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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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DOT Agrees to Make Bike Crossing Over LIE in Long Island City Less Hairy

Image: DOT [PDF]

One lane of car traffic is being removed to make way for two curbside bike lanes over the LIE. Image: DOT [PDF]

Biking over the Long Island Expressway on Greenpoint Avenue is set to get a little less nerve-wracking now that DOT has upgraded its plans for a key block. DOT agreed to add curbside bike lanes to the dangerous Queens crossing in response to local advocates and the community board. The plan comes up for a vote at the CB 2 full board tonight.

The agency had been proposing sharrows on Greenpoint Avenue in Sunnyside, but after years of agitation from members of Community Board 2 and the Transportation Alternatives Queens committee about an especially dangerous location, DOT is tweaking its plan to add bike lanes where Greenpoint crosses the LIE at Borden Avenue [PDF].

One lane of eastbound car traffic on Greenpoint will be reallocated to green curbside bike lanes in both directions. Cyclists will still have to navigate a crush of turning traffic, particularly on the eastbound approach to the intersection, but the change is a big improvement over the status quo.

DOT is also studying whether to adjust signals at the intersections on Greenpoint approaching the highway crossing, to give cyclists in both directions a head start on turning motorists. “That’s key to making the whole intersection work,” said TA Queens volunteer Steve Scofield.

The Queens CB 2 transportation committee supported the bike lane upgrade Tuesday night as part of a larger package of bike improvements in Long Island City and Sunnyside, Scofield said. The plan includes upgrading sharrows on 11th Street to bike lanes by removing one car lane in each direction, adding bike lanes to the Honeywell Street bridge, and adding sharrows to Jackson Avenue.

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DOT Has a New Plan for Bike Lanes on the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

Is the second try the charm for adding bike lanes to the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge? Image: DOT [PDF]

DOT has a plan to add bike lanes to the J. J. Byrne Memorial Bridge, which carries Greenpoint Avenue across Newtown Creek between Brooklyn and Queens [PDF]. The agency has also mapped out new striped bike lanes and markings in Sunnyside and Long Island City [PDF], which would improve access to the bridge.

A similar DOT plan for the Greenpoint Avenue Bridge from 2010 would have changed the roadway from two car lanes in each direction to one, with buffered bike lanes on either side. DOT mothballed the bike lanes a year later after opposition from Brooklyn Community Board 1 and local trucking and industrial interests.

With two wide lanes in each direction, the bridge has remained a source of constant complaints about speeding. DOT says it has received requests for changes from Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer and Assembly Member Joe Lentol.

Bike planning workshops DOT hosted with Queens Community Board 2 in 2012 identified the bridge as a missing link in the network. On the Brooklyn side, the crossing connects to bike lanes on Greenpoint Avenue, which currently terminate at Kingsland Avenue at the foot of the bridge. About 600 cyclists cross the bridge on weekends and weekdays, according to DOT counts from June 2014.

The current DOT project calls for adding striped, unprotected bike lanes on both the Queens and Brooklyn approaches, with two lanes of car traffic maintained in each direction. On the bridge’s center span, the bike lanes would gain four-foot buffers. Two lanes for Queens-bound car traffic would be retained, while Brooklyn-bound drivers would merge into one lane before returning to two lanes as the bridge touches down in Greenpoint.

On the Queens side, as reported by the LIC Post, DOT is planning the second phase of bike network expansion in Sunnyside and Long Island City. Like the first phase, it will mostly consist of painted bike lanes and sharrows, though there is a short two-way protected bike lane proposed for Borden Avenue.  

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Alleged Drunk Driver Crashes, Flips Parked Car Onto Sunnyside Sidewalk

An allegedly drunk driver crashed into six parked cars last night, flipping one of them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Angus Grieve-Smith/Twitter

An allegedly drunk driver crashed into six parked cars last night in Sunnyside, flipping one of them onto the sidewalk. Photo: Angus Grieve-Smith/Twitter

Last night, shortly after midnight, a driver crashed into six parked cars in Woodside, Queens, flipping one of the vehicles onto the sidewalk. His vehicle thrust to the opposite sidewalk on 51st Street between Skillman and 39th Avenues, the driver then revved the engine in an unsuccessful attempt to flee before exiting the vehicle. Soon after, NYPD arrested him for drunk driving.

At 12:46 a.m., police charged 25-year-old Rhys Katwaru of Queens with driving under the influence of alcohol and refusal to submit to a blood alcohol test.

