Northeastern Queens cyclists are thrilled about the newly installed protected bike lanes along Northern Boulevard and, on Sunday, they made their feelings known.
More than 70 riders held a celebratory eight-mile bike ride that passed along the new lanes. The cyclists stopped on Northern Boulevard near Joe Michaels Mile to remember 78-year-old Michael Schenkman, who was killed while riding his bike along the corridor. His death spurred the city’s Department of Transportation (DOT) to create the protected lanes.
“When [DOT] had put it in, I think everybody in the eastern Queens cycling community was so excited to hear that this was happening and we just said, you know, this is something that deserves to be celebrated,” said Hollis Hills cyclist Joby Jacob, whose group, the Eastern Queens Greenway, helped organize the celebration.
The celebration comes as some local civic groups, Community Board 11 and state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) have criticized the bike lanes, blaming them for a spate of minor accidents and increased traffic. Most recently, Avella penned a letter to the City Hall and the DOT calling for more signage to make motorists more aware of the new lanes.
The bike lanes, however, received support from many other community members who helped organize this weekend’s celebration. Those include the Douglaston Local Development Corporation and businesses such as Peak Bicycle Pro Shop.
Jacob said that the celebratory ride was in the works before the criticisms started surfacing, and while that criticism was discussed, it was not the impetus for the celebration.
“This was an area that was just not safe, and now it’s safe, and that’s worth celebrating,” he said.
The organization Transportation Alternatives also played a role in organizing the event, and has been a vocal supporter of the new bike lanes. Juan Restrepo, a Queens organizer for the group, said that the celebration was important—the Northern Boulevard bike lanes are part of 10 new miles of protected bike lanes in eastern Queens, including lanes along Alley Pond Park and Oceania/210th Street.
“This is the first big monumental change in how eastern Queens is starting to see the streets, and it’s sort of like the start of a new chapter for a lot of these people who live in eastern Queens,” Restrepo said.