Central Queens Overlooked in City Bike Lane Plan, Advocates Say

By Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska on April 23, 2013 2:12pm 

 Central Queens has very few bike lanes.
Central Queens has very few bike lanes.
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DOT

QUEENS — It’s not easy to be a cyclist in Central Queens.

With very few designated lanes, bike lovers usually have to maneuver between cars, too often becoming victims of accidents, advocates said.

And the situation has not gotten much better in recent years.

According to the city's 2013 bike map, large portions of Central Queens have been left out of the city’s bike lane expansion plan, while cyclists in Manhattan and North Brooklyn, and even in Western Queens, have many options to choose from.

The most recent bike lane map shows Ridgewood, Maspeth, Middle Village, Corona, Rego Park and Forest Hills with very few lanes, although a new connection was recently installed on 69th Road and Jewel Ave., between Forest Hills and Kew Gardens Hills.

Dozens of cyclists have been injured on Queens Boulevard, according to cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternative's CrashStat accident tracker, which includes data from 1996 to 2009. Four were killed during that period and another cyclist was killed last year.

An employee of Spin City Cycle bike shop in Rego Park, Kay, 23, who bikes to work almost everyday from Williamsburg, said that a lot of his "customers do wish that there were more bike lanes in and around Queens."

"It would make it safer and easier not having cars honk at you,” he said.

Kay, who did not want his last name to be used, said that he usually takes Queens Boulevard and Grand Avenue to Williamsburg.

Riding along streets like Queens Boulevard, with its high volume of traffic, numerous lanes and service roads, can be dangerous, he said. Once, he was hit by a car and another time he said he had been hit by a car door.

Many of his cycling friends have had similar experiences, he said.

He said that while he had not been seriously hurt, “sometimes people break collar bones.”

A spokesman for the Department of Transportation said that more than 69 miles of new bicycle lanes were installed in Queens over the last five years, 22 percent of the total citywide network added during that period.

The vast majority of those, however, are in Western Queens.

He said that there are “growing networks extending into and beyond Jackson Heights" and that the bike lane map in part reflects community requests.

“We consider requests for bike lanes or other street safety enhancements from any community and one key determinant for a bike path is connectivity — it’s important that a new bike facility connect with the rest of the network,” the spokesman said in an e-mail.

Frank Gulluscio, district manager at Community Board 6, which covers Rego Park and Forest Hills, said the board has not received any new requests since the Jewel Avenue bike lane was installed last year.

But advocates say that part of the problem is that awareness.

Caroline Samponaro, senior director of campaigns and organizing at Transportation Alternatives, said the organization is trying “to bring the protected bike lane and transit and pedestrian improvements to Queens Boulevard because that has the potential to really benefit the entire borough because of the direct East-West connection.”

She also said that the group is advocating for more bike lanes in various neighborhoods around Queens.

“Anyone that rides in Eastern Queens would say that there is a need [for more bike lanes],” she said. “The streets are not safe enough for bike riders.”

But she acknowledged that “the key is really residents bringing these requests to their community boards,” which later make the request to the DOT.

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