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The city Department of Transportation is including Long Island City, Astoria and Sunnyside in its multi-phase, CitiBike expansion plan after state Sen. Michael Gianaris (D-Astoria), City Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and other community leaders pushed for the bikes to be brought to Queens.
There are currently about 6,000 of the blue bikes at 300 stations in downtown Brooklyn and below 59th Street in Manhattan. It is on its way to becoming the largest bike-share system in the nation with 600 stations and 10,000 bikes scheduled to be installed, but the expansion dates are still unclear.
Since May 2012, the bike-share program was originally planned for Long Island City in its first phase installment along with northern Brooklyn projects, but its launch was delayed after stored equipment was damaged at the Brooklyn Navy yard during Hurricane Sandy.
But once DOT receives Sandy relief funding for the damaged equipment, plans to finish the first phase of the bike stations will be on their way, officials said. Plans for Astoria and Sunnyside have no set date but will be included in future expansion phases, according to the DOT.
Gianaris, who has been advocating CitiBike stations in western Queens for months, sent a letter to DOT and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in July asking that areas in his Queens district be part of expansion plans and also stressing the community’s need and the potential growth for bikes.
“I request that Astoria be added to Sunnyside in plans for the next installment of CitiBike and that Woodside be considered as well,” the senator wrote. “Western Queens already has limited transportation options. As more and more people flock to this area, the need for transportation alternatives grows clearer.”
Rallies have also been held in support of the program stretching to Queens. Van Bramer, along with community, cultural and civic leaders, came together in June at City Hall to call CitiBikes to the borough.
Van Bramer, who has been involved in the initial developments of the bike-share program, worked with the DOT last year to secure 10 locations in Long Island City before the storm hit. The councilman’s efforts resulted in the borough’s first Bike Forum, which helps residents share and discuss ideas for bike routes throughout Council District 26, stretching from Astoria to Woodside.
“The goal of this forum was to make sure that the community has input in the Department of Transportation’s bike lane implementation process,” said Van Bramer, who cycles himself.
Officials have responded saying DOT will begin the planning process for Astoria’s inclusion in the bike system later this year, which will include evaluations of the best specific locations for CitiBike stations in the region. DOT explained, however, that no timetable has been set for the neighborhood or any other region of Queens.
“Until Queens locations are included into the map, we cannot call CitiBike a ‘citywide’ bike-share program,” said Van Bramer.
©2013 Community Newspaper Group
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