Dec. 5, 2023 By Bill Parry
While Long Island City became one of the fastest growing neighborhoods in the nation over the past decade, locals warned that infrastructure was not keeping pace with development.
On Nov. 29, elected leaders, city officials and safe streets advocates gathered at Murray Park to celebrate the opening of a new protected bike lane along 11th Street and the substantial completion of two others along 44th Drive and another along Jackson Avenue, adding 2.5 miles of protected bike lane infrastructure, separating cyclists from moving vehicles and reducing instances of double parking.
“It’s important to remember what this was sparked by. It’s a celebration but also a celebration of life for the lives that were lost that were the impedance for these bike lanes,” Council Member Julie Won said. “Since I’ve taken office, we’ve had 35 crashes on this portion of 44th Drive, 11th Street and Jackson Avenue. We still have much work to do. We want to make sure that both children and seniors, who are the most vulnerable in our communities, are safe to walk.”
State Senator Kristen Gonzalez thanked the city’s Department of Transportation for improving bike safety in the community.
“These new protected bike lanes will substantially enhance street safety for all road users, improve waterfront access and dramatically improve connectivity in this part of our district,” Gonzalez said. “These improvements — including new bike lane barriers and improved visibility at several intersections — are a testament to our commitment to creating a safer and more accessible transportation system for all New Yorkers and we hope these changes will inspire the swift implementation of the NYC DOT’s other commitments to improve traffic safety in our district.”
Queens Borough President Donovan Richards noted that protected bike lanes are shown to reduce deaths and serious injuries among pedestrians by 29%. He said he was proud to have provided more than $7 million to street safety and street upgrade projects, including for bike lanes.
“We all believe that the safety on our streets is paramount. No matter how you use our streets, whether it’s driving a car, riding a bike, or walking down the sidewalk, you deserve to be safe,” Richards said, noting that the city has already lost 25 cyclists to traffic violence this year and 94% were killed on streets without protected bike lanes.
“Behind every death, there was a dream. Behind every death. There was someone who had hope,” Richards added. “And I think as my son celebrates his eighth birthday today, that there are young people … there are 8-year-olds who did not make it because we did not invest in that infrastructure.”.
NYC DOT also daylighted six intersections with painted pedestrian space and fortified select locations with additional bike parking. Through daylighting, parking spaces nearest the intersection are removed to improve visibility between crossing pedestrians and other road users.
“These lifesaving lanes fill a gap in the bike lane network and better connect cyclists traveling from all over Queens to both the Queensboro and Pulaski bridges as well as the Queens waterfront,” DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez said. “While many people see these street designs as built specifically for cyclists, they also bring tremendous benefits for pedestrians and motor vehicle occupants. These safety benefits are for everyone and we want all New Yorkers to continue supporting all the measures that we use to ensure safety. When we build protected bike lanes, everyone benefits.”
Won said she would support more protected bike lanes in western Queens neighborhoods, implementing more daylighting and redesigning streets to insure that the city puts people over cars. She also looked north to the Queensboro Bridge and implored DOT to finally open a south outer roadway as a dual-pathway for pedestrians and cyclists.
“It’s our No. 1 Christmas ask for the holidays,” Won said. “It is what we dream about. It is what we wish about. This is what we ask Santa Claus for.”
Additional reporting by Paul Frangipane.