Various local cycling groups have teamed up for the inaugural Women’s Ride on Queens Boulevard event on Sunday.
As part of Women’s History Month, cyclists will ride down the boulevard in the protected bike lanes. Everyone, including men, are invited to participate.
Participating groups include Make Queens Safer, Bike New York, Queens Bike, Trips for Kids, Transportation Alternatives, WE Bike NYC, New York Cycling Club, Ciclistas Latinoamericanos de New York, and Women's Adventure Cycling Club.
Jessame Hannus, an insurance broker who volunteers with Transportation Alternatives, said women were less likely than men to ride bikes.
“Especially in terms of the usage of transportation, you just don’t see as many women riding, and when you talk to them about it, a lot of them don’t feel safe,” said Hannus. “When it comes to riding to work or to the grocery store, you’ll find that women are less likely to do that without real bike infrastructure.”
According to Transportation Alternatives volunteer Laura Shepard, there are also cultural norms that don’t encourage young women to use bikes.
“Once they outgrow their childhood bike they never get a new one whereas it’s more common for boys to,” she said. “As a teenager riding a bike, people would ask me a million questions about safety, and sometimes they would judge my parents for letting me ride.”
Even with the protected bike lanes, many women still don’t feel comfortable cycling on the busy boulevard. Event organizers hope that through the ride, “women can see that after years of calling Queens Boulevard the ‘Boulevard of Death,’ it’s actually one of the better routes in Queens now,” Hannus said.
“I hope that a lot of people ride on Queens Boulevard, possibly for the first time, to see how incredible it is and are encouraged to do it more often, whether it’s just to do it occasionally to visit people or to become bike commuters,” Shepard added. “We want them to know that it’s there, it’s a lot of fun and that they could access these neighborhoods in this way.”
The seven-mile ride will begin at the Queensbridge Park Greenway near 21st Street. Cyclists will ride to Kew Gardens. A brief rally will be held at the Women’s Plaza outside of Borough Hall following the ride.
Since the bike lanes currently only extend to Yellowstone Boulevard, the cyclists will ride along the service road between Yellowstone Boulevard and Union Turnpike. That portion of the ride will highlight the need for a redesign of the congested area.
Hannus is one of the many community members working for years to get bike lanes on Queens Boulevard.
“When the bike lanes went in on Rego Park, it was a surprise to people,” she said. “They acted like the city came in and did this out of the blue without getting community feedback, but that wasn’t the case.“
As a resident of 63rd Drive, Hannus feels like the bike lanes normalize cycling.
“Now, I have a space where I’m supposed to be and they have to understand that I have to be there,” she said. “It does smooth things out a great deal.”
One problem still persists, however. Drivers still double-park far too often, and Hannus said the community cannot rely on the NYPD for enforcement. Instead, they need the engineering in place to change driver behavior.
“When you think about how many thousands of people access that intersection via the subway or the bus or a bicycle, these businesses couldn’t survive on car traffic alone,” she added. “It’s the pedestrians that are bringing in the bulk of their business.”
Shepard hopes the neighborhoods surrounding Queens Boulevard get a better understanding of what’s possible when safer streets are created for everyone.
“It makes it possible for everyone to use it, not just a couple of daredevil warriors who will ride anywhere,” Shepard said.
Furthermore, she hopes that by showing the benefits of the bike lanes, eventually they will be extended all the way to Jamaica Avenue.
“I think this is the right thing to do to save lives, end traffic violence in our communities, and for us to plan for our future,” Shepard said. “We have problems with congestion and pollution, and this is a long-term strategy to fight that and climate change.”
The ride is free, but participants must register on through Eventbrite.