By Rebecca Henely
As part of an effort to calm the traffic on 44th Drive between Vernon Boulevard and Thomson Avenue in Long Island City, the city Department of Transportation has redrawn the lines on what was one of the most crash-prone streets in the borough — and even added bike lanes.
“There have been far too many accidents and I support the DOT’s efforts to calm traffic and make that street safer for cars, pedestrians and cyclists alike,” City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) said.
With the approval of Community Board 2, the city DOT began the face-lift for 44th Drive last week. As it stands, the 60-foot-wide street has a 19-foot parking/driving lane and an 11-foot driving lane on each side. When complete, the street will be redrawn with an 8-foot parking lane, 5-foot bicycle lane and 11-foot driving lane on each side, plus a 12-foot turn bay in the center of the road. Crosswalks along the stretch will also be repainted to make them more visible. The repainting is part of a DOT plan to cut the city’s road fatalities in half by 2030.
Monty Dean, spokesman for the city DOT, said in an e-mail that CB 2 requested bike lanes should be included with the project and approved them at a May meeting.
A presentation from the city DOT said that area of 44th Drive is a high crash corridor, with more accidents than 92 percent of the rest of the borough’s streets. Between 2005 and 2009, the stretch between Vernon Boulevard and Thomson Avenue had 108 injuries: 86 to motorists, 13 to pedestrians and nine to bicyclists. Despite the large number of crashes, the DOT said the volume of motorists on the street was low.
Running near the 23rd Street-Ely Avenue and Courthouse Square subway stops, 44th Drive is also adjacent to heavy truck routes on 21st Street, Jackson Avenue, Thomson Avenue and Vernon Boulevard.
The city DOT said other problems with 44th Drive involved the distances to cross from one side of the street to another, which were long and had many points where motorists and pedestrians could come into contact. The markings on the street had also become faded.
Van Bramer said the neighborhood is receptive to bike lanes and understands they are part of an overall initiative to calm traffic.
“We should do all that we can to reduce accidents and fatalities,” he said.
Long Island City also has bike lanes running along Skillman and 43rd avenues, as well as along Vernon Boulevard. Other nearby bike lanes run along 28th and 29th streets in Dutch Kills and 20th Avenue and 21st, 35th and 36th streets in Astoria.
Reach reporter Rebecca Henely by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718-260-4564.