Bicyclists Riding for Queens Blvd. Safety Lane

New York Daily News | September 11, 2008

By John Lauinger
Daily News Staff Writer

For all but the most intrepid of bicyclists, Queens Blvd. is a perilous route where commuters on two wheels take their lives onto their handlebars.

"It's a real dangerous mess," said veteran bicyclist Simon Walsh, who commutes to Times Square from his home in Bayside. "People don't ride because they are scared."

But a band of trail blazing Queens bicyclists hope to make the "Boulevard of Death" safer for riders by forming a monthly bike pool along the treacherous but convenient thoroughfare.

Some 20 riders will make the first journey on Friday evening, beginning at the foot of the Queensboro Bridge in Long Island City and pedaling east along Queens Blvd., a 7-mile stretch through the heart of the borough.

The ultimate goal is for riders to form daily bike pools - and demonstrate to city officials that the borough's burgeoning bicyclist community needs a protected bike lane on Queens Blvd., which provides a direct link to the Queensboro Bridge.

"This is a critical connection - and we are doing what we can to make it safe so that bicyclists can make use of it," said Wiley Norvell of the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, which is organizing the bike pool.

The ranks of bicyclists have increased 70% citywide since 2000 - and Queens is playing a part in the growth, statistics show. Between 2000 and 2007, the number of bicyclists crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan each day more than doubled, from 546 to 1,292, city figures show.

The city's bike-lane network is expected to double from 220 miles in 2006 to 420 miles next summer, but advocates said Queens has been left behind.

In contrast to Manhattan and Brooklyn, Queens has only a few isolated bike lanes, such as the one running east-west on 34th Ave. in northern Queens.

The lack of a protected lane on Queens Blvd. deters those in booming Queens neighborhoods such as Woodside, Elmhurst and Jamaica from pedaling to work, advocates said.

"For a lot of folks in Queens, it's Queens Blvd. or bust," Norvell said. "If you can't bike on Queens Boulevard then you really lose the ability to get from one end of Queens to the other."

The Transportation Department did not respond to repeated requests for comment.

Robert Marcus, 50, who rides to work in Jamaica from his home in the Bronx, said he avoids Queens Blvd. at night because of the perils of the expansive roadway.

"There's a real need for a bike lane," he said Thursday on his way to work, predicting a protected lane would dramatically boost ridership.

"New Yorkers will ride their bikes to work - long commute, short commute - if it is safe," he said. "If they build it, they will come."

jlauinger@nydailynews.com