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Parks Advocates Say Narrow Astoria Park Bike Lanes Could Cause Collisions

ASTORIA — Is it too late to backpedal now?

Parks advocates say the new bike lanes that the city installed in Astoria Park are too narrow and will be ripe for collisions between cyclists and pedestrians once the weather gets warm and the park is crowded with visitors.

They also say that the placement of the lanes on grass inside the park, instead of next to the waterfront on Shore Boulevard, will invite pedstrians to stroll on them, creating a dangerous situation.

"It's just too narrow — it doesn't seem to be big enough for pedestrians and bikes," said Martha Lopez-Gilpin, co-chair of the local group Astoria Park Alliance.

She said the group was originally thrilled with the idea of bike lanes being installed in the park, part of the city's Queens East River and North Shore Greenway, a $3.46 million urban trail project to connect the Queens waterfront.

But they were surprised this fall with the Parks Department's placement of the 4-foot wide lanes on park land, contrary to earlier dicussions that hinted they would be on the other side.

"It's where a greenway belongs — it belongs on the road," said Jules Corkery, the Alliance's other co-chair.

"By putting a bike-way into the park, you’re inviting bikes into the parkland," she said, saying it will inevitably lead to standoffs between cyclists and strolling pedestrians, or even between two bikes.

"You cant leisurely ride with a friend in the bike lane, side by side, the way you would in a park. It's too narrow," she said.

A spokesman for the Parks Department said the new bike lanes are intended for cyclists only, and that pedestrian lanes were added to the parts of the path that bordered the park's pedestrian walkways.

The bike-only lanes have been stenciled with a bicycle symbol to let pedestrians know to stay off, the spokesman said.

But Lucille Hartmann of Community Board 1 said that even with the markers, it's likely the lanes will be used by pedestrians making their way from inside the park to the waterfront.

"You're going to have people walking with carriages. They're not planned well," she said. "It doesn’t look like it's going to be safe for the bikers or for the pedestrians."

The Community Board and members of the Astoria Park Alliance met with Parks Department officials earlier this month to discuss the bike lanes, and Hartmann said the agency was receptive.

"The way we left it was that they would take some of the concerns that they heard and get back to us," she said.

Corkery thinks one solution would be to leave the newly installed lanes in place to serve as additional pedestrian sidewalks, then install a new set of bike lanes in the street on the waterfront side of Shore Boulevard.

"You'd have a great sidewalk on the side of the park and then you'd have a very nice greenway along the water," she said.