‘Give us a safe bicycle lane’: Douglaston residents rail against Northern Boulevard bike paths

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Photos by Suzanne Monteverdi/QNS

A group of Douglaston residents continued a call against a city safety project that brought a protected bike lane to a main transit artery in the neighborhood.

On June 16, the Douglaston Civic Association and northeast Queens locals marched alongside the protected bike lane project on Northern Boulevard from Douglaston Parkway to the Cross Island Parkway. The city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) implemented the protected bike lane — which established a two-way, barrier-protected bike path in what was once a moving traffic lane — along the corridor in summer 2017.

The group advocated in favor of Community Board 11’s bike lane proposal, which would expand the existing sidewalk and create a pathway that would be shared by pedestrians and bikers. The board presented the plan in September after formally deciding to reverse their initial stamp of approval in June.

The community board proposal was devised by Bernie Haber, a retired engineer. Haber, who marched in Saturday’s rally, said his plan is still the safer choice.

“The most important thing is the design of having the barrier at the Cross Island Parkway, right in front of the entrance and two exits. It’s very dangerous,” he said. “Any highway engineer would never design something like this. Why this was put that way, I don’t know.”

Haber addresses the crowd
Haber addresses the crowd

“The community board and the community are all in favor of bicycle lanes,” Haber added. “We’ve establish bicycle lanes all over in Douglaston and Bayside. We approved them all. This one is a bad one.”

Christine Briguglio, who serves on the civic board, said the group finds the project “terribly unsafe.”

“There’s accidents here all the time,” she said. “Community Board 11 had proposed a safer alternative, and the DOT did not build it.”

Briguglio’s 15-year-old son Evan, an avid cyclist, says he uses the sidewalk instead of the lane.

“The lane is too dangerous. My mom sees two crashes a week here … I’ve seen them,” he said.

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“We have an alternative for a safer bike lane, but they don’t want to hear us,” said Gar Jung, a Douglaston resident. “I used to bike a lot, but I avoid this [lane] because of its problems.”

A DOT spokesperson told QNS the city agency is standing by the project.

“The installation of the two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Northern Boulevard last summer allowed DOT to immediately deliver critical safety benefits for the community and all street users,” the spokesperson said. “The project has brought vital traffic calming to this Vision Zero priority corridor while creating a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists traveling between Bayside and Douglaston.”

Bike advocates who attended a rally in September echoed these sentiments. Cyclists there argued that the city’s plan implemented much-needed safety changes more quickly than the board’s proposal. Advocacy group Transportation Alternatives also held a group bike ride in November to celebrate the new addition while Bayside-based state Senator Tony Avella continued to rail against the project.

The call for safety improvements at the location was spurred by the death of 78-year-old Michael Schenkman, who was struck and killed by a car while riding his bicycle on Northern Boulevard to access the nearby Joe Michaels Mile bike path in August 2016.

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