CITY HALL — The city's bike sharing program should be expanded to give pedal power to commuters in western Queens, the Department of Transportation was told Thursday.
A group of community leaders said Long Island City, Astoria, Woodside and Sunnyside have yet to get Citi Bike stations despite a large number of avid cyclists who live in the neighborhoods, and a strong base of community support for the program.
"We are one of the most supportive community boards in the city for bike use. We have supported bike lanes, we have protected and shared the road, and yet we don't have bike share yet," said Sheila Lewandowski, who sits on the transportation committee for Queens CB2.
During a rally on the steps of City Hall on Thursday, several speakers said Long Island City in particular is in dire need of Citi Bike.The tourist-friendly neighborhood is home to 19 hotels, and boasts a number of popular museums and cultural organizations.
Some, like Socrates Sculpture Park at Vernon Boulevard and 31st Drive, can be difficult to get to via public transportation.
"Our park, and the Noguchi Museum, is a mile away from the subways, and most of the buses are closed on the weekends," said Socrates' development director Katie Denny.
Queens was not included at all in the DOT's original Citi Bike plans, according to local Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer, who advocated to get 10 bike docking stations allocated to Long Island City, which he says are supposed to start operating this fall.
Those stations were supposed to launch with the first round of Citi Bike shares this spring, but were delayed after Hurricane Sandy.
Van Bramer called the delay "unacceptable."
"We want it even sooner," he said.
No Citi Bike stations have been planned yet for Astoria, Sunnyside or Woodside, though a DOT spokesman has said there is an opportunity for the program to expand to more neighborhoods "based on demand and resources."
Several community leaders said the demand is there.
"There's a huge biking culture in Woodside," said Adrian Bordoni, director of the neighborhood nonprofit Woodside on the Move.
Dominic Stiller, who heads the Dutch Kills Civic Association and owns an engineering firm in Queens, said he and his staff would use the bike share "more than once a day" if it were available.
"I'd rather ride a bike than pack into a crowded subway train," he said.
Since its launch on Memorial Day, Citi Bike has been met with backlash in some neighborhoods, while others say they would welcome the program.
Caroline Samponaro, director of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, said people from East Harlem, Ditmas Park and many neighborhoods on Staten Island and in The Bronx where Citi Bike has yet to start are also vying to be included.
"Queens residents aren't alone," she said. "We're hearing from residents all over the city who want bike share."