Nearly 100 members of the Douglaston Civic Association marched along the protected bike lane on Northern Boulevard Saturday demanding that the city make what they see as common-sense changes.
The city Department of Transportation installed the bike lane last summer after Community Board 11 approved the plan in June. But then they decided the project was not safe and developed an alternative plan that would widen an underutilized sidewalk to include the bike lane.
“We’re not against bike lanes, we’re just against what they did here,” Douglaston Civic Association President Sean Walsh said. “It has had a tremendous impact on traffic and safety, creating blind spots for both cyclists and motorists. I’m afraid somebody’s going to get killed out here. We’re here to tell the mayor and the City Council enough is enough and it is time to stop this lunacy.”
The DOT moved to bring safety improvements to Northern Boulevard after 78-year-old Michael Schenkman was struck and killed by a car while cycling to the Joe Michaels Mile bike path in August 2016.
“The installation of the two-way protected bike lane on the north side of Northern Boulevard last summer allowed DOT to immediately deliver critical safety benefits for the community and all street users.” a DOT spokesman said. “The project has brought vital traffic calming to this Vision Zero corridor while creating a safer route for pedestrians and cyclists traveling between Bayside and Douglaston.”
But Walsh is concerned about vehicles crashing into the protected bike lane. While he admits it is difficult to determine just how many incidents have occurred since last summer because the 111th Precinct accident statistics are difficult to decipher, he maintains it is an ongoing problem.
“I know of 17 vehicles that have had accidents at the barriers that I’ve confirmed or seen myself,” Walsh said. “Some say even more have crashed here.”
Although he did not offer any proof, Bernard Haber, a retired engineer who drafted Community Board 11’s alternative plan, marched in Saturday’s protest.
“The most important thing is the design of having the barrier at the Cross Island Parkway, right in front of the entrance and two exits. It’s very dangerous,” Haber said. “Any highway engineer would never design something like this. Why this was put this way, I don’t know.”
Haber agreed with Walsh that the community supported bike lanes.
The community board and the community are all in favor of bicycle lanes — we’ve established bicycle lanes all over in Douglaston and Bayside,” he said. “We approved them all. This one is a bad one.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr