BY JACKIE STRAWBRIDGE
In the winter of 2008, Lizi Rahman lost her son Asif to Queens’ notorious “Boulevard of Death.” Asif was biking home from work on Queens Boulevard in Elmhurst, near the Queens Center Mall, when he was fatally struck by a truck. Since then, his mother has dedicated herself to street safety, advocating for street redesigns as part of the group Families For Safe Streets.
She visited Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday, where the DOT was presenting a draft proposal to put bike lanes on Queens Boulevard, to advocate for the plan.
“I have been asking for a bike lane for more than seven years, ever since my son died,” she said. “It’s not going to bring my son back, I don’t hope that, but I think that it will be a way of my son giving to the community, to the society. It will save other lives.”
The DOT’s project area –
Queens Boulevard from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street – is the corridor’s most deadly, according to planner Nichole Altmix, who presented the proposal to CB2 on Tuesday alongside Ryan Russo and Acting Borough Commissioner Jeff Lynch. The bike lane and other proposed changes were designed based on feedback collected at a January public workshop.
Per the draft proposal, protected bike and pedestrian lanes would be added between the service road and main road median. Implementation will be multi-phased, with a preliminary buffering and repainting planned this year, leading to a final capital project incorporating a park-like center median.
The DOT also proposed transforming the merge slips between the main and service roads into stopped right turns, with the goal of ensuring safe pedestrian and bike crossings.
Aside from making Queens Boulevard more comfortable for bikers and walkers, the agency hopes these new features will reduce “road shopping,” where drivers maneuver back and forth between the main and service roads depending on traffic.
The final capital project envisioned by the DOT would cost $100 million. Russo said on Tuesday that it is too early to specify the exact cost of the intermediary phase of the redesign, but estimated it would run between $1 million and $2 million.
Board members and residents at Tuesday’s meeting were receptive to the draft proposal, with some hesitations and suggestions. Transportation Committee Chairman Joe Conley pointed out a handful of spots where he worried the stopped turns would create congestion, and where long crossings and crossing wait-times create impatient pedestrians and therefore dangerous conditions.
Conley also indicated skepticism about the project goals as a whole, noting, “our position has been, there’s just some roads where bicycle lanes don’t belong.”
CB2 will continue to provide feedback to the DOT and will meet the agency again at its May Transportation meeting; the redesign plan will hit the full board in June. The DOT hopes to begin work on Queens Boulevard this summer.
Reach Jackie Strawbridge at (718) 357-7400, Ext. 128, email@example.com or @JNStrawbridge.