Streetsblog reader Angus Grieve-Smith, who lives nearby and witnessed the aftermath of the crash, posting photos online, said a passenger was also in the vehicle. When the two men got out of the car and tried to run, he said, they appeared too intoxicated to make much headway. Police soon arrived and began interviewing witnesses. According to an NYPD spokesperson, Katwaru had bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and a strong stench of alcohol on his breath. He was taken to Forest Hills Hospital, where he refused a blood test.

Grieve-Smith said a police truck came later that night to flip the damaged car back onto its wheels and into its parking space. NYPD responded to 1,340 alcohol-related crashes in 2013, according to DMV statistics, representing 2.5 percent of the more than 52,600 crashes in NYC last year. Because there were no reported injuries, NYPD’s Collision Investigation Squad is not examining the crash.

This crash occurred in the 108th Precinct. To voice your concerns about neighborhood traffic safety directly to Captain Brian Hennessy, the commanding officer, go to the next precinct community council meeting. The 108th Precinct council meetings happen at 7 p.m. on the last Tuesday of the month at Sunnyside Community Services, on the first floor of 43-31 39th Street. Call 718-784-5420 for information.

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Sunnyside Becomes a Bike-Friendly Business District

Transportation Alternatives has been working all across NYC to foster goodwill for bicycling in the business community. Recently, TA has begun to award Bike-Friendly Business District designations in neighborhoods where local merchants support bicycling and safer streets. The first one outside Manhattan is Sunnyside, Queens.

Come along on this group ride that toured six of Sunnyside’s 70 bike-friendly businesses, with a special guest appearance by Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer.

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Eyes on the Street: Tweet Us Your Pics of Sidewalk-Hogging Businesses

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Photo: Clarence Eckerson Jr.

Clarence shot the above photo of a common sight in NYC: car-oriented businesses that illegally commandeer sidewalks, forcing pedestrians to walk around parked cars or pushing people into the street. He writes:

I just snapped these photos of a brand new curb extension in Sunnyside, on 37th Street and Queens Boulevard, and a car dealership is already using it for car storage, blocking the sidewalk and ramp for disabled access. In Sunnyside DOT has been doing quite a few curb extensions to make a better pedestrian environment, so it’s really appalling that car dealership is using this.

The business in this case is LT Motors, which loves the new sidewalk space so much the dealership is advertising it.

Is this Chevy Suburban priced to move off the sidewalk?

Is this Chevy Suburban priced to move off the sidewalk?

This is a pervasive problem, and one the city should address.

Earlier this week Doug Gordon of Brooklyn Spoke called for tweets of sidewalk parking photos, and we’re going to piggyback on that meme. Post your pics of sidewalk-hogging businesses on Twitter with the hashtag #sidewalkhogs, and we’ll highlight the most egregious examples next week. Winners will receive a Streetfilms DVD. Be sure to include as much location info as possible in your tweets.

As for LT Motors, a spokesperson for local City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer writes: “We have reached out to the NYPD on this. They will be stepping up enforcement to address the pedestrian safety hazards.”

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Eyes on the Street: New Bike Connection Over Sunnyside Yard

sunnyside_lane

Looks like DOT crews are making progress on the neighborhood bike plan for Sunnyside and Long Island City that Queens Community Board 2 approved last year. Clarence took this photo of the new bike lane on the 39th Street bridge over the Sunnyside rail yard. He says it got striped a couple of weeks ago.

The connection over the rail yard is one of the better parts of the plan [PDF], which relies heavily on sharrows to create a more cohesive network of bike routes in the neighborhood. With the construction of the Pulaski Bridge bikeway set to create a much more comfortable connection between southwest Queens and northern Brooklyn later this year, there’s probably going to be a surge in biking on these local streets.

If you’ve been using the new bike lane on 39th Street, tell us in the comments how it’s been going.

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Plaza Upgrades Planned Beneath Train Viaduct on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside

Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID

Roberto Buscarsi plays during Make Music New York at 40th Street and Queens Boulevard. The parking in the background will remain, but space beneath the elevated 7 train in Sunnyside is set for some plaza improvements. Photo courtesy Sunnyside Shines BID

The parking-flanked space in the middle of Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, beneath the vaulted elevated train viaduct at 40th and 46th Streets, today looks more forgotten than fun. The Sunnyside Shines BID is hoping to change that, and their plan to upgrade the pedestrian space was recently accepted by NYC DOT’s pedestrian plaza program.

While these two plazas will not reclaim any space from motor vehicles, they will turn the area from a drab concrete zone into a more inviting place to sit. The spaces are already busy with pedestrians walking to the subway and across Queens Boulevard, which Tri-State Transportation Campaign ranks as the borough’s third most-dangerous street for pedestrians.

