to DOT for a borough-wide perspective on bike lanes, the agency stated they were unable to accommodate such requests because bike lanes are solely community-driven and community-generated,” Katz said. “The Community Board’s vote this week, however, contradicts the assertion that this plan is driven and generated by the community.”

Comments:

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TransitNinja205 May 17, 2016 / 12:01PM
I thank the mayor for recognizing that bicycling IS used as a legitimate form of transportation, not a toy only. He is continuing something that has been done in other parts of the city and have been successful going on nine years. 1, 2, 8, & 9 Avenues in Manhattan are other large streets where protected bicycle lanes and pedestrian safety improvements have been implemented years ago, with an average reduction in injuries of 20%. Queens Boulevard and those avenues have this in common: 1) they (phase 1) are now convenient and safe cycling routes through to another specific part of the city; 2) they are convenient and safe cycling routes to destinations right on the route; 3) pedestrian safety improvements are perfectly integrated.
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pwbnyc May 13, 2016 / 11:37AM
The Mayor made the absolute right decision, and it is deeply disappointing to see the Borough President, who has never attended any of the Community workshops that have been held for this project, and has not accepted any invitation to sit down with transportation advocates about this project, can so readily dismiss over 9,000 petition signers, 250+ business and community coalition partners and the months of direct outreach DOT did for this Phase 2 project specifically including a presence in the Queens Center Mall for an entire week to obtain community feedback. Honestly, calling for the bike lane implementation to be delayed is incredibly irresponsible and ironic. DOT is actually in the middle of making a comprehensive change to Queens Blvd along its entire length - the very approach the Borough President seems to be calling for. The first section of the lane is already in place. If BP Katz's recommendation was accepted, then people on bikes using that lane now will continue to be dumped back in to dangerous traffic at 75th street, whereas if implementation moves forward, they would be able to safely reach as far as the Queens Center Mall. Delay means that people riding their bikes will remain in danger, lives will be put at risk. Moreover, the bike lane is an integral part of the safety improvements needed for Queens Blvd. That lane changes the geometry of the road so that drivers will automatically drive more slowly and pay more attention to their surroundings. It also will move cyclists to a more observable and predictable place on the roadway which is good for everyone. As for this idea that somehow bikes only belong in parks; its absurd and a very outdated way of thinking. We are well past the idea that bikes are just recreational vehicles. I am a bike commuter and there are hundreds of thousands of other bike commuters out there with me per DOT statistics. CB4 sits only about 7 miles as the crow flies from Times Square. The Boulevard provides a relatively straight run down to the Queens Borough Bridge and Manhattan beyond. It is the perfect route and a reasonable distance for bicycle commuters, not to mention all the shopping available to people on bikes along that route. Also there is a gap in subway coverage that this lane will fill, making it possible for people to easily [typically a mile or less] and safely bike to the nearest subway - 7 at 46th street or the M/R at Grand. This new bike lane will provide people with more transportation options. A lane of car storage is being converted in to an active transportation lane. That is good for everyone. Finally, I was at the CB4 meeting, and it was a travesty. The DM, who is staff, not a member, inappropriately editorialized and maligned people on bikes. The Chair refused to allow several members to move for an up/down vote on the full DOT proposal, even though at least one of those motions received a second - a clear violation of parliamentary procedure. Then he stopped debate so he could have the last say, and suddenly and confusingly made a motion that accepted the "safety" aspects of the plan but deleted the bike lane [which is a key component of the safety aspects of the plan]. There was confusion and several Board members were very upset. Two stormed out of the meeting, a third tried to bring a motion on the full plan but was rebuffed. And several other Board members who had spoken in favor of the bike lane seem to have been counted among those voting for the Chairman's plan. As for the "31-1" tally, I have no idea where that came from. There was no roll-call vote. It was done basically on a single voice vote in a loud room with several members in the middle of objecting to the procedure being employed. So that vote tally has no credibility. That is why the Mayor had to step in, because the process was suborned, and the wishes of many community members - as expressed during public outreach by DOT and Transportation Alternatives, as well as ALL of the ELECTED representatives at the meeting who supported the plan [I notice your article doesn't mention Danny Dromm's impassioned plea to support the proposal at all]. So the suggestion that the Mayor has somehow violated the will of the community is completely wrong. His action will save lives. he should be commended for taking action.
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