Jan. 11, 2016 By Christian Murray
Bicycle advocates throughout Queens turned up in big numbers at Community Board 2’s monthly meeting last week to express their support for the controversial bike lanes that were installed on Queens Boulevard last summer.
The lanes, which remain a hot button issue, were denounced by some speakers Thursday who claimed that they have increased congestion and have made driving conditions worse.
However, most of the speakers came out in favor of the bike lanes, claiming that they have made their lives safer. They thanked the Board for voting to approve them.
The bike lanes were installed last summer on Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street in Woodside as part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero campaign. The Queens Boulevard bike lanes are expected to extend seven miles by 2018 – from Roosevelt Avenue to Union Turnpike – as the administration aims to shed the thoroughfare of its the nickname the “boulevard of death.”
Pat O’Brien, Community Board 2 Chair, recognized the bike lanes are a contentious issue.
“The only reason this Board entertained the option and voted the way we did is because we received the commitment from the DOT to have a dynamic process that would evolve, where they would take input, where they would revise, modify and improve [where needed].”
O’Brien said that adjustments will be made where needed. He said that the DOT has already been working with the Board.
William Kregler, a Woodside resident, said at the meeting that the bike lanes were built at the expense of drivers and said it is “murder out there.” He railed against them at CB 2’s December meeting.
But more speakers came out to support the lanes.
Josh Weitzner, a Sunnyside resident and bike messenger, said, “the bike lanes have made my life so much easier.” He said that the lanes are outside of the flow of traffic (on the left side), which protects riders from being hit by car doors.
Weitzner said that he has lost teeth and has holes in his chin due to being struck by car doors while riding. He also said he sustained a broken wrist on one occasion.
Paul Gilbert, a Woodside resident, said he is an avid bicyclist and was hesitant to ride on the boulevard until the changes were made.
“I use it all the time and go to businesses on the boulevard more than I ever did,” he said.
Astoria resident Juan Restrepo argued that the bike lanes are making people safer. He also noted that the Queens Boulevard bike lanes were named by the bicycling organization People for Bikes as one of America’s best bike lanes of 2015.
However, the Community Board has heard several complaints in recent months from residents near the Big Six towers in Woodside concerning traffic on Queens Boulevard between 60th Street and 65th Street.
The complaints have dealt with pedestrians being struck by cyclists while crossing Queens Boulevard at 60th Street after cyclists fail to stop at traffic lights. Another involves the loss of a lane in the service road between 63rd and 64th Streets on the south side of the Boulevard.
That section of Queens Boulevard has several stores and there is no parking along that stretch. When trucks stop illegally to unload their deliveries or someone unlawfully parks to run into a store, traffic gets backed up.
DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visited this section of the boulevard with O’Brien and Councilman Van Bramer last week.
Jason Banrey, who represents Van Bramer, said the department is looking into restoring some parking spaces and adding signs and painted lines to alleviate these problems.