New Bike Routes on Tap for Long Island City and Sunnyside

Routes marked in purple are set to receive a combination of shared lane markings and bike lanes. Image: ##

Western Queens is set to receive a slate of street safety and bicycle network improvements. The projects will add shared lane markings and bike lanes to neighborhood streets, improve connections to the Astoria waterfront and Greenpoint, and address pedestrian safety at the site of a fatal curb-jumping crash. The progress comes after more than a year of work between DOT and Community Board 2, and coincides with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s push for bike-share expansion to Long Island City and Sunnyside.

In March 2012, the community board and DOT hosted public meetings to gather feedback about where bike lanes were most needed in the area. A few months later, DOT came back with a proposal and sent out a survey asking about preferences for future bike lane plans.

The final proposal [PDF], which does not remove any parking, includes more shared lane markings than dedicated bike lanes, but does provide key connections between the Pulaski Bridge, Queens Plaza, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside. Buffered bike lanes will be installed on 49th Avenue from the Pulaski Bridge to 21st Avenue, and on the 39th Avenue bridge from Skillman Avenue to Northern Boulevard. Bike lanes will be striped on 49th and 51st Avenues, as well as sections of 11th Street and 11th Place. Shared lanes will be installed on 11th Street, 39th Street, Skillman Avenue, 47th Avenue, and 50th Avenue.

Community Board 2’s transportation committee voted to support the plan on June 18, according to committee member Evan O’Neil, and requested that DOT continue to examine a handful of intersections where board members had concerns about conflicts between drivers and cyclists. The lane markings are scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a separate DOT proposal [PDF 1, 2] would convert the existing buffered bike lanes on Vernon Boulevard to a two-way protected bike lane along most of the street’s western edge from 46th Avenue in Long Island City to 30th Drive in Astoria. The project would be a significant step toward a greenway-style waterfront route for Queens, but it would not provide a direct, continuous protected bikeway.

To restore some parking spaces removed when the Vernon Boulevard lanes were installed in 2008, the plan calls for shared lanes along Queensbridge Park and Rainey Park, which both have shared-use paths that hug the waterfront and would connect to the protected bike lane on Vernon. Cyclists looking for a direct route would be directed to shared lanes on those blocks.

The Vernon Boulevard proposal, which has already received a supportive vote from CB 1, was tabled at CB 2’s full board meeting on June 6 because the agenda was dominated by discussion of a separate item. The board is not scheduled to meet again until September 19; there may be more adjustments to the plan before then.

Most of Vernon Boulevard in Long Island City and Astoria is set to be upgraded from buffered bike lanes to a two-way protected bike lane. Image: ##
Also in CB 2, the intersection where high school student Tenzin Drudak was killed by a curb-jumping driver has received its first traffic calming treatments, with new planters closing a turn lane from Thomson Avenue to Skillman Avenue to vehicles.

Bike and pedestrian safety came up for discussion at last night’s Queens borough president candidates forum hosted by the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund, though none of the candidates distinguished themselves.

“I do have serious concerns about bike lanes on Queens Boulevard,” Melinda Katz told the audience, though instead of direct action, she suggested the federal government should conduct a safety study. Tony Avella raised concerns about community involvement in the placement of bike lanes, while Peter Vallone expressed skepticism about the value of bike-share.

Perhaps the candidates could learn about community involvement and the desire for bike-share by talking to the local residents who have worked with DOT to bring more bike infrastructure to western Queens.