BY JAMES FARRELL
Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) has joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), Community Board 11 and others in publicly calling for the removal of recently installed bike lanes along Northern Boulevard.
The bike lane, which runs along Northern Boulevard between the Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street, allowing for connections to Joe Michael’s Mile, was constructed in response to the death of cyclist Michael Schenkman in 2016. The two-way protected bike lane replaced one lane of vehicular traffic. And while Community Board 11 initially supported the plan, it reneged a few months later and instead supported its own version, which would retain the vehicular traffic lane and move the bike lane to the sidewalk.
“Joe Michael’s Mile will be closed for reconstruction, thus reducing the need for a bike lane to connect to it,” Braunstein said. “In the interim, DOT should remove the bike lane and explore Community Board 11’s plan, which would have a drastically reduced impact on vehicles traveling on Northern Boulevard.”
The bike lanes have proved divisive, with different community groups coming out either in favor or against the lanes. Supporters, such as the organization Transportation Alternatives, the Local Douglaston Development Corporation or the Douglaston Village Chamber of Commerce, say that the lanes provide an immediate and crucial safety improvement on the corridor for cyclists following Schenkman’s death. Opponents, such as Community Board 11, Avella and the Douglaston Civic Association, blame the lanes for increased traffic and several accidents involving cars running into the dividing jersey barriers.
Braunstein also cited the accidents as a cause for his opposition.
“It is clear that the bike lane on Northern Boulevard was poorly designed and hastily constructed and is unsafe for motorists and bicyclists alike,” Braunstein said. “It is ultimately the responsibility of DOT to anticipate problems before installation to prevent cars from getting impaled on Jersey barriers and prevent motorists from driving on the bike land itself.”
In a statement, the DOT stood by the bike lanes and emphasized that the accidents that have occurred along the corridor were minor, compared to accidents that occurred there before the bike lanes were implemented.
“This section of the corridor saw 15 vehicle passengers, pedestrians and cyclists injured last year alone,” the statement read. “Given the NYPD’s 2016 crash stats, and given that none of the recent incidents Sen. Avella and Assembly Member Braunstein cite has resulted in injuries, it is important to give roadway users time to acclimate to the new traffic-calming measures. We are already beginning to see benefits from the project: Preliminary data show that ridership was up in November compared to pre-implementation counts taken in June along this stretch of Northern Boulevard. We remain committed to working with the community, monitoring the project and making adjustments, if needed.”
The DOT also reiterated that the plan was developed with community input as a form of action after Schenkman’s death last year.
Reach James Farrell at (718) 357-7400 x 127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @farrellj329.