Sept. 12, 2018 By Tara Law
Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that aims to reclaim the city’s streets from vehicles, is calling for a “comprehensive redesign” of Northern Boulevard in response to a recent spate of pedestrian deaths on the busy thoroughfare.
The group is now calling Northern Boulevard, where eight pedestrians have been killed since Jan. 2017, “Queens’ new ‘Boulevard of Death.’”
The moniker is a reference to an old nickname for Queens Boulevard, which was notoriously dangerous in the 1990s and early 2000s. In 1997 alone, 18 pedestrians were killed on Queens Boulevard.
However, Queens Boulevard’s reign as the Boulevard of Death appears to have come to an end as a result of alterations to the street design over the past 20 years. No pedestrians have been killed on the Boulevard since 2014.
Queens Boulevard is currently undergoing a large redesign under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Vision Zero program, which aims to reduce crashes on the city’s streets. The redesign has already brought the installation of broader curbs, wider medians and protected bike lanes to approximately half the length of the seven and a half mile roadway.
Transportation Alternatives was one of the most vocal proponents of the Queens Boulevard redesign. The organization was particularly adamant about the inclusion of protected bike lanes, as encouraging cycling is part of its mission to promote modes of transportation besides cars.
Now, Transportation Alternatives wants similar measures on Northern Boulevard.
Paul Steely White, Transportation Alternatives’ executive director, called the situation on Northern Boulevard a “crisis.” He argued that the Boulevard has few protections for the most vulnerable pedestrians— seniors, children and the disabled.
“Due to its car-oriented design and lack of safe accommodation for people, Northern Boulevard remains needlessly deadly for everyone who dares to use it — especially pedestrians and bicyclists,” said White. “While the City has made incremental improvements, more needs to be done, including safer intersection geometry and protected bike lanes, before yet another life is taken. The lack of urgency … is frankly unacceptable.”
White’s statement was released on Sept. 9, the same day that a 70-year-old man was killed while walking across Northern Boulevard near 108th Street.
The Department of Transportation installed several safety measures on the section of the road between 58th Street and Junction Boulevard earlier this year, including leading pedestrian intervals. The measures were not installed on the part of Northern Boulevard where the 70-year-old was killed.
The measures were installed in response to the death of 9-year-old Giovanni Ampuero on April 28 near 28th Street.
Ampuero was crossing the street with his mother when he was hit by an 86-year-old driver. The driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident, failure to yield to a pedestrian and failure to exercise due care.