About two dozen bicycle enthusiasts came together last Saturday at Maspeth High School for a community forum to kick into gear plans that could see a new bike infrastructure for the area and surrounding neighborhoods in place by as early as next year.
Among those in attendance was Frank Rosado, a Ridgewood resident who commutes by bicycle to Manhattan every day.
“The stuff you see when you ride you wouldn’t believe,” Rosado said. “Texters completely not paying attention” while behind the wheel of a car are but one of the dangers he said he faces on a daily basis.
And then there are “the malicious drivers trying to run you off the road,” he added.
Rosado recalled seeing a fellow cyclist being intimidated by the driver of an automobile who purposely “very lightly taps her rear wheel” when she stopped for a red light. “I just don’t understand it.”
Rosado caught the whole thing on his helmet camera, a device he wears for precisely such incidents.
Fellow Ridgewood resident Anthony Aquilino, also a daily bicycle commuter to Manhattan, has other fears.
“The local road opens up to the highway,” Aquilino said. “There aren’t any lights. But it’s the most direct route into Manhattan. You almost have to use it. It feels very unsafe.”
He is also concerned that his usual route takes him onto Metropolitan Avenue, where he must pass a waste facility.
He indicated that over the years several riders have been killed by vehicular traffic along the route.
The Ghost Bike program, which sees small memorials in the form of white-painted bicycles erected at sites where cyclists have been killed, has been called into action at least three times within a two-block radius in the Bushwick area along Metropolitan, just outside of Queens, according to Rosado.
Ardent bike rider Christopher Crowe, also of Ridgewood, has lived in the area since 1989. “I’ve never had to have a car,” Crowe said. “I’ve always had a bike. A few years ago I noticed more people were biking.”
He lamented the lack of any bike lanes in Ridgewood, saying he would particularly like to see one on Gates Avenue, which he regularly takes into Brooklyn. He would also like to see one on Fresh Pond Road as well as along Woodward Avenue, which he finds “very useful to go toward Williamsburg.”
But Crowe said he is “looking beyond the bike lanes,” praising the New York City bicycle sharing program, set to kick off at the end of the month in lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn, as “very useful for darting around the neighborhood. I’d love to see it extended to here.”
He said the program would help to “fill in the spaces between transit options,” adding, “Queens has terrible transit options. It would be perfect for this area.”
The forum was intended to set into motion a push to “comprehensively plan bike treatments” for Queens Community District 5, which encompasses the neighborhoods of Ridgewood, Maspeth, Glendale and Middle Village, according to a handout from the Department of City Planning, which is leading the effort to collect feedback from area residents.
Jack Schmidt, director of the DCP’s Transportation Division, addressed the audience, which included several diehard cyclists as well as many who ride recreationally. A raising of hands indicated that about half ride to work on a regular basis.
Schmidt said he was seeking a “comprehensive design of the bicycle infrastructure” for the Community Board 5 area. The plan is to take the information gathered, evaluate the suggestions, and return to the community for a followup discussion. Once a consensus is reached, the suggestions will be presented to the Department of Transportation, which had a representative at Saturday’s forum.
Schmidt was hopeful that in “next year’s construction cycle some of this can come to pass.”
Kristina Schmidt (no relation), a transportation planner with City Planning, admitted that there is “painfully very little” in CD5 in terms of existing bicycle facilities.
Group discussions focused on issues ranging from bikers’ destinations and the routes they most frequently use to what streets are currently most unfriendly toward cyclists and where they would like to see bike racks erected.
Jack Schmidt was optimistic that many of the suggestions would be implemented, saying the DOT adds “tons of lanes” each year, cautioning that some changes can be made quickly while others “will take a little longer.”