The Department of Transportation DOT is cutting the number of car lanes and installing a bike lane on Jewel Avenue and 69th Road between the Grand Central Parkway and Van Wyck Expressway.
The DOT proposed those changes and others to increase pedestrian safety and ease the flow of traffic in the area. The bike lane at this point is just a buffer between cars and the sidewalk, and is expected to become an official bike lane in the spring.
The project’s goals include shorter, direct crosswalks, more usable public space as well as safe and easy travel paths for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
The DOT said it proposed those improvements where Jewel and 69th split up to increase pedestrian safety, specifically across the highway ramps and to also facilitate vital community access on the only non-Expressway road that crosses Flushing Meadows and Corona Park.
Jewel Avenue accommodates a capacity of 9,100 vehicles per day. The ramps to and from the Grand Central and Van Wyck lead to a high number of accidents.
After receiving numerous community requests from a number individuals such as former Assemblywoman Nettie Mayersohn and a letter from the Kew Gardens Hills Tenant Association, the DOT decided to initiate a project that will ease traffic problems.
The expected bicycle lane is designed to reduce the number of traffic accidents. An official DOT report showed that there were 82 traffic accidents in the area from 1998 to 2006, eight of which included pedestrian injury and fatality.
According to a more recent crash data report, there were 249 motor vehicle occupant injuries from 2006 to 2010, and there were also two pedestrian injuries and three bicycle injuries.
The project’s aim is also to shorten crossings and provide pedestrian ramps and slow speeding cars. The DOT says more than 93 percent of cars in the project area speed.
The agency expects the bicycle lane will substantially provide an improved experience for cyclists, providing new connections to schools and parks. It is also resulting in the reduction of the driving lanes from three to two.
Caroline Samponaro, director of bicycle advocacy for Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that encourages nonpolluting means of travel, highlighted the benefit of the change.
“They are turning a really dangerous intersection to a safer place for vulnerable street users,” Samponaro said.
Samponaro also added that the lane would be part of a larger plan that provides non-polluting ways to get around the city, contributing to the greater good of New York.
“Overall it creates a more predictable environment for people crossing the streets. People who walk or bike have a clear sense of where they fit in,” Samponaro said.
Community Board 6 District Manager Frank Gulluscio said that the board supports adding a bike lane.
The road improvements are being implemented after CBs 6 and 8 requested a bike lane. The requests were forwarded to the boards in August. Pending approval the bicycle lane will be made official in the spring.
Meanwhile other construction initiatives on Park Drive East will include shortening the crossing area with a landscaped triangle and installing a new crosswalk and stop sign, also to decrease traffic accidents and ease the path for pedestrians and motorists.