Feb. 17, 2016 By Michael Florio
New bike lanes and traffic safety improvements around Astoria Park got the green light from Astoria’s community board Tuesday night.
Community Board 1 voted overwhelmingly in approval of three proposals from the Department of Transportation that include revamped roadways with new protected bike lanes on Shore Boulevard, 20th Avenue and Hoyt Avenue North.
One of these proposals would convert Shore Boulevard into a one-way street.
This redesign also includes the installation of a dedicated bike lane on the roadway – as opposed to the existing bike lanes sharing a path with pedestrians along Astoria Park’s perimeter – ADA accessible curb extensions, and no reduction in parking spaces.
Shawn Macias, DOT project manager, told CB 1 that these upgrades will calm traffic, better separate cyclists and pedestrians and shorten crossing distances for pedestrians.
The bike lanes along Shore Boulevard will also have rumble strips before pedestrian crosswalks, to prevent bicyclists from speeding through them, according to Macias.
The 20th Avenue revamp includes the installation of a two-way parking protected bike path and narrowing the roadway.
A recent DOT study found that 88 percent of westbound drivers and 76 percent of eastbound drivers speed on 20th Avenue. These upgrades aim to reduce speeding and drag racing and also improve pedestrian safety by shortening the crossing distance, especially for children using nearby sports fields.
“Wider roads often lead to speeding,” Macias said. “The narrower road should reduce this issue.”
The Hoyt Avenue proposal also includes the installation of a two-way bike path and removal of car lane, which the DOT said will create safer bike connections between the Triborough/RFK Bridge and the waterfront, while calming vehicular traffic. This design keeps pedestrians, bike, and vehicles separate.
The proposals received mixed reactions from Astoria residents at CB 1’s meeting.
Several residents expressed concerns that making Shore Boulevard a one-way street will lead to increased traffic on other streets around Astoria Park, such as 19th Street and 21st Street.
“I like the way you have it now and I think it is much safer for everyone,” one resident said.
Others were happy to have safer conditions for both cyclists and runners.
Macartney Morris, a cyclist and runner who frequents the park, said he has come across multiple unsafe conditions along Shore Boulevard.
“I wish the proposal was car-free and gave the waterfront back to pedestrians,” he said. “But this is a great compromise for both car drivers and pedestrians.”
However, the Board ultimately voted in approval of each project with 34 members in support and only one in opposition.
Councilman Costa Constantinides, who supports these proposals, was pleased with the Board’s decision.
“This plan will deeply improve traffic safety throughout Astoria for our pedestrians, drivers, and cyclists,” he said. “The stronger connection between the waterfront, Astoria Park, and residents will be an asset for our entire neighborhood.”
According to the Councilman’s office, these upgrades will be implemented by the end of the summer.