Scattered Clouds 38° Good Afternoon
Scattered Clouds 38° Good Afternoon

Cyclists plan Women’s Ride along Queens Boulevard

Transportation Alternatives is among more than a dozen groups that are involved in organizing the 7-mile ride, which will take place on Sunday.

Cyclists will take part Sunday in a Women's

Cyclists will take part Sunday in a Women's Ride along Queens Boulevard to highlight the need for dedicated bike lanes in the city. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Spencer Platt

Women cyclists are set to take over Queens Boulevard this weekend.

The upcoming Women’s Ride invites women, girls and gender nonconforming people to grab a helmet, hop on their bike and go for a spin to highlight the gender gap in the city’s cycling community while also advocating for the continuation of bike lanes along Queens Boulevard.

“It’s going to be incredible. It’s going to be a really positive day,” said Laura Shepard, a member of Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Volunteer Committee.

Transportation Alternatives is among more than a dozen groups that are involved in organizing the 7-mile ride, which will take place on Sunday at 11 a.m.

Cyclists will gather at the Queensbridge Park Greenway in Long Island City before making their way to Queens Plaza North and Skillman/43rd Avenue. The ride will then follow Queens Boulevard to the Women’s Plaza at Queens Borough Hall. A rally at borough hall will cap off the day’s events.

Shepard said organizers drew inspiration for the ride from powerful activist movements such as the Women’s March and Science March, as well as cycling advocates within their own community.

“There’s so many great women in the Queens bike family, as we call it — the groups that got together to organize,” she said. “A lot of the advocates for Queens Boulevard are women; even at DOT, the engineers that did a lot of the design work are women.”

Organizers chose Queens Boulevard for the ride in order to showcase the connection between the gender gap in New York City cycling communities and street safety, Shepard said.

“One of the many barriers for people is safety of the roads,” she added. “When we remove these barriers a lot more people ride, including more women, older people, younger people — not just the stereotypical road warrior.”

A report released by the Rudin Center for Transportation Policy and Management in 2016 found that women are more likely to use bikes when there is infrastructure in place that separates them from traffic, such as protected bike lanes or greenways.

“It was important to us that we center this ride around the issues for women cyclists, including the safety and protected infrastructure, and also just being out on the street,” Shepard said.

Gender norms also can have an effect on women riding bikes, she added.

“A lot of girls over the age of 7 or as teenagers don’t own a bike, because it’s just kind of not encouraged or we’re told to be careful a lot more often,” Shepard said. “We also sometimes deal with some street harassment or road rage — which happens to all cyclists — but it’s something that we want to highlight as a reason why there is this gender gap.”

Queens Boulevard also is an “iconic, neighborhood centerpiece,” that serves as a model for how the city can transform streets into safe places for cyclists.

Once known as the “Boulevard of Death,” the 3.8-mile section of Queens Boulevard that has been transformed under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero initiative has not had a single traffic fatality in the last three years.

“Transforming Queens Boulevard is no small feat,” Shepard said.

So far, Vision Zero has brought dedicated bike lanes, crosswalk improvements and other pedestrian-focused remediation to sections of Queens Boulevard in Woodside, Elmhurst, Rego Park and Forest Hills. The next phase of work would extend from Yellowstone Boulevard, where the improvements currently end, to Union Turnpike.

Despite successes along Queens Boulevard, the city has struggled to curb the number of cycling deaths elsewhere in the five boroughs. There were at least 21 cycling deaths citywide in 2017 — up from 14 deaths in 2015, according to city data.

In order for the Vision Zero improvements to be implemented along the next stretch of Queens Boulevard, the plan needs to go through a process that includes community board approval. Shepard said she hopes the Women’s Ride will show the community that everyone deserves the safety of bike lanes.

“We just want to show people the change and hope more people are encouraged to get on their bikes and ride,” she added.

More than 320 people have registered for the Women’s Ride, as of Friday. The event is free, but cyclists need to RSVP in order to participate.

“The whole world is watching this, and we’re on the forefront in taking action to end traffic violence and end climate change,” Shepard said of the event’s importance. “It’s going to be a really diverse group…and also it’s in Queens which is one of the most diverse places in the world.”

With Vincent Barone

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