Bayside precinct’s top cop blames bad drivers for Northern Blvd. crashes, but residents say it’s bike lanes’ fault

File photo/QNS

The Northern Boulevard bike lane in Bayside has been the subject of controversy since the Department of Transportation installed it in 2017.

According to Captain John Hall, commander of the neighborhood’s 111th Precinct, there have been three crashes involving bikes in that area since April 2019. They added that there has been a spike in overall crashes in the area.

While the precinct blames “inattentive motorists” for the spike in crashes and collisions, some residents blame poor placement and design of bike lanes as well as a lack of safety measures.

Residents like Barbara Cohen Griffel said that placing the bike lane on the exit from the Cross Island was “very poorly thought out and dangerous.”

“If one is in a car going north and making a right turn on to 223rd Street, it is very hard to see if a bicycle is approaching the same street at the same time because the driver is trying to assess the turn and if there is room to get past the cars lined up on 223rd waiting to get onto Northern Boulevard,” she said.

Since its inception, critics have said that the project does not make sense for the area where drivers, cyclists and pedestrians converge. In 2018, Douglaston residents called for more safety and even had plans to sue the city over the bike lanes.

“Traveling westbound on Northern and hanging a right on 223rd — as I do most days — can be tricky for the uninitiated as one may not realize there’s a bike lane on the other side of the concrete barrier,” Jay Kleinman told QNS. “For the unfamiliar, it looks like construction. A cyclist going straight could apparently come out of nowhere and meet up badly with a motorist turning right. Better signage there would go a long way.”

In addition to better signage, some residents suggested other traffic calming measures to ensure that drivers are being safe around cyclists and pedestrians.

“I think rumble strips coming off the Cross Island exits going west would be helpful, similar to the ones leaving the Cross Island to go to Clearview. And more signs making it obvious. And arrows on the ground pointing exactly where cars should turn into — and not into the bike lanes or their barriers,” said Peter Tomopoulos.

Laura Shepard, a communications coordinator at Bike New York said that she advocated for the bike lanes back in 2016 and added that the protected lanes were a “tremendous improvement” from the dangerous conditions of the past.

Shepard said that prior to the protected bike lane, drivers coming from the Cross Island Parkway failed to yield to cyclists on Northern Boulevard. The cyclist said that she nearly got killed when a reckless driver forced her to slam on her brakes when the light was changing.

“It’s an important connector between Bayside and Douglaston,” said Shepard. “It serves as a vital function to the Queens bike network and I hope the city extends it to the Queensboro Bridge all the way to the county line.”

She added that she supports more traffic calming measures like rumble strips or narrowing the car lanes to slow cars down.

The 111th Precinct said that they contacted DOT to look at ways “to tailor enforcement to the problem there.”

“DOT will be updating markings at Northern Blvd and Douglaston Pkwy, and we will look at potential safety enhancements here in the future,” said a DOT spokesperson.