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DOT puts bike lanes down on 31st Avenue, ignoring Community Board’s objections

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DOT

Sept. 27, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan

The Department of Transportation has begun installing bike lanes on 31st Avenue through Astoria and Woodside, despite Community Board 1’s strong objections.

The DOT began painting lines for the bike lane earlier this month, and once completed will use a combination of shared and protected bike lanes to provide a corridor through Queens between waterfronts, from the East River in Astoria to Flushing Bay, passing through Astoria, Woodside, and East Elmhurst.

The plan to add bike lanes down 31st Avenue was first shared with CB1 in March, when the DOT presented the proposal. The Community Board approved the plan, with the stipulation that the route include a detour away from 31st Avenue between 55th and 60th Streets, given an increased hazard to cyclists from heavy traffic in the area.

However, given the Community Board’s capacity as a purely advisory body on this matter, the DOT moved forward with the plan as presented.

“The DOT conducted analysis last summer to review the Community Board proposed detour of the bike route to 32nd Avenue between 55th Street and 60th Street. Based on DOT’s goal to enhance safety, the agency plans to implement the final bike lane design as originally presented to Community Board 1,” said a spokesperson for the DOT.

“The new markings planned for 31st Avenue between 55th Street and 60th Street will enhance safety with new high visibility crosswalks and lane organization, clarifying movements for everyone sharing the street. The most recent counts show an increase in cyclists already using this as a preferred route,” the spokesperson added.

However, CB1 Transportation Committee chairman Bob Piazza was outraged by the disregard for the Community Board’s recommendation.

Piazza said that the DOT notified the Community Board only three days before beginning work on the bike lanes, and the first area painted was the controversial five blocks between 55th and 60th Streets.

“The first piece they did was the disputed piece, and now they’ve got it down and it’s there,” Piazza said. “I guess it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”

Piazza said that he is still very concerned about the bike lanes on 31st Avenue, though he does not think there is much else he can do to fight it.

“Someone is going to die at 31st Avenue and 56th or 58th Street, there’s no question in my mind,” Piazza said, explaining that the combination of heavy traffic and high numbers of double parked delivery trucks in the area create a dangerous situation.

“The bike lane just doesn’t belong on 31st Avenue,” Piazza added. “It’s the only decent route for ambulances to get to the hospital, and it creates so many hazards where there just shouldn’t be any.”

When completed, the bike lanes will run along 31st Avenue from Shore Boulevard to Flushing Bay Promenade, and will be shared lanes where the street is a 40 feet wide, and protected lanes where the street widens to 50 feet across.

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12 Comments

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Luke

Alternate headline: Community supported bike lanes installed to build out the growing Astoria bike network.

The community board’s recommendations for this proposal were both unsafe and nonsensical. The plan as it exists is a huge improvement on the street conditions and will encourage the already growing number of cyclists biking in Queens and in Astoria.

Journalists, editors please stop giving voice to the cranks for click-throughs. Go talk to the many people walking and biking in Astoria who want to see positive change, not community board obstructionists who never met a bike lane they weren’t outraged about.

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Steve Scofield

With all due respect to Bob Piazza and CB1, as an everyday cyclist, I feel that the proposed detour, requiring cyclists to make two left turns against oncoming traffic, poses a greater risk than going around double-parked cars, and, in any case, it’s still safer than the “sharrowed” shared bike-lane portion of the bike route on 31 Avenue where it’s too narrow for a true bike lane.

As for “Real Astorian”, i was born at Astoria General 66 years ago, been biking around Astoria (and everywhere else) since 1956, so please don’t tell me or anyone else to go back to where I came from. I AM where I came from.

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Macartney Morris

I’m sorry, Bob, but you’re wrong. 31st Avenue is the *perfect* place for a bike lane. It’s wide, direct and connects numerous attractions and businesses. If unsafe driving is making the road unsafe, then let’s stop the unsafe driving. You don’t see a polluted sky and decide we should all stop breathing air! You reduce pollution from cars and factories and fight for clean air. The same is true for roads. I’d remind you that you are Chairman of the *Transportation* Committee and not Chairman of the *Automobile* Committee.

The Transportation Committee of CB1 approved the plan as designed, despite Bob’s vocal objections. And when the full Board voted, the vote on the original plan was 13-19. There is a small but vocal group on this Board who only views the neighborhood from behind their windshield. I urge readers to check out my Op-Ed in the TimesLedger in August calling on DOT to override the naysayers in CB1. It will give you a perspective from bike and transportation advocates that is missing from this article: http://www.timesledger.com/stories/2016/34/morris_2016_08_12_q.html

The 31st Avenue bike lane is the first full East-West, river-to-bay bike lane in NW Queens, and I applaud DOT for implementing as designed. While I wish the sharrows in the plan were bike lanes or even protected bike lanes, this is a great first step. I look forward to working in good faith with CB1, the Transportation Committee, and DOT to continue to build out and strengthen Astoria and NW Queens’ bike infrastructure as we prepare for the arrival of Citibike next summer.

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Peter

The Community Board’s objections were not ignored in the least. Not only did the CB’s own Transportation committee approve of the plan, but the DOT and community members considered the objections and then explained that the detour being requested would make things more dangerous for people on bikes. Indeed many CB members support the DOT plan. Those who still disagree with it do not ride bikes, do not see and experience the roads the way people on bikes do and are the ones who are ignoring the DOT, community members and transportation activists who have repeatedly explained that subjecting cyclists to multiple left turns, as the proposed detour would do, increases the danger of a crash. Moreover, many cyclists would not follow the detour as it is a waste of time and energy. They would then be dumped out of the bike lane in to a busy area with no protections.

And finally, this bike lane should be seen as an opportunity to make a dangerous section of road safer for everyone. This idea that a road is “too dangerous” to make safer has to be rejected. It is false. those opposing this should join with DOT and cyclists as allies to make sure that road is safer for everyone. We need to move beyond the very narrow thinking that we see all too often in our CB’s

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Michael Boylan

Traffic in Queens is worse than ever. Narrow ing lanes for bicycles will not make it any safer. Accommodating 30-50 daily bikes to inconvience 2-3K plus vehicles is just making local roadways reach slow capacity.

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A former Astoria resident

Please. Community Boards are notoriously hidebound when it comes to knowing anything accurate about street safety, and the claims of their most adamant anti-bike-lane members are always Trumpian: i.e., purely dreamed up. Very glad DOT went ahead with this.

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Peter

And by that I assume you mean from two doors down on the left? These “bikers” are your neighbors. They are as much “Real” Astorians as you are. I think you have inadvertently shown us all exactly what the character of the opponents to such infrastructure really is. Thank you.

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abu benuska

Thanks DOT for installing it. As a cyclist who often bikes from East Elmhurst to Astoria, this is a small step in the right direction. It will make the street safer for everyone.

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Ye ole curmudgeon

Why even consider motorists anymore? Bike lanes have only made Astoris streets smaller and harder for motorists to navigate comfortably. I have yet to see ANY BIKE LANE BEING UTILIZED ENOUGH to justify its presence. A total waste of money while making it more hazardous for drivers due to get by trucks, buses and avoiding people opening their doors.

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Paul

I use the bike lanes 7 days a week. I do not own a car leaving one more parking space in Astoria and one less car clogging the streets.

“ANY BIKE LANE BEING UTILIZED ENOUGH to justify its presence.” So it follows that we need more bikes on the road. Excellent idea!

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