Queens Boulevard bike lanes to be completed after two years of DOT silence

Councilman Keith Powers (far left) and DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg (center) announcing progress to the Green Wave plan. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

For bike advocates in Queens, it’s better late than never.

The stalled Queens Boulevard bike lane construction plan in Forest Hills will finally be completed, the city’s Department of Transportation announced Wednesday. It ends two years of inaction on the plan — as well as public speculation as to why the DOT delayed the effort.

While DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said the bike lanes would be completed by summer, Sean Quinn, the assistant commissioner, told amNewYork Metro the extended wait time was due to the difficulty of the roadway around the Grand Central as well as the courthouses.

“I think we just had some issues to work through… making sure we were getting it right,” Quinn said. “It’s a very big section that’s actually complex.”

Some advocates surmised that the Queens Boulevard bike lane had stalled in 2018 due the proposal to shut down detention facilities on Rikers Island and build a borough-based jail behind the Queens County Criminal Courthouse.

While DOT never fully addressed this rumor, Quinn said the corridor is difficult with some “tough intersections.”

Whether or not this answers the questions being asked by bicycling advocates in Queens in the past two years, including an October rally that lamented it had been 500 days of waiting for the agency to revamp the former “Boulevard of Death,” was not bigger than the fact that the wait was over.

Laura Shepard, from Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Volunteer Committee, simply said it was a long time coming, 500 days and then some.

“I’ve been waiting years for this, I used to live in Forest Hills and think, ‘Wouldn’t that be great? I wouldn’t have to take the subway,'” Shepard said.

Trottenberg made the announcement official at a Feb. 19 press conference that detailed progress on the Green Wave plan. The agency also celebrated the completion of the Sixth Avenue bike lanes that provide safe passage for cyclists going from the southern tip of Manhattan all the way to Central Park, among other things.

In a progress report from DOT first reported by amNewYork Metro on Feb. 18, the Queens Boulevard bike lane’s final phase of completion was not included. But Trottenberg and Quinn were resolute in that it would be available for cyclists at some point in the summer.

Quinn said the build-out of the bike lanes, which typically are not major construction undertaking, would take a couple of months considering the road.

Once Queens Boulevard meets at Union Turnpike, the area becomes a tangled web of side streets, the merge of the boulevard’s main and service roads, and exit ramps from the nearby Grand Central and Jackie Robinson Parkways.

As part of deal with DOT’s plan to build 30 miles of bike lane per year, Trottenberg conceded that there would be a loss of parking spots for drivers. Hard numbers eluded her in the moment, but she said the number of lost spaces would be in the hundreds.