LONG ISLAND CITY — The city's Department of Transportation is planning to modify Vernon Boulevard's bike lanes this summer — creating a protected bike path that would run through Rainey Park and free up 35 parking spaces, according to a plan released by the department.
The changes would convert the road's current bike lanes — two buffered one-way paths on each side of Vernon Boulevard — into a two-way protected bike lane running along just the west side of the street.
The plan also includes adding a bike path inside Rainey Park in order to re-open 35 street parking spaces between 34th Avenue and 33rd Road, based on "community concerns about lack of parking," according to the proposal.
The current bike lanes were installed in 2008 as part of the Queens East River Greenway, connecting the waterfront from Hallets Cove in Astoria to 45th Road in Hunters Point.
The lanes were originally met with some criticism from Queens Community Board 1 and 2 because their installation required the removal of parking spaces on the East River side of Vernon Boulevard, the transportation website Streetsblog reported at the time.
According to the DOT's proposal, turning the bike lanes into a protected two-way path — separated from the traffic lane with a 5-foot buffer space — would encourage more people to ride on the path.
"This project is intended to knit together existing sections of the greenway by providing a continuous, protected bike lane serving neighborhoods along the East River waterfront," DOT spokesman Nicholas Mosquera said in an e-mail.
Steve Scofield, an Astoria resident and transportation advocate, said he thinks putting the bike lanes just on the west side of Vernon Boulevard would be an improvement.
"The west side has fewer cross streets, so you have less of an issue with cross-traffic," he said.
But he's concerned with the plan to remove the buffered bike lane outside Rainey Park to make way for new parking spaces, saying many cyclists would opt not to ride on the proposed path through the park itself but take the more direct route by staying on Vernon Boulevard — meaning they would have to ride in a shared bike lane alongside traffic.
He also pointed to potential problems with putting the bike lane inside a heavily-used park. Bike lanes that were installed last fall in Astoria Park spurred criticism from some who worried the paths would end up being strolled on by pedestrians, leading to possible collisions with cyclists.
The DOT said Community Board 1 has expressed support for the modification plan. The DOT was scheduled to present the proposal to CB2 on Thursday.