On Oct. 20, state Senator Tony Avella and a group of residents held a press conference at Northern Boulevard and Douglaston Parkway after the lawmaker confirmed with authorities three more car accidents at the site.
Two of the crashes took place near the entrance of the Cross Island Parkway, Avella said, and one near the site of the press conference. He could not confirm whether anyone involved in the incidents sustained any injuries or if the lanes were the direct cause of all the accidents.
The bike lanes have been the topic of ongoing discussion in the community. First proposed by the city Department of Transportation (DOT) in June, Community Board 11 at that time voted in favor of the bike lane proposal. However, after further consideration, the group presented their own bike lane plan in July and officially rescinded their stamp of approval on Sept. 11.
Still, the city agency moved forward with the plan. Construction on the lanes began in September and is now nearing completion.
Earlier this month, Avella penned a letter to NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenburg and Mayor Bill de Blasio about a series of reported accidents at the bike lanes’ concrete barrier. At the Oct. 20 rally, Avella said he had not yet received a response, and more accidents have taken place.
In the 45 minutes prior to the Friday afternoon press conference, the lawmaker said he saw a total of three cyclists using the bike lane. Additionally, one cyclist rode through the area outside of the bike lane on the other side of the street.
George Lacks, president of Manor House’s co-op board, said the bike lanes, which eliminated one westbound lane of traffic, have caused an increase in traffic, as well as noise and pollution conditions for residents.
“Does it make sense to take away a huge lane of traffic to impact hundreds of cars every hour for three bicyclists?” Avella posed.
Additionally, the site still lacks adequate signage to alert drivers to the sudden lane merge, the lawmaker said.
Perry Argyros, who owns the Parkway Diner along Douglaston Parkway, said he has seen many of the reported accidents firsthand. The new bike lanes have “definitely impacted” business, he continued, after dozens of parking spots along Northern Boulevard had to be eliminated to make way for the safety project. The change has left potential customers with limited metered or residential parking options, Argyros said.
“The parking over here is difficult enough for businesses, as well as people that live here,” said 34-year Douglaston resident Gary Sangastiano. “But now, it’s even worse … I just wish [DOT] would have thought this out a little more.”
The group called on the DOT to install Community Board 11’s proposal, which would build the bike lanes onto an extended sidewalk. In September, the city agency told community board members that the plan would cost upwards of $10 million and take approximately five years to complete.
“No one is against having a bike lane. That’s not the issue,” Avella said. “The issue is having a safe bike lane, which not only protects cyclists, but motorists and pedestrians, as well.”
A DOT spokesperson said the location is still an active construction area. Reflective tape and flexible delineators have been installed at the site and reflective orange barrels have been placed at every gap in the barrier “to increase protection and awareness for all street users.” Some warning signage has been installed, “with more likely to come.”
The spokesperson also said that the cited car crashes have been minor and not resulted in injury.
“In the incidents, where details are available, we have seen that the barriers have done their job to protect those in the bike lane from accelerating turning vehicles,” the spokesperson said. “Motorists should exhibit due care when they are exiting parking lots and turning onto the roadway. The barrier is in place to protect cyclists and pedestrians, specifically at conflict points and is designed to calm aggressive vehicular movements.”
The city agency will continue to work with the 111th Precinct to gather incident reports.
The Douglaston Local Development Corp., Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce and Westmoreland Association have spoken out in favor of the project, the city spokesperson also pointed out.
“It is also worth noting that it takes a short period of time for all users to adapt to safety related traffic pattern changes,” the spokesperson said.
Additionally, at a June Community Board 11 meeting and a September rally, certain residents came forward to speak out in support of the bike lanes, which they said would provide valuable protection to cyclists in the wake of a fatality last summer.
The plan has also received fervent support from Transportation Alternatives, an organization whose mission is to “reclaim New York City’s streets from the automobile and to promote bicycling, walking, public transit,” according to their website.