By Mark Hallum
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) blamed another accident on Northern Boulevard on the newly installed protected bike lanes between Bayside and Douglaston, which has split the community between bike advocates and those who view the lanes as being just as dangerous while hobbling traffic flow.
Avella wrote to Mayor Bill de Blasio and city DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg about the Nov. 1 accident involving a bus loaded with special needs adults which took place on Northern near where the protected bike lanes meet the freeway exit.
On that afternoon, the bus was exiting the Cross Island Parkway when it was rear-ended by another car while attempting to turn onto northern going westward, according to Avella’s office.
A spokesman for Avella said the newly installed bike lanes forced the driver to edge into traffic in a dangerous fashion, but their office was still awaiting additional details.
No one was hurt in the incident, Avella said.
A community affairs liaison from the 111th Precinct could not elaborate on details, but did confirm the incident occurred.
“The bike lane had no role in this rear-end crash, as per our discussions with the 111th Precinct, and there were no injuries in the incident,” a DOT spokesman said. “The impetus for these safety enhancements was the death of a cyclist on this high-crash stretch of the corridor, which saw 15 vehicle passengers, pedestrians and cyclists injured last year alone. Given the NYPD’s 2016 crash stats, and given that none of the recent incidents Senator Avella cites has resulted in injuries, it is important to give this safety improvement project time to work. We understand that this is a change for the community, but we believe the safety benefits will bear out over a full year’s implementation.”
On Monday, Nov. 6, a red Volkswagon ran into the Jersey barrier coming to a stop on top of the concrete wall.
“How many accidents have to occur before you realize that this was not a good idea?” Avella said. “Not only does this bike path reduce the amount of lanes for motorists, it forces drivers exiting the Cross Island Parkway and entering Northern Boulevard to stop short to see oncoming traffic, increasing the likelihood of crashes.”
The city DOT proposal was introduced at a June Community Board 11 meeting to take a lane from the north side of Northern Boulevard between 223rd Street and Douglaston Parkway to create a protected bike path while also reducing the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph. It passed by a narrow vote in June. But it was rescinded by the community board at the Sept. 11 meeting in favor of an in-house proposal to widen sidewalks to allow shared space for pedestrians and bicyclists above the curb-line.
CB11’s Bernie Haber designed the alternative plan for widening the sidewalk to create a shared path for bicyclists and pedestrians.
DOT proceeded with its own plan in September despite the votes taken by CB11.
At least two other accidents have occurred involving the Jersey barriers where the vehicles have crashed into the concrete protecting the newly formed bike lanes.
Avella organized a protest against the bike lanes in September in response to the DOT’s disregard for the community board’s vote.
His demonstration was interrupted by counter-protesters and accused the angry crowd of being just a small number of detractors associated with Transportation Alternatives, an organization which advocates for bicyclist safety measures across the city. Avella said he and others opposed to the DOT’s plan are in favor of bike lanes, but are critical of the city’s choice to ignore the community board and stick with its own plan.
Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhall