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CB11 partially approves bike-friendly upgrades to northeast Queens routes

A DOT proposal to transform Northern Boulevard and surrounding streets to improve bicyclist safety was brought before Community Board 11 on Monday.
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Community Board 11’s Monday meeting was a battleground between those in favor of overhauls to northeast Queens roadways to accommodate bicyclists and those against such improvements for the impact they could have on parking and businesses.

The plan to take a lane from the north side of Northern Boulevard to create a protected bike path while reducing the speed limit from 40 mph to 30 mph passed with a narrow vote. The next step to install standard bike lanes between traffic and curbside parking did not go to a vote. The last section of the plan passed and will connect Joe Michaels Mile to the Greenway by a path along the edge of Alley Pond Park.

A prominent member of the bicycling community in Queens was killed riding his bike on Northern Boulevard in August 2016. His death triggered the sudden urge to have Vision Zero improvements visit Bayside and Douglaston, where many people on two wheels connect between the Brooklyn-Queens Greenway. The loss of Flushing’s Michael Schenkman, 78, became the rallying cry of many at the meeting in favor of the improvements. A number of those were members of Transportation Alternatives, an organization pushing for more bicycle friendly roads.

Schenkman’s son, Peter, was among the speakers.

Peter Schenkman called for a separated, protected space along this route between cars and bikes. He said the Department of Transporta­tion’s plan is an important first step to protecting people like his father.

“I lived in eastern Flushing for a few years after college and would regularly navigate the dangers of the Northern Boulevard /Alley Pond corridor to get to Joe Michaels Mile for a quick ride or skate,” Schenkman said. “As far back as I can remember, cars sped through the corridor. With the huge downhill heading east, navigating the street as a pedestrian or a cyclist is like playing a sick Frogger game where you try to avoid being hit — unfortunately, in my father’s case, killed.”

Jason Michaels, son of famous Bayside heart patient and runner for whom Joe Michaels Mile is named, did not attend in person but delivered written statement read by another attendee. He argued that his father ran for many causes and would himself wonder about the safety of these crossroads were he alive. He urged the community board to support plans to make the routes used by bicyclists safer.

“It has come to my attention that the area around the Joe Michaels Mile has deteriorat­ed,” Michaels said, speaking of Schenkman’s death. “The ability to walk and drive safely should be paramount for anyone in any neighborhood. But since this area is the one in which I grew up, it still holds a special place in my heart, and it hurts to know that these injuries and accidents have continued to occur.”

Phase one of the plan was approved by a narrow vote. The section which would connect Joe Michaels Mile to the Greenway also passed.

Many board members were skeptical that the changes to Douglaston Parkway would be an improvement at all and claimed the bike lane would only block business access. DOT is revising this section of the plan, which will be voted on in September.

Northern Boulevard between Douglaston Parkway and 223rd Street has seen 210 injuries in the past seven years.

Reach reporter Mark Hallum by e-mail at mhallum@cnglocal.com or by phone at (718) 260–4564.

Posted 12:00 am, June 8, 2017
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Reader feedback

God help us all from queens says:
These bike riders go the wrong way on the LIE service road, go through lights, ride 4 abreast and ride on the sidewalk. They should be BANNED everywhere in the city except for parks. Newsflash - we pedestrians actually have rights too.
June 8, 3:55 pm
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June 8, 9:52 pm
Chicklet from Douglaston says:
The completely misguided efforts by radical activists and a phony business group to narrow the only street connecting Bayside and Douglaston is a disaster in the making.

Anyone who travels there must know that this stretch of main roadway is busy, often backed up, and would be made significantly more dangerous is the turning lane was narrowed and a concrete monstrosity of a bicycle lane installed.

Clearly, bicycle activists wish to punish homeowners, taxpayers and drivers. A bus to Flushing will take longer, our kids will be late for school, their narrow lane seems to forget that there's a steep hill going west, most of us dismount and walk the bike up the hill anyway.

During this meeting, no alternatives were discussed, no crosswalks, no traffic signal the cyclists could activate, no 'simple' solutions to the TINY amount of bike traffic vs. cars. No, those of us who live in Douglaston are NOT sitting around waiting for this 'miracle' so we can now 'bike to work'. Honestly, how silly- who works in Bayside vs. Manhattan? What about "Winter"?

Nobody mentioned the ample public owned land in this corridor, why not put a nice path through the sewage storage path just built, go along the golf range, let cyclists be surrounded by trees and water instead of car fumes and concrete.

The so-called Douglaston business group has only one 'claim to fame', they installed the disastrous train station roadway removal, now there is a dirty unused plaza where hundreds of people used to be dropped off to go to work. Fights and horn-honking is the rule from 6-9 every morning, and the stores have mostly all gone out of business.

No "real" businesses belong to this sham group yet they got the power to destroy Northern Boulevard via a semi-secret community board meeting where citizens and businesses were kept in the dark. Because their power was secrecy!

When will this madness stop? I'm happy to support alternatives, I've biked this route my whole life, and walk my bike across this busy intersection like most people do. A bike lane is nice, but it must not impede vital traffic on our ONLY route west. Thank you.
J Chiarella MD
June 10, 10:06 am
J from Bayside says:
Notices that CB11 was meeting and would discuss major changes on Northern Blvd went out via USPS to every home in the community. The letter mentioned that the changes to be discussed could be downloaded from the CB's website. Guess what I went to the website and downloaded the document and looked at the proposed changes.
I didn't save the envelope - but I'd say I got it about 2.5 weeks prior to the meeting. To say that the meeting and its purpose was semi-secret is "non-factual" and absurd.
When someone tells one lie to prove their point, you can bet most everything else they say is either an outright lie or hyperbole.
June 10, 12:27 pm
Another J from Bayside says:
Me and my in-laws are residents in CB 11 and neither of us received any notice regarding the CB meeting. The statement that notices were sent to 'every home in the community' is 'non-factual'.
June 12, 4:49 pm

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