It was the death of 78-year-old cyclist Michael Schenkman that prompted the creation of bike lanes along Northern Boulevard in Douglaston. And while the lanes have been a source of controversy in the community—with some calling for their removal—Schenkman’s son, Peter, said that his family is generally pleased with the results.
“It just takes some time and I think it’s too soon to even contemplate removing it,” he told the Queens Tribune this week.
Most recently, Assemblyman Edward Braunstein (D-Bayside) joined state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) and Community Board 11 in calling for the removal of the protected bike lanes, which replaced a westbound vehicular lane on Northern Boulevard between 223rd Street and the Douglaston Parkway. They blame the lanes for a spate of accidents and increased traffic. They support a plan by CB 11 that would restore the vehicular lane and move the bike lane onto the sidewalk. That plan has been dismissed by the city’s Department of Transportation as too expensive and time-consuming.
Peter Schenkman grew up in northeast Queens, but now lives in Connecticut—although he and his brother still own his father’s house in Queens. He emphasized that the recent accidents have not yielded any injuries. And while he understands the frustrations surrounding slowed traffic, he said that the lanes were meant to act as a traffic-calming measure, adding that Northern Boulevard has “always been a speedway.”
“Anything that slows down and protects people is a good safety feature,” he said.
In fact, Peter added, he would like to see more stoplights along the corridor.
He isn’t necessarily opposed to CB 11’s plan, but believes it would be too expensive and would still need a significant barrier to insulate cyclists and pedestrians from speeding cars.
Peter said that his father loved “anything on two wheels,” including motorcycles, and rode his bike every day. He conceded that he’s unsure if the bike lanes would have helped his father, who was traveling eastbound that day, but believes that the lanes have made the area safer.
As for preventing incidents similar to his father’s death last year, Peter Schenkman said that it merely requires more attention on drivers’ parts.