Ridgewood locals form bike collective

Ridgewood Rides to focus on community rides, activism

Last week, concerned Ridgewood cyclists gathered at Grover Cleveland Park to voice their safety concerns and ideas for improved bike infrastructure in the community.

By the end of the meet-up, a new biking group, “Ridgewood Rides,” was formed—which will focus on hosting group bike rides, spreading awareness about bike safety, and advocating for protected bike lanes.

Rachel Albetski, an urban planner, resident of Ridgewood, and former chair of North Brooklyn Transportation Alternatives Activist Committee, organized the meet-up in the park, encouraging neighbors to join and talk about the most troublesome areas for cyclists in the area.

“I think the intention is that we want to continue doing community building through these weekly community rides that would just be open for anyone,” Albetski said.

“We go around and bike, but then another contingent would be more going towards the advocacy route, actually starting to really push the electeds, the DOT, and the community board to come and do a comprehensive neighborhood traffic study and improve the bicycle network.”

Several attendees brought up the concern for bikers on Metropolitan Avenue, due to the fact that the bike lane is simply painted and not protected, as well as other bustling streets such as Fresh Pond Road.

“The infrastructure is not there. Metropolitan is really bumpy. I think one of the biggest pet peeves that I have for biking in Ridgewood is that cars are really aggressive on these streets—even though we have a lot of one way pairs,” Bree Mobley, a Ridgewood resident said at the meet-up.

“We’ve also had a ton of construction on Himrod and Harman…and the access to the Ridgewood Reservoir is shady in certain parts, and it just doesn’t feel that great,” she continued. “It’d be great to expand the network and then make those connections better.”

Juan Ardila, who won the Democratic Primary election for Assembly District 37, also attended the meeting to show support for the group’s efforts.

“The biggest pet peeve about Maspeth is that we are absolutely aggressive with cars. There are no bike lanes; it just does not exist there,” Ardila said.

“So trying to see what we can do to bring some of that good energy down to Maspeth, see what we could do to expand it in Ridgewood as well to make it safe and accessible for people who do want to bike,” he continued. “I want to bike a lot more than what I currently do, so having these protected bike lanes and pedestrian safety is a big issue that needs to be addressed.”

Albetski said that throughout her career as an urban planner, she’s advocated for street safety for many years, and feels that the biking community has a great opportunity to achieve their goals now.

“If people are up for it, I think we kind of have a really great opportunity now to take energy and translate that into really advocating for what we want to see for change,” she said. “And now we have Juan [Ardila] which is awesome, because we have someone who can support our goals on a broader level. I’m just super excited that we have this momentum.”

Ridgewood Rides plans on petitioning, bringing those signatures to Community Board 5, and asking that they request the DOT to do a comprehensive study of the area’s streets to ensure that cyclists’ needs are being met.

But another main component of the group’s mission is to hold community bike rides throughout local neighborhoods.
This was inspired by Mollie Lauffer, also known as “Ridgefood” on social media, who first organized a pool noodle bike ride in Ridgewood during May.

“The significance of the noodle is that it prevents people from getting too close, because drivers do what they call a ‘close pass’ and want to get around you,” Lauffer said.

“It shows them that they can’t just get right on top of us and they have to give us space,” she continued. “You getting around in your car is not more important than me getting somewhere on my bike.”

Ridgewood Rides will hold their next group bike ride in and around Ridgewood on Thursday, July 14.

Its total distance is 10.2 miles with an average speed of 10-12 mph, and will make stops at Juniper Valley Park, Ollie’s Ice Cream Shop, and Fresh Pond Cocktail Club.

With opposing views in mind, the group discussed that having protected bike lanes would benefit everyone on the street, not just cyclists.

“It’s less about an individual bike lane and more just about creating an overall feeling of safety for everyone,” Albetski said.

“So from your 90-year-old grandma to your eight-year-old kid, we just want everyone to feel like they can come and ride a bike in the neighborhood,” she continued. “I think that would be best accomplished through a network design and fully integrating into the existing bike network that already exists.”

Five Boro Bike Tour returns

The yearly bike tour throughout the city has returned after COVID-19 cancellations.

By Tara Michel

Cyclists explore NYC in Five Boro Bike Tour

More than 32,000 cyclists filled streets for the TD Five Boro Bike Tour across all boroughs in NYC in a 40-mile trip on Sunday, May 1st. Following its cancellation in 2020, and the limited capacity rule for social distancing in 2021, the tour was at full capacity for the first year since the pandemic began.

Bikers kicked off their 40-mile trek at 7:30 a.m. on Franklin Street in Downtown Manhattan, crossed over the Queensborough Bridge near the 15th mile and concluded in Staten Island. The Five Boro Bike Tour, in conjunction with TD Bank and the City, funds free bike education programs reaching thousands of New Yorkers.

“First of all, we have people from every state in the country, 32 countries around the world,” Ken Podziba, president and CEO of Bike New York, said in an interview with NY1. “What’s so great about it is not that it’s the largest bike event in the country. It’s the most diverse and inclusive ride in the world. Look around. This is what makes it great. It’s a microcosm of the world. This is New York City. “

Oral John, 52, came from Maryland to participate for the first time. After biking for more than 20 miles, he took a break and still felt energetic and calm. Due to the warm sunny weather and the maximum number of cyclists, he enjoyed himself, and racing was never on his mind.

“I signed up two years ago, COVID-19 canceled it the first year, and I deferred the second year, so I feel good, this is something to challenge yourself and to see the city,” John said.

While many participated, some watched from the sidelines and cheered for their loved ones.

Lauren Teng, 30, has lived in Brooklyn for eight years, but this was her first time watching the event. For her, it was wonderful to spend her morning coffee outside observing the bike tour. Teng had never considered participating before, but after seeing all the participants she is considering grabbing a helmet next year.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing that the streets are open to the people that live here and the people that visit,” Teng said. “We all spend so much time underground getting around and it seems like a wonderful opportunity to be out in the sunshine and just be with all our neighbors, we really haven’t been able to come together in so long.”

DOT, NYPD celebrate Queens Blvd. bike lane

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.

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