Watch a child sprint 150 feet across Queens Boulevard, and you know that the street wasn’t built on a human scale.
The street became known as the Boulevard of Death in the 1990s for its high number of pedestrian and vehicular fatalities. In 2015, the boulevard was fatality-free, according to the Department of Transportation. But the boulevard is a focus of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero road-safety initiative, given the 19 total fatalities, including 12 pedestrians, on the boulevard since 2010.
The city DOT is in the middle of a planned three-part makeover of the boulevard, making various structural changes such as pedestrian islands for safety. But the most radical of these would replace a lane along the median in either direction with a buffer and protected bike lane.
Biking on Queens Boulevard, you ask? Well, some hardy few do it now — weaving within the chaotic flow of the outer lanes. A protected lane would clearly be a boon to bikers, but the DOT believes the bike lane will also help “calm,” or slow, traffic by organizing and narrowing the service roads. The safety enhancement work — and an early section of the bike lane on Queens Boulevard — has already begun between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street.
The community board representing the area covered by the second phase of work, between 74th Street and Eliot Avenue, approved much of the safety work last week, but not the bike lane. A bike lane would result in a net loss of parking spots in the area, and some residents worry that cyclists just don’t belong in a motor-vehicle world.
This car-centric mentality is natural on stretches of the boulevard where transportation would be difficult without a motor vehicle. But without bike lanes providing alternatives and calming traffic, there will only be more cars and the potential for more fatalities as Queens grows. De Blasio has directed the DOT to go forward with the bike lane, despite objections from the community board and the Queens borough president. Slowing down cars a bit should help. Supporting other modes of transportation will help encourage other ways to move.