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.”