June 21, 2022 By Christian Murray
Community Board 2 voted earlier this month in support of the Department of Transportation’s plan to install three protected bicycle lanes in Long Island City.
The vote, which was passed unanimously, has cleared the way for the DOT to install the protected bicycle lanes that will provide essential links between the Queensboro and the Pulaski bridges—as well as between Court Square and Hunters Point. The plan, however, will result in the loss of 107 parking spaces.
The DOT plans to install protected bike lanes on 44th Drive—between Vernon Boulevard and 23rd Street—an essential east-west corridor from Court Square toward the Long Island City waterfront.
The plan also involves a protected bike lane on 11th Street–between 44th Drive and Jackson Avenue—a key connection between the two major bridges, as well as a protected bike lane on Jackson Avenue, between Vernon Boulevard and the Pulaski Bridge.
The DOT plans to install the protected bike lanes late summer/early fall.
“This is a critical part of the bike network, not only for Long Island City but for all of Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan because this is where the Pulaski Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge connect,” said Nick Carey, with the DOT’s bike unit, during the board meeting.
The DOT also noted that the new protected bike lanes will be installed at a time when there has been a big uptick in bicycling. The agency said that cyclists are crossing the Queensboro bridge 6,400 times per day, with more than 2,000 trips across the Pulaski bridge.
The plan also comes in the wake of bike safety advocates and elected officials urging the DOT to complete a protected bike network in the Long Island City area.
The push for bike safety came to a head when Robert Spencer was killed in a crash in March 2019 while riding his bike at the intersection of Borden Avenue and 2nd Street in Hunters Point.
The DOT is likely to install a protected bicycle lane on Borden Avenue between Center Boulevard and Jackson Avenue– although the agency is still evaluating the concept.
The plans for the three protected bike lanes were largely well received, although the board did have some reservations.
There were concerns about the loss of parking spaces—particularly on Jackson Avenue near the Pulaski Bridge—since many local businesses have customers that need parking.
Additionally, others urged the DOT to find parking spots elsewhere, noting that some residents are sick or handicapped and are unable to use public transportation or ride a bike. Some also argued that the loss of parking spaces would be a burden for low-income residents since they would struggle to afford parking in a commercial garage.
The DOT said that the loss of parking was a concern but the benefits of the protected bicycle network outweighed the downside.
“We recognize that there is a downside,” Carey said. “But considering the safety benefits for all road users…we think it is on balance a net positive for the neighborhood.”
Meanwhile, Gretha Suarez, a planner with DOT’s Queens office, said that the bike network might also encourage some drivers to use public transportation or ride a bike.
Stephen Cooper, a board member, said that he wants the DOT to be responsive to the community once the lanes are installed. He said that when the DOT installed the 39th Avenue Bike Boulevard in Sunnyside last year it promised the community that it would review the design—in terms of whether it needed to be tweaked or not—soon after its completion. He said that this had not occurred and called on the DOT to pledge to review the Long Island City plan shortly after its implementation.
Meanwhile, Thomas Mituzas, a board member and co-chair of the board’s Transportation Committee, called on the DOT to do conduct outreach prior to installing the lanes. He said that when the 39th Avenue Bike Boulevard was installed last year most residents were completely unaware. He said that he doesn’t want a driver in Long Island City to go out one morning and then discover that the area where they typically park their car is gone.
Suarez said that the agency gets the message out about DOT projects via social media and through the help of community boards. She also said the projects are also on the DOT website. Additionally, fliers about the work are typically circulated.
But Morry Galonoy, the chair of Community Board 2, said that the board is largely a volunteer, unfunded government body that doesn’t have the ability to conduct large scale outreach. He said that it was up to the DOT to do more.
Some called on the DOT to do tabling events and similar outreach—as well as send staff out to the area to inform residents.
The board’s approval did come with conditions. The conditions require the DOT to make provision for handicapped parking spaces; add loading zones for small businesses; educate bicyclists as to the rules pertaining to bike lanes; and to come back to the board after its implementation for feedback.
Click here to see the plans.