In the wake of this year’s 18th traffic-related cyclist fatality, Long Island City’s City Council member and bike advocates are calling on the Department of Transportation to roll out a network of protected bike lanes in the Queens neighborhood.
The comprehensive network, proposed by councilmember Jimmy Van Bramer along with Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York, would be the first of its kind in the city and is reflective of the area’s need for such biking infrastructure; Robert Spencer, a 53-year-old Long Island City resident, was killed in March at the intersection of Borden Avenue and 2nd Street in Hunters Point while biking to work.
“We must start prioritizing people’s lives over parking spaces,” Van Bramer said in a statement announcing the call to action. “Cycling should be safe and encouraged in any progressive, forward-thinking city. Our booming LIC community, full of young people and families who like to cycle, is the perfect place to implement our city’s first neighborhood bike network.”
The proposed protected bike lane network would cover Borden Avenue from Center Boulevard to 11th Street with a protected intersection at Second Street; Center Boulevard from 50th Avenue to 46th Avenue; 23rd Street from Queens Plaza to 44th Drive; 44th Drive from 23rd Street to Vernon Boulevard; 11th Street from 44th Drive to the Pulaski Bridge; Jackson Avenue from Queens Plaza to Vernon Boulevard with a cycle track on the east sidewalk; Skillman Avenue from Queens Boulevard to 49th Avenue with a two-way protected bike lane adjacent to Sunnyside Yards; 48th Avenue from Jackson Avenue to Center Boulevard; and along Thomson Avenue.
The plan also calls for changes to parking around the NYPD 108th Precinct on 50th Avenue between Vernon Boulevard and 5th Street, including no sidewalk parking and parking by permit only. It also seeks to create a solution for biking the 49th Avenue Bridge over the Hunters Point LIRR Station by proposing a two-way protected bike lane on the north side of the bridge.
Earlier this month Mayor de Blasio announced the Green Wave initiative, a $58.4 million bike safety plan to be implemented over the next five years that will see the expansion of the city’s bike safety network with new protected bike lanes, the retiming of traffic light patterns, and the redesign of 50 dangerous intersections all in service of protecting riders. Which intersections those will be has yet to be announced, but the city’s most dangerous intersections for cyclists in the last five years were ID’d in an independent study released earlier this week.
Following the March death of Robert Spencer, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg was adamant that creating protected bike lanes was not hindered by its cost. “The challenge of building out the bike network is really the labor intensive side—it’s going to local communities, it’s working through the engineering, it’s working with the businesses and residents that are at the curb. It’s going to community boards,” Trottenberg said. “That’s the piece that’s sort of the biggest challenge to building out the bike network.”
The protected bike lane network has already won the support of one major Long Island City institution, the Court Square Civic Association, whose president Frank Wu says it is “100% supportive” of the measure. “It would provide much needed safety for those who cycle; encourage others to cycle, thereby decreasing congestion and pollution; and increase pedestrian safety.” It’s a win-win.