Sept. 27, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The Department of Transportation has begun installing bike lanes on 31st Avenue through Astoria and Woodside, despite Community Board 1’s strong objections.
The DOT began painting lines for the bike lane earlier this month, and once completed will use a combination of shared and protected bike lanes to provide a corridor through Queens between waterfronts, from the East River in Astoria to Flushing Bay, passing through Astoria, Woodside, and East Elmhurst.
The plan to add bike lanes down 31st Avenue was first shared with CB1 in March, when the DOT presented the proposal. The Community Board approved the plan, with the stipulation that the route include a detour away from 31st Avenue between 55th and 60th Streets, given an increased hazard to cyclists from heavy traffic in the area.
However, given the Community Board’s capacity as a purely advisory body on this matter, the DOT moved forward with the plan as presented.
“The DOT conducted analysis last summer to review the Community Board proposed detour of the bike route to 32nd Avenue between 55th Street and 60th Street. Based on DOT’s goal to enhance safety, the agency plans to implement the final bike lane design as originally presented to Community Board 1,” said a spokesperson for the DOT.
“The new markings planned for 31st Avenue between 55th Street and 60th Street will enhance safety with new high visibility crosswalks and lane organization, clarifying movements for everyone sharing the street. The most recent counts show an increase in cyclists already using this as a preferred route,” the spokesperson added.
However, CB1 Transportation Committee chairman Bob Piazza was outraged by the disregard for the Community Board’s recommendation.
Piazza said that the DOT notified the Community Board only three days before beginning work on the bike lanes, and the first area painted was the controversial five blocks between 55th and 60th Streets.
“The first piece they did was the disputed piece, and now they’ve got it down and it’s there,” Piazza said. “I guess it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission.”
Piazza said that he is still very concerned about the bike lanes on 31st Avenue, though he does not think there is much else he can do to fight it.
“Someone is going to die at 31st Avenue and 56th or 58th Street, there’s no question in my mind,” Piazza said, explaining that the combination of heavy traffic and high numbers of double parked delivery trucks in the area create a dangerous situation.
“The bike lane just doesn’t belong on 31st Avenue,” Piazza added. “It’s the only decent route for ambulances to get to the hospital, and it creates so many hazards where there just shouldn’t be any.”
When completed, the bike lanes will run along 31st Avenue from Shore Boulevard to Flushing Bay Promenade, and will be shared lanes where the street is a 40 feet wide, and protected lanes where the street widens to 50 feet across.