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Nonprofit plans bicycle lane for Queens Boulevard

Queens Boulevard may be getting a couple of new lanes for traffic — the kind on two wheels — if an idea to put a bike lane along the thoroughfare comes to pass.

Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit that advocates bicycling, walking and public transportation, has been discussing the preliminary ideas for making Queens Boulevard safer for cyclists after Briarwood resident Asif Rahman, 22, was killed Feb. 28 on the thoroughfare at 55th Road as he rode home from work. His mother, Lizi Rahman, is working with the group to make the boulevard safer for cyclists and create a bike lane in her son's memory.

Along the entire stretch of Queens Boulevard, from Sunnyside to Kew Gardens, there have been two cyclist fatalities since 1990, and during the last five years there has been an average of 20 cyclist injuries a year, the city Department of Transportation said.

"We're in the very, very beginning stages" of planning the lane, said Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee Chairman Mike Heffron. "We're aiming for all of Queens Boulevard to have a lane."

To make the idea a reality, the group and the city Department of Transportation must meet to work out the logistics and implementation so that cyclists can ride safely and drivers are not overly inconvenienced, but so far scheduling conflicts have prevented this happening.

"In creating an integrated bike network we look to place new bike lanes where they will make connections to either existing bike facilities or to popular destinations such as bridges, commercial corridors, schools and parks," DOT spokesman Ted Timbers wrote in an e-mail.

Community outreach, planning, design and implementation of a new bike lane can take a minimum of six months depending on the complexity of the location.

Even for experienced cyclists, Queens Boulevard is a daunting thoroughfare on which to ride.

"I took it upon myself one time to ride all of Queens Boulevard and almost got hit three times, and not dinged — hit hard," said Ed Hernandez, a lifelong Queens resident and fellow Transportation Alternatives Queens Committee member.

Each street presents unique challenges, Timbers wrote.

"Queens Boulevard combines intense vehicular traffic with a high volume of pedestrians," he said. "Visibility is an issue for the portion that also serves the elevated No. 7 subway line."

Heffron said the hope is to have a Class I lane, which is separated from the flow of vehicular traffic by a physical barrier. The promenades along Eastern and Ocean parkways in Brooklyn are an example of what a protected lane could look like.

"My vision of what I'd like to see Queens Boulevard have is a protected bike lane that children could use to get to and from school safely," Hernandez said.

Over the last 12 months DOT has installed more than 70 miles of bike lanes citywide, including 24 miles in Queens, Timbers wrote. In the next 12 months there are plans for a bike lane along Skillman Avenue, which runs parallel to Queens Boulevard, he added.

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