DOT Holds Bike Lane Forum In Sunnyside
The Department of Transportation (DOT) sought the public’s input in where to place bike lanes in Community Board 2 at a special forum held on Wednesday, July 16 at Sunnyside Community Services.
The DOT’s Hayes Lord told the crowd that the area has seen a growth in the number of cyclists headed to the Queensboro and Pulaski bridges, allowing them an easy way to get to Manhattan and Brooklyn.
In 2007, according to Lord, there were 1.45 miles of bike lanes in Board 2; by 2011, that number had increased almost tenfold, to 13 miles’ worth, as part of the agency’s ongoing plan to create what he called “a grander network” that would allow passage in all directions.
After “lively discussions” were held at a forum back in March, the agency created a list of priority passageways that are set to receive bike lanes in the first phase of the bike lane expansion initiative.
“There’s a great deal of different, competing needs in this community,” as well as citywide,” he added.
The DOT is specifically looking at locations in Woodside and Sunny- side, as well as routes to area parks, schools and transit hubs.
One road, however, will not receive bike lanes: Queens Boulevard. “In reality,” said Lord, “at this point we’re just not comfortable putting cyclists on this street.”
However, Lord did not rule out looking at Queens Boulevard at some point in the future.
Over nine miles of bike lanes will be added in the first phase of the project; Lord explained that these lanes can be implemented sometime next year pending Community Board 2’s green light.
The lanes are:
– 11th Street. a two-way street that will connect cyclists between Queens Plaza and the Pulaski Bridge. Lord suggested that the DOT may remove one lane of traffic to accommodate cyclists.
Helen Ho, development director at Recycle-a-Bicycle, claimed that it would offer an alternative to Vernon Boulevard, as many cyclists heading northbound now currently take “a five-block detour” to get to Vernon Boulevard.
– the 39th Street Bridge, from Skillman and 43rd Avenues to 34th Avenue in Astoria. A traffic analysis will determine the type of lane that the DOT will install but “sharrows,” indicating shared lanes, are under consideration, Lord stated.
– Skillman Avenue, connecting riders to the Pulaski Bridge.
– 47th Avenue, which would be “the southern alternative to Queens Boulevard,” according to Lord. Sharrows are also probable due to the street’s relatively narrow width.
– 50th and 51st streets in Hunters Point, providing service to Hunters Point South residents as well as a route to Gantry Plaza State Park, the planned city waterfront park, and the East River Ferry terminal.
The DOT has also installed bike racks in the area: at Vernon Boulevard and 46th Road, 39th Avenue and 64th Street, Queens Boulevard and 40th and 46th streets and Gantry Plaza State Park.
Additional racks will be installed at P.S. 1 in Long Island City and along Skillman Avenue.
At Queens Plaza, the removal of old-style muni-meters in favor of the new card-friendly system will allow the city to modify them into bike racks. Lord added that “any post with a white dot on it” will be converted into bike parking.
The second group of bike lanes would be installed in 2015 at the earliest.
Among the streets under consideration for bike lanes are Rust Street and 56th Road in West Maspeth, Borden and Review avenues in Blissville, 58th Street in Maspeth, Thomson Avenue to the Pulaski Bridge in Long Island City, Honeywell Street to the Borden Avenue Bridge, and 44th and 47th streets leading to the new Kosciuszko Bridge.
According to Board 2 Chairperson Joseph Conley, the new bridge is expected to have pedestrian and cycling access. Construction on the span is expected to start next year.
Traffic issues on the Brooklyn side of the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge prevent the DOT from adding bike lanes to that street at this time, but it is also under consideration in the future.
Lord noted that the Rust Street and 58th Street roads are intended to lead into Board 5, but that this project only deals with the portion in Board 2. A similar bike forum is in the planning stages for Community Board 5, at which time they will get to examine the DOT’s plans.
Similarly, a bike lane intended for Broadway is intended to connect Board 2 to Board 1 (on the east end) and Board 3 (on the west).
Lord asked those attending the meeting to determine which lanes they would ask the agent to prioritize by placing a sticker on a large board next the street they chose; the vast majority of residents chose Jackson and Greenpoint avenues as the streets on which they would most like to see bike lanes.
For cyclist Nancy Silverman, Jackson Avenue is a “main thoroughfare” to LaGuardia Community College, where she sometimes teaches classes.
Silverman also claimed that the stretch of Queens Boulevard in Board 2 would be the perfect place to add bike lanes, while agreeing that in the portion of the road that runs through central Queens, “major work needs to be done” before adding bike lanes.
Local cyclist Jordan Hare added that sharrows could be added to service roads along Queens Boulevard.
What about pedestrians?
Board 2 members Barbara Coleman and Al Volpe asked Lord if the DOT could set up a separate meeting dealing with pedestrian issues vis-avis bike traffic.
“There’s a lot of problems with pedestrian safety being threatened, and it would help everything in the long run because it would make … more congenial feelings” between bike advocates and local residents, Coleman said.
One resident later suggested additional signage along Thomson Avenue (where bikes and pedestrians share the sidewalk) to help residents know that bikes are also on the road.
“Pedestrians don’t really like to read signs,” Lord admitted. “It’s going to be a challenge.”