BY ARIEL HERNANDEZ
After Community Board 4’s clear opposition to bike lanes being a part of a Traffic Safety Initiative for Queens Boulevard, Mayor Bill de Blasio said it’s a ‘no brainer’ that the bike lane should be built in effort to stick to his Vision Zero road-safety initiative.
De Blasio’s initiative was enacted due to the 19 fatalities Queens Boulevard has experienced since 2010.
Last week, CB 4 held a meeting proposing a traffic safety initiative that included limiting the amount of lanes on Queens Boulevard to slow down traffic. However, the bike lane was not included in their proposal.
The primary reason for CB 4 opposing the bike lanes is because of the loss of parking. However, the bike lanes are predicted to slow down traffic and potentially keep fatalities down, while making commuting easier for cyclist.
“We have lost people,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio in the Daily News. “We have lost bicyclists on Queens Boulevard. We’re not going to allow it to happen anymore. And everyone’s got to slow down.”
The Queens Bike Initiative recently sent out a press release thanking de Blasio, Borough President Melinda Katz, the City Department of Transportation, Councilman Daniel Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Councilwoman Julissa Ferras-Copeland (D-East Elmhurst) for supporting the initiative and ensuring the safety of everyone. In addition to discussing the DOT’s proposal for their borough-wide bike lane plan, the Queens Bike Initiative addressed the fact that CB 4 was not in favor of the initiative.
“With regard to the call to postpone the plan’s implementation, we are disappointed that the Borough President’s office and many members of Community Board 4 did not participate or did not find sufficient the DOT’s extensive efforts at garnering community feedback on this proposal, despite outreach to more than 3,000 residents on the proposed stretch, several workshops, a multilingual online portal for feedback and making the plan publicly available for review months before this week’s presentation,” they said. “It is also unfortunate that more Community Board members did not participate in the opportunities to meet directly with DOT’s staff where some members were able to provide direct feedback.”
According to Katz, Community Board 2 underwent a similar process when the bike lanes were brought to their area last year. Those lanes were built, but CB 2 Chairman Patrick O’Brien said it was too soon to give the plan a grade.
“It’s far too early to say that the bike lanes have been a success,” he told the Queens Tribune. “It’s a pretty big change and big changes take time to be fully implemented so that everyone knows their roles.”
According to O’Brien, the reason why CB 2 approved the bike lanes is because the DOT agreed to work with them as the project developed.
“We had a walk through with DOT Commanding Officer Polly Trottenberg to highlight the problems we were experiencing with it,” O’Brien said. “I would say that the full report card on whether or not the bike lanes are working within this area is not yet in. It’s still a work in progress.”
As far as fatalities, O’Brien says there have not been any. However, he says that there have been a couple of incidents and near misses.
“We need to be educating bicyclist, pedestrians and motor vehicle operators,” O’Brien said. “The rules need to be enforced.”
There has not been a lot of enforcement, and O’Brien said that he has heard a number of problems on how the pedestrians, bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers interact with one another.
“When you bring unprotected bicyclists into close proximity with vehicles, there is potential for human error to come into place,” O’Brien said. “Bike lanes throughout the borough are going to work out in the long run but in the short run, our biggest concern is how do you protect everyone.”
Katz feels that community boards and local groups should have a conversation with their communities, electives and other community boards in the borough.
In an interview with the New York Daily News, de Blasio agreed with Katz’s outlook on the responsibilities of the community boards.
“Community boards have an advisory role to play,” de Blasio said. “They get their input. We try and listen to it carefully. But when it comes to safety, the most important thing is the safety of our people.”
A recent press release sent out by Dromm caused controversy because it showed several CB 4 members, including Alirio Orduña, Priscilla Carrow, and Sandra Muñoz, in favor of the bike lanes after it was announced that CB 4 voted against it.
“We are very pleased that the mayor moved quickly on bringing these bike lanes to our area of Queens Boulevard,” Dromm told the Queens Tribune. “Without the bike lanes, the community wouldn’t be as safe as it needs to be. When you put bike lanes in, you’re forcing drivers to slow down, making the area safer for pedestrians and bikers.
“The plan is vitally important,” he said. “If someone is hit by a car going 40 mph they have a higher chance of dying than someone hit by a car going 30 or 20 mph.”
In a recent press release, Katz stated that last summer she repeatedly requested a borough-wide perspective on bike lanes, but the DOT stated they couldn’t accommodate the bike lanes because they were ‘solely community-driven and community-generated’. However, even after CB 4’s opposition for the bike lanes, the DOT is moving forward with the plan.
With the help of de Blasio, the DOT and several council members, Katz is certain this bike lane will be built.
“I do have the benefit of experience for 22 years in representing Queens Boulevard,” Katz said. “I’ve seen this boulevard take lives and go through major renovations to make it safer. I have a deep commitment on how this moves forward for bicyclist and pedestrians.”
Reach Ariel Hernandez at (718) 357-7400 x144 or firstname.lastname@example.org.