By Steven Goodstein
A year after their completion, bike lanes on Northern Boulevard still are a topic of debate.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) held a press conference July 26 at the intersection of Northern Boulevard and Douglaston Parkway to address his concerns over the thoroughfare’s bike lane.
The request to improve a portion of the bike lane that runs from Douglaston Parkway to Joe Michael’s Mile is minor but needed, according to Avella, who made the request along with Community Board 11 and residents. The proposed changes include abbreviating a part of the existing bike lane, so that cyclists can have an easier transition from the lane to the sidewalk.
Stanchions would be installed to decrease the bike lane by about 20 to 30 feet, but provide an easier connection to the sidewalk and deter cyclists from making a left turn against traffic on Douglaston Parkway.
The change would also allow cars turning right onto Northern Boulevard from Douglaston Parkway to maneuver and have more room to turn.
“This is a simple task that can be done in a half a day – and it’s common sense for anyone who is familiar with all the safety issues that have taken place here in previous years,” Avella said.
He has held numerous discussions, rallies and protests about the bike lane issue in the past year and said that this safety precaution further demonstrates his support of bike lanes.
“Just because we want to make changes to bike lanes doesn’t mean we are against bike lanes,” he added.
Avella also said he believes the city Department of Transportation has not been receptive to this idea because the topic of bike lanes on Northern Boulevard has been a highly charged issue.
“The DOT needs to pay attention to this issue because we have a simple way to dramatically increase safety,” said Bernard Haber, former chairman of CB 11, who designed the new layout for the bike lanes. “It’s a dangerous scenario because everybody is turning and merging into the same space.”
Haber added that he has seen trucks extend into the far lane when they are making a turn because they simply don’t have enough room to go around the stanchions, if they haven’t already run over them. He also addressed concern about the two active driveways for Giardino’s parking lot, located right next to the intersection.
CB 11 District Manager Joseph Marziliano, who attended the new conference, said that this proposal was made to the DOT in May.
The original plan to install bike lanes on Northern Boulevard was first unveiled by DOT at Community Board 11’s general board meeting in June 2017 as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero Initiative, which passed by a narrow vote. That September, however, CB 11 rescinded its vote approving the bike lanes.
Despite CB 11’s decision, DOT began working on the bike lanes a few days later and they were completed the next month, implementing Jersey barriers and repainting lines to protect the bike lanes.
After the bike lanes were completed, the Douglaston Civic Association sent a letter to the DOT stating that it was not in favor of the bike lane plan.
DOT said it will use road channelization to better define lanes for cyclists and vehicles to increase safety. Changes are expected to be completed within the next few weeks.
In August 2016, 78-year-old bike advocate Michael Schenkman, a Flushing resident, was killed at 223rd Street and Northern Boulevard after being struck by a black Chevy Impala.
Avella previously called on the city to stop construction of the bike lanes after a car drove onto a Jersey barrier near the Alley Pond Golf Center in October.
In November, a bus exiting the Cross Island Parkway and attempting to turn onto Northern Boulevard was rear-ended by another car. This accident did not result in any injuries.
In total, there have been more than 200 injuries in the past eight years on Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street.
Reach Steven Goodstein by e-mail at sgood