By Lynn Edmonds
Queens residents know that commuting from one part of the borough to another can often take longer than getting to Manhattan, thanks to a public transport system that in many cases is not designed for intra-borough travel.
But that transportation problem may be partially alleviated if the Queens Bike Initiative has their way. This organization, founded in July, is scheming to connect parks in Northwestern Queens through a series of bike lanes.
The plan could reduce commute times from Astoria Park in Northwest Astoria to Travers Park in Jackson Heights from 40 minutes on mass transit to 20 minutes by bike, and the commute time from Travers Park in Jackson Heights to Flushing Meadow Park from 30 minutes to 15 minutes, the group says.
Why are parks the measuring point for this plan?
Jackson Heights resident Sergio Peçanha started the initiative because he wanted greater access to Queens parks for himself and his son. The busy neighborhood is underserved in terms of green spaces.
“I have a three year old son and I want him to be safe enough for him to ride when he’s old enough to do it,” Peçanha said.
He said they wanted to get as many as possible of the planned bike lanes protected “so that people from all ages, from small children to old people, older than 60, can feel safe riding.” But he added, “we’ll take any kind of bike lane we can get.”
He said recreation was a motive for many of the 30 core members of the initiative.
“Many people just want to ride with their families” Peçanha said.
He added that many people in the group, including himself, were first time activists.
But one wouldn’t know that with the group’s professional website, the handful of events they’ve hosted, and the nearly 1600 signatures that Peçanha says they’ve gotten for their petition on the City Department of Transportation.
The initiative would see bikes paths connecting Astoria Park to Travers Park and then Flushing Meadows Corona Park, and then looping back to Long Island City and Socrates Sculpture Park.
Though their plan only incorporates Northwestern Queens so far, Peçanha says they are open to collaborating in the future with residents in other parts of Queens to link up even more of the borough’s parks.
The plan’s success hinges on their ability to get funding from local council members including Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside), Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights) Julissa Ferreras (D-Corona) and Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria).
It seems the initiative could get support there.
Constantinides said “greenways, bike ways, and other corridors dedicated for pedestrians and cyclists would better connect our communities and improve street safety.”
Peçanha says that “on the streets the response has been overall really positive,” and that is partly due to the fact that they are advocating for responsible biking. “We don’t like crossing the street and a bike guy zips in front of me. I don’t like that” Peçanha said.
The group also argues that bicycle paths will facilitate access to businesses in areas along the bus route, and even increase real state values. Peçanha pointed to data stating protected bike lanes serve as a traffic calming mechanism, and reduce accidents.
Queens Bike Initiative organizes group rides on the first Saturday of every month. They are also planning a December Santa-themed ride.
To view their petition visit qns.bike/petition.
Reach Lynn Edmonds at (718) 357-7400 x127, firstname.lastname@example.org or @Ellinoamerikana