Representatives from the Department of Transportation (DOT), NYPD, and local government officials gathered Thursday at the intersection of Yellowstone Avenue and Queens Boulevard in Forest Hills to celebrate the installation of a new protected bike lane.
The infrastructure project is part of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s ongoing Vision Zero program, which aims to eliminate all traffic fatalities for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians.
Known locally as the Boulevard of Death, Queens Boulevard has a storied reputation for fatal traffic accidents. The new bike lane is separated from traffic by plastic pylons. Work is ongoing.
In addition to the bike lane, the Queens Boulevard redesign is adding new loading zones and parking spaces along nearby Ascan Avenue and Austin Street in the hopes of easing congestion on the arterial boulevard.
“By combining strong, targeted enforcement with the kind of bold engineering changes that have led to a dramatic drop in fatalities and injuries on Queens Boulevard, we’re protecting cyclists and promoting the sustainable mobility that’s an essential part of New York City’s recovery,” explained Kim Wiley-Schwartz, assistant commissioner of Education and Outreach at DOT.
Thursday’s event in Forest hills also coincided with the beginning of a month-long free helmet giveaway sponsored by DOT. Free helmet fittings will be available during select times at parks throughout the city, includingThomas Green Park in North Brooklyn.
In New York State, helmets are required for all cyclists under the age of 14.
The Forest Hills event also turned its attention to the question of traffic law enforcement, particularly as it pertains to electric scooters. The proliferation of e-bikes and electric scooters has been an issue throughout the city with scooters, many of which are unlicensed, travelling at speeds over 40 miles per hour in bike lanes.
Electric scooters are not permitted in bike lanes, and unlicensed scooters are illegal to operate anywhere in the city.
NYPD officials at the event detailed strategies to combat these issues, including the implementation of more traffic enforcement agents and traffic safety personnel throughout the city.
Additionally, DOT and NYPD are working together to circulate literature that enumerate the differences between bikes and electric scooters.
“Ensuring the safety of cyclists within New York City is at the foundation of the NYPD’s Vision Zero program”, said Chief of Transportation Kim Royster. “As the city continues to reopen, the NYPD will be continuing our bicycle safety citywide initiative aimed at protecting cyclists and pedestrians.
“Education and enforcement action will continue to be aimed at drivers that make the choice to block lanes and fail to yield to our most vulnerable road users,” Royster added.
So far, there have been fewer bike fatalities year to date in 2021 compared to 2020, with ten and 18 fatalities respectively. With the mayor’s office pursuing the goal of 30 miles of new bike lanes citywide by the end of the year, Vision Zero advocates are hopeful that those statistics will continue to decrease.
However, concerns remain regarding how the installation of bike lanes, particularly protected bikes lanes that occupy a full lane of traffic, will affect car traffic, buses, loading zones, and parking.
In Forest Hills, residents have raised concerns about the additional burden the Queens Boulevard renovation project will place on already busy nearby streets.