“They’re already plaza-like. They’re closed off to car traffic,” Sunnyside Shines BID executive director Rachel Thieme said of the spaces. “Through the plaza program, we are going to get things like planters and benches.” The location at 40th Street will be called Lowery Plaza, and the space at 46th Street will be called Bliss Plaza, Thieme said, referencing historic street names in the neighborhood.

The BID has already hosted some events in the pedestrian zones, including concerts as part of Make Music New York. “No one’s ever utilized these spaces before in any kind of active way, that we’re aware of,” Thieme said. “People really responded well to that concept.”

Sunnyside Shines applied to the plaza program last year, gathering 13 letters of support from elected officials, business owners, and community groups. The BID received word from DOT a couple of weeks ago that both applications had been accepted.

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Boy, 5, Among Three NYC Pedestrians Killed by Drivers This Weekend

Three New York City pedestrians, including a young child, were killed by motorists over the weekend. Two of the crashes were hit-and-runs.

Kyrillos Gendy was killed, and his mother and sister were injured, by a hit-and-run driver in Staten Island. A suspect was charged with leaving the scene of the crash, but not for killing Kyrillos or hurting his mom and sister, and was freed on bail.

At around 8:25 p.m. Friday, Kyrillos Gendy, 5, his mother and sister were struck by a hit-and-run driver in a Mercedes-Benz sedan in Dongan Hills. From the Times:

Just before he hit the family, at 8:25 p.m., the police said, the driver turned left out of the parking lot of the Diddle Dee Dairy and Deli at 1334 Richmond Road.

“Eyewitnesses say he did stop first, looked both ways,” Mr. [Adam] Gendy said, “and then hit all three of them in one shot.”

Kyrillos was killed. His sister, Gabriella, 7, and their mother, 35-year-old Erieny Thomas, were hospitalized and later released, reports said. On Saturday, John Sanjurjo, 33, accompanied by a lawyer, turned himself in to police, according to reports. From the Daily News:

Sanjurjo’s 2013 Mercedes-Benz 350 matched the vehicle description, including dents in the hood from the impact, a law enforcement source said.

The force of the impact sent Kyrillos flying through the air.

Bits of scattered food that Kyrillos’ family was carrying were found on the car, the source said.

According to reports and online court records, Sanjurjo was charged with one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death, and two counts of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in injury. He is free on $50,000 bond. Kyrillos’ funeral was held Sunday.

The crash that killed Kyrillos Gendy and injured his mother and sister occurred in the 122nd Precinct, in the City Council district represented by James Oddo.

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New Bike Routes on Tap for Long Island City and Sunnyside

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Routes marked in purple are set to receive a combination of shared lane markings and bike lanes. Image: DOT

Western Queens is set to receive a slate of street safety and bicycle network improvements. The projects will add shared lane markings and bike lanes to neighborhood streets, improve connections to the Astoria waterfront and Greenpoint, and address pedestrian safety at the site of a fatal curb-jumping crash. The progress comes after more than a year of work between DOT and Community Board 2, and coincides with Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer’s push for bike-share expansion to Long Island City and Sunnyside.

In March 2012, the community board and DOT hosted public meetings to gather feedback about where bike lanes were most needed in the area. A few months later, DOT came back with a proposal and sent out a survey asking about preferences for future bike lane plans.

The final proposal [PDF], which does not remove any parking, includes more shared lane markings than dedicated bike lanes, but does provide key connections between the Pulaski Bridge, Queens Plaza, Hunters Point, and Sunnyside. Buffered bike lanes will be installed on 49th Avenue from the Pulaski Bridge to 21st Avenue, and on the 39th Avenue bridge from Skillman Avenue to Northern Boulevard. Bike lanes will be striped on 49th and 51st Avenues, as well as sections of 11th Street and 11th Place. Shared lanes will be installed on 11th Street, 39th Street, Skillman Avenue, 47th Avenue, and 50th Avenue.

Community Board 2’s transportation committee voted to support the plan on June 18, according to committee member Evan O’Neil, and requested that DOT continue to examine a handful of intersections where board members had concerns about conflicts between drivers and cyclists. The lane markings are scheduled to be installed by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a separate DOT proposal [PDF 1, 2] would convert the existing buffered bike lanes on Vernon Boulevard to a two-way protected bike lane along most of the street’s western edge from 46th Avenue in Long Island City to 30th Drive in Astoria. The project would be a significant step toward a greenway-style waterfront route for Queens, but it would not provide a direct, continuous protected bikeway.

To restore some parking spaces removed when the Vernon Boulevard lanes were installed in 2008, the plan calls for shared lanes along Queensbridge Park and Rainey Park, which both have shared-use paths that hug the waterfront and would connect to the protected bike lane on Vernon. Cyclists looking for a direct route would be directed to shared lanes on those blocks.

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