March 14, 2016 By Jackie Strawbridge
The Department of Transportation plans to extend western Queens’ bike network along nearly the entirety of 31st Avenue, stretching from Vernon Boulevard to Astoria Boulevard.
The proposed bike route project will involve a combination of bike lanes and shared vehicle/bike lanes, according to a DOT presentation that was delivered to Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee last week.
The presentation indicates that certain sections of 31st Avenue are 40 feet wide, and other sections are 50 feet wide, which determines how the agency designed the bike network.
On the narrower 40-foot stretches, the DOT plans to define the street as a shared vehicle/bike lane by painting bike markers on the asphalt in both directions. Seven-foot parking lanes will be defined with a painted line. The DOT asserts that these shared lane markings alert drivers to the presence of cyclists and provides guidance for cyclists.
On the 50-foot stretches, a dedicated five-foot bike lane will be painted out, between an eight-foot parking lane and 10-foot travel lane, in both directions.
The DOT said it is attempting to address a number of issues with this project, including strengthening connections between Astoria and Jackson Heights, increasing access to public space and the waterfront and improving transportation options for neighborhoods underserved by the subway.
The Queens Bike Initiative, which has been pushing for a stronger western Queens bike network since last year, called the proposal “absolutely right on and in line with that we need.”
In an email, Sergio Pecanha of QBI applauded the emphasis on increased park access and transportation alternatives. While QBI will continue petitioning for increased bike connections, Pecanha called the DOT’s plan “the very first and essential step to reach our dreamed network of bike lanes connecting parks in Queens.”
However, not everyone has been as receptive to the proposal.
CB 1 Transportation Committee Chair Bob Piazza called 31st Avenue – especially in the vicinity of 56th Street – “a really, really bad place” for bike lanes due to existing congestion.
Piazza cited in particular the U-Mart Supermarket and Paragon Honda Service Center between 56th Street and 58th Street, which he said clog the road with loading trucks and lined up customers, respectively.
Along the rest of 31st Avenue in Astoria/Woodside, Piazza said he is concerned about traffic spillover from Northern Boulevard during construction on that road, combined with the handful of schools along 31st Avenue.
“It makes for a really serious situation,” he said. “I’m all for putting bike lanes there, [but] clean this up.”
“You don’t use bicycle lives to calm traffic. You calm the traffic first, before you put bicycle paths there,” he added, responding to one of the DOT’s proposed benefits of new bike route.
Piazza said all Board members present at the Committee meeting agreed that existing traffic issues should be dealt with before a bike network plan, although there were not enough present to take a formal vote.
The DOT plans to do an onsite visit to discuss issues that came up during the Committee meeting, officials said.
The proposal will go before Community Board 1’s full board meeting Tuesday, according to district manager Florence Koulouris.
Community Board 3, which shares a large portion of 31st Avenue, did not respond to requests for comment on this story.
The corridor that Piazza is talking about and the blocks from around 48th to 69th represent over 5,500 students in 6 schools. It would take a week of enforcement to clean up the traffic conditions Piazza mentions, yet it’s never been done. DOT should not be wait for the enforcement that will not come until cars see the city means business in protecting vulnerable road users. Stand for a minute around 68th and watch vans and trucks speed, swerve, U-Turn, and more. Yet, cyclists especially and school kids have no alternative to this route.
This is a highly prized, and recommended route for cyclists and school kids. DOT is spot on and ahead of the game choosing this as a next project. Further down where it connects with existing 35th and 36th street bike lanes, traffic again, will adjust to dedicated cycling lanes- Speeding cars racing up 33rd to GCP have free reign, and they shouldn’t.
Also, if studies have been done on the increase in cycling in Queens, I’d bet no neighborhood has grown more than Astoria & Jax Heights.