On Oct. 5, state Senator Tony Avella penned a letter to NYC Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Polly Trottenburg and Mayor Bill de Blasio citing a series of accidents at the Northern Boulevard safety project as cause for major concern. Cement barriers at the site create “a dangerous merging situation” at the busy venue, the lawmakers writes, and no posted warning signage alerting drivers to the new traffic pattern creates a hazard.
“I urge you to abandon this plan and implement a safer bicycle lane on Northern Boulevard as suggested and approved by Community Board 11,” Avella writes. “There will continue to be accidents at this location if something is not done.”
The community board previously voted in favor of the city Department of Transportation’s (DOT) bike lane proposal in June, but later presented their own plan in July and officially rescinded their stamp of approval on Sept. 11. Still, the city agency has moved forward with the plan and construction on the lanes began in September.
Certain Community Board 11 (CB11) members remain firmly against the plans and in favor of a proposal constructed by board member Bernard Haber, which would build the bike lanes onto an extended sidewalk.
On Oct. 2, CB11 members sent a resolution to DOT outlining their disappointment in the city agency and discussed what is believed to be the first accident at the site. At approximately 7 p.m. that same night, a car wound up on top of the newly installed concrete barriers. Police confirmed that a 70-year-old driver was operating the vehicle and reported no injuries.
In an incident that occurred later in the week, a car again drove directly onto the cement dividers in the vicinity of the Alley Pond Golf Center, which served as the site of a Sept. 18 rally where protestors and counterprotestors clashed. Photos of the Oct. 5 accident were posted to a Bayside Facebook group.
In his letter to DOT and the mayor, Avella alleges four separate accidents at the site in recent weeks.
“There have been no precautions taken, including warning signage to warn motorists of a change in traffic pattern,” the lawmakers writes. “As an active truck route, this negligence is putting motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at severe risk of being involved in an accident, the odds of which are obviously increasing on a daily basis.”
A DOT spokesperson questioned whether police reports would support the lawmaker’s conclusion that the new bike lanes were the cause of the accidents.
“This project is a direct response to a cyclist being killed on this section of Northern Boulevard, a Vision Zero Priority corridor,” the spokesperson said. “These barriers did their job to protect those in the bike lane from accelerating turning vehicles. When a motorist drives up on a barrier at a conflict point with cyclists or pedestrians, it shows how important our work is.”
The zone is still an active construction area, the spokesperson continued. The city agency will be installing additional safety treatments, including reflective tape, over the course of the next few days. Most elements of the projects are expected to be finished by next week.