By Bill Parry
Phase 2 of the Queens Boulevard reconstruction project began last week in Elmhurst where Community Board 4 approved the plan in May, but without its controversial bike lanes. The following day Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered officials at the city DOT to ignore CB 4 and include the bike lanes as the $100 million project pushes through Elmhurst to Rego Park from 74th Street to Eliot Avenue.
“We have removed parking along the medians and are currently working on the pedestrian ramps at Broadway and Grand Avenue,” a DOT spokesman said. “We are also currently water blasting existing marks in preparation for new marking to be put in its place. The Phase II project is expected to be completed by this fall.”
CB 4 declined to comment, but street safety advocates and cyclists are applauding the traffic calming measures. The stretch of Queens Boulevard between 74th Street and Eliot Avenue saw 777 total injuries and five fatalities between 2010 and 2014, according to the DOT.
“I think the Phase 2 implementation is going to be really great and show off the mass of cyclists not only commuting to Manhattan, but also connecting to existing and planned bike routes through Elmhurst, Corona, Jackson Heights, Glendale, Maspeth and Rego Park,” said Make Queens Safer Co-founder Cristina Furlong. “ I ride the existing Phase 1 route weekly and I’ve seen that the motor vehicle traffic is far more organized. DOT refers to it as ‘predictable movements’. Having that saves lives and helps all road users navigate whether they are crossing Queens Boulevard to the subway or trying to make their morning drive a bit less trafficky.”
Furlong is also a member of Queens Bike Initiative, a group working to create a bicycle greenway connecting the parks in the borough. Many of its members witnessed the chaotic scene inside the ballroom of Italian Charities of America the night CB 4 voted to reject the bike lanes.
“I have a friend who bikes from Queens College to Manhattan regularly. Phase 2 is going to unite neighborhoods and neighbors whether they are walking or biking. We are going to see a far more civilized route for everyone, including drivers,” Furlong said. “There are seriously hundreds of teens riding across our borough. We will be able to see them now, when they start using the new route. Those who complain that it isn’t being used, will finally see numbers, which are not only the kids but so many older men and women. I can’t wait to see them on Queens Boulevard, which will be a much safer route than what we have anywhere in the borough right now.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr