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The Queens Boulevard Protected Bike Lane Celebration Ride

If Queens Boulevard can get a protected bike lane, you can probably put one on almost any street in the country.

Yesterday, the Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee hosted the first of what it hopes are many celebratory bike rides down Queens Boulevard, trying out the first 10 blocks of the bike lane installed this month by NYC DOT. When complete, this project will run 1.3 miles from Roosevelt Avenue to 73rd Street. It’s the first phase in what the city has promised will be a thorough overhaul of the “Boulevard of Death,” which is also the most direct east-west route in the borough.

Over the years, many lives have been lost on Queens Boulevard. I spoke to riders yesterday about all the hard work that volunteers and advocates put it in to make this bike lane happen.

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Before Riding the New Queens Blvd, Go Down Memory Lane With Streetfilms

A celebratory bike ride this evening will mark the installation of bike lanes on Queens Boulevard — a safety improvement years in the making.

Take a ride down Queens Boulevard in 2009 with this Streetfilm featuring the “bike pool,” organized to encourage safety in numbers for cyclists on the Boulevard of Death.

Things will look quite different on tonight’s ride. Bike lanes have been striped along 1.3 miles of the Queens Boulevard service road in Woodside, and DOT will begin planning for sections farther east later this year and next year.

For all its risks, Queens Boulevard has always provided the most direct route across the borough. That’s one reason the new bike lane — and future segments — are so important.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Queens Boulevard Gets Its Bike Lane

Behold the Queens Boulevard bike lane. Photo: Stephen Miller

Behold the Queens Boulevard bike lane (flexible bollards coming soon). Photo: Stephen Miller

It’s happening: DOT crews are putting down green paint and thermoplastic stripes along 1.3 miles of Queens Boulevard between Roosevelt Avenue and 73rd Street. The redesign is the de Blasio administration’s most significant bike project to date and includes several pedestrian safety improvements as well. It was prompted by a long advocacy campaign for safer biking on the boulevard, which intensified after a driver struck and killed cyclist Asif Rahman in 2008.

Crews are working from west to east, adding a green bike lane, widening pedestrian medians, and installing crosswalks and signals for people walking between median islands. DOT has also closed off some of the high-speed “slip lanes” between the main roadway and the service streets. The remaining slip lanes will be redesigned to slow drivers exiting the boulevard’s main lanes and crossing the bike lane.

Slip lanes are being closed or redesigned to reduce speeding. Photo: Stephen Miller

Slip lanes are being closed or redesigned to reduce speeding. Photo: Stephen Miller

The Queens Boulevard redesign is an example of how DOT can use low-cost materials to act quickly, when decision makers treat a project as a high priority. Workshops were held in January. The design was revealed in March. The community board signed off in June. The mayor held a celebratory press conference in July. Now, in August, the first changes are on the ground.

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Van Bramer to Car Dealers: Stop Hogging Northern Boulevard Sidewalks

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn't shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi's dealership. He's trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo:  John McCarten/NYC Council

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer isn’t shopping for a new car at City Mitsubishi’s dealership. He’s trying to walk down the sidewalk on Northern Boulevard. Photo: John McCarten/NYC Council

Walking the car-clogged sidewalks of Northern Boulevard this morning with street safety advocates and press in tow, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer called on two NYPD precincts to crack down on auto dealerships that treat pedestrian space as car showrooms.

“They have a right to make money,” Van Bramer said of the dealerships. “But they do not have a right to block the sidewalks.”

Northern Boulevard regularly ranks as one of the most dangerous streets in Queens. Van Bramer, standing outside PS 152 at the intersection where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed on his way to school in 2013, said parking cars on the sidewalks doesn’t help the situation. “Northern Boulevard is busy enough, dangerous enough,” he said. “We cannot accept pedestrians’ lives being put in danger in order to sell cars.”

PS 152 principal Vincent Vitolo said he has spoken with dealerships next to the school about keeping the sidewalks clear for students. But after brief bouts of compliance, the dealers put cars back onto the sidewalk, blocking the way for kids going to school. “We’re in touch with all the dealerships around us,” he said. “Nobody’s perfect.”

Cristina Furlong of Make Queens Safer said representatives of a Honda dealership told her there was an exception in state law that allows car dealerships to park on sidewalks. The claim appears to be a complete fiction, and police occasionally do ticket the dealers for appropriating sidewalk space.

Van Bramer said his office has reached out to many of the dealerships, and met with the 108th and 114th precincts yesterday about the issue. While the precincts have done some enforcement blitzes in the past, the dealerships remain defiant. The problem is worse on the weekends, when dealers put out even more display cars on the sidewalks.

“There are some problems, some community issues, that ultimately seem intractable and people come to accept them as ‘that’s just the way it is,'” Van Bramer said. “These businesses cannot accept these tickets as a cost of doing business.”

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DA Richard Brown: $500 Fine for Hit-and-Run Driver Who Injured Senior

Pursuant to a plea deal with Queens District Attorney Richard Brown, an allegedly unlicensed and impaired motorist who reportedly has a history of reckless driving arrests was sentenced to a small fine and probation for running over a senior and trying to flee the scene.

richardbrown

Queens DA Richard Brown

William Stafford “plowed his 2005 BMW into an 89-year-old man” at 25th Avenue and 44th Street in Astoria last October, the Daily News reported.

He stopped and tried to drive away, but horrified witnesses said they stopped him from speeding off.

The senior, known in the neighborhood as Benny, was bleeding from the ears.

Stafford was arrested two times before, once for driving on a suspended license in 2008 and once for drunk driving in 2009.

Brown charged Stafford with felony assault, felony leaving the scene, operating a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs, aggravated unlicensed operation, and other offenses. But in May, Brown dismissed the top charge — felony assault — and allowed Stafford to plead guilty to one count of misdemeanor leaving the scene.

Stafford could have gotten a year in jail. On Monday Judge Dorothy Chin Brandt sentenced him to a $500 fine and three years probation, plus $88 in court costs, according to court records.

Richard Brown, who has a horrendous record of failing to prosecute drivers who hurt and kill people, is currently running unopposed for another term. He has held the office of Queens DA since 1991.

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Construction Begins on First Phase of Transforming Queens Blvd

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Mayor Bill de Blasio and Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg visit work crews on Queens Boulevard this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

The redesign of Queens Boulevard, long one of New York’s most notorious death traps, is underway.

“Queens Boulevard is tragically legendary. We all became used to the phrase ‘the Boulevard of Death,’” Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a press conference this morning marking the start of construction. “That is a phrase we want to banish from the lexicon. So work has begun. Work has begun to remake Queens Boulevard into the Boulevard of Life.”

The first phase of the project includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and expanded pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The first phase includes protected bike lanes, median crosswalks, and more pedestrian space. Image: DOT [PDF]

The redesign [PDF], which builds upon changes made more than a decade ago, adds protected bike lanes, expands pedestrian space, and redesigns ramps to reduce speeds on the boulevard, which has claimed the lives of 185 New Yorkers since 1990. “The actions that are being taken to save lives here on Queens Boulevard should have been taken long ago,” de Blasio said. “We’re going to change the whole configuration of Queens Boulevard to make traffic move more slowly and more smoothly.”

Lizi Rahman’s son Asif was killed while bicycling home from work on Queens Boulevard in 2008. She was the first person to speak at today’s press conference. “After his death, when I visited the site, I was shocked to see that there was no bike lane on Queens Boulevard. And I couldn’t help thinking if there was a bike lane, my son would still be alive,” she said. In the years after Asif’s death, Lizi kept asking officials for a bike lane on Queens Boulevard. “There were times when I was discouraged,” she said. “I almost gave up.”

“A lot of times change doesn’t happen because there isn’t enough willingness to challenge the status quo, to challenge bureaucracies,” de Blasio said. “It’s unacceptable to have any street known as the Boulevard of Death.”

Read more…

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Car Dealers Turn Northern Boulevard’s Sidewalks Into Vehicle Showrooms

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

As a matter of practice, car dealerships along Northern Boulevard, one of the most dangerous streets in Queens, illegally use its sidewalks and curb lanes as a showroom for vehicles. NYPD doesn’t enforce against the appropriation of sidewalks and won’t answer questions about it.

Streetfilms’ Clarence Eckerson recently walked down Northern Boulevard in Jackson Heights and found cars for sale blocking the pedestrian right of way, including the very crosswalk where a turning truck driver killed 8-year-old Noshat Nahian in 2013.

Nahian was walking to PS 152, the school where, later on, Mayor Bill de Blasio chose to first announce his Vision Zero initiative and signed a package of street safety legislation. While the city installed pedestrian islands and banned turns after Nahian was killed, it hasn’t managed to keep the sidewalks and crosswalks clear of cars for sale.

The crosswalk where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed is blocked by a car dealership using it as a display space for its latest models. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A car dealership displays one of its latest models in the crosswalk where 8-year-old Noshat Nahian was killed. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

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Ferreras: “My Focus Is to Make 111th Street One Hundred Percent Safe”

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Council Member Julissa Ferreras, left, listens in during a workshop about a plan for 111th Street yesterday. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

A grassroots effort to improve safety on extra-wide 111th Street in Corona yielded a DOT plan for a road diet, better pedestrian crossings, and a protected bike lane this spring. Then two members of Queens Community Board 4 stymied the proposal, at least for the time being. To keep the project moving forward, Council Member Julissa Ferreras has organized two neighborhood town halls this month.

Nearly 50 people turned out yesterday afternoon for the first meeting at the New York Hall of Science. DOT gave a presentation before splitting participants into small groups to get feedback on the proposal [PDF] and hear concerns about safety on 111th Street, which widens to become a multi-lane divided road alongside Flushing Meadows Corona Park.

The heart of the plan is reducing the street to one motor vehicle lane in each direction and adding a curbside protected bike path next to the park. With fewer car lanes, speeding will be reduced and crossing the street to get to the park won’t be so challenging.

Most attendees were in favor of the change. “It’s going to be safe for me and my kids,” said Delia Tufino, who began bicycling a year ago as part of a program launched by Immigrant Movement International and the Queens Museum. “I think it’s important to bring the community out,” she said of the workshop.

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Hunter Students Offer a Multi-Modal Vision for Queens Boulevard

The students propose bus lanes, curbside protected bike lanes, and a large median park for Queens Boulevard. Image: Hunter College

The students propose bus lanes, protected bike lanes, and a linear park in the median of Queens Boulevard. Image: Hunter College

About a year ago, the Transportation Alternatives Queens activist committee approached the Hunter College urban planning program about Queens Boulevard. The advocates wanted help jumpstarting real-world changes on the street known as the Boulevard of Death.

It was just a few months after Mayor Bill de Blasio announced his Vision Zero initiative to eliminate traffic deaths. If there was ever going to be an ambitious redesign of Queens Boulevard, this was the time to make it happen. The TA activists wanted to show people how Queens Boulevard could be transformed.

“One of the obstacles we always faced was, ‘Okay, how would you do that?'” said TA Queens committee co-chair Peter Beadle. “There was a real inertia to overcome.”

So the advocates got to work with a small team of Hunter graduate students under the leadership of professor Ralph Blessing. Over the course of two semesters, they surveyed people on the street, hosted workshops, reviewed crash and traffic data, and crunched Census numbers.

Then something interesting happened. In January, DOT announced that it would make Queens Boulevard a Vision Zero priority and hosted a workshop to gather ideas for how to redesign the street.

Read more…

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Eyes on the Street: Vernon Boulevard Gets Bike Lane Barriers

New concrete barriers are being added to Vernon Boulevard in Queens. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

New concrete barriers are being added to Vernon Boulevard in Queens. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Biking in western Queens is getting a welcome upgrade.

The two-way bike lane on Vernon Boulevard has not had any type of protection from traffic since it was installed in 2013. The lane was frequently obstructed by drivers who used it as a parking spot.

Now, DOT is installing barriers along the bikeway to keep cars out. The project received the most votes on Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s participatory budgeting ballot.

Concrete Jersey barriers are going in along much of Vernon Boulevard, while some sections are getting flexible plastic bollards. There will also be short sections without barriers to accommodate turning trucks or to make room for passengers boarding buses.

The barriers, which are in the process of being installed this week, aim to fix problems like this. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

The barriers, which are in the process of being installed this week, aim to fix problems like this. Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Two other sections of Vernon Boulevard that won’t receive barriers are the gaps in the bikeway at Queensbridge Park and Rainey Park. With curbside parking along the park edges, cyclists either have to shift to sharrows on Vernon Boulevard or use more circuitous waterfront paths in the parks.

Installation of the barriers is currently underway and expected to wrap soon.