The Department of Transportation will be rolling out miles of bikes lanes in Sunnyside and Woodside during the next four years, citing a boom in bicycle traffic, said DOT bicycle program Director Hayes Lord.
Bicycle lanes have started to pop up around the neighborhood. In 2007 there were only 1.45 miles of bikes lanes in Community Board 2’s district and now there are 13 miles.
In the next 12 months residents will see nine miles more of bike lanes on 11th Street, Skillman Avenue, 47th Avenue and 39th Street. Community members had requested lanes on Queens Boulevard, but because of the high volume, the DOT “didn’t feel comfortable” with that location, Lord explained.
“Phase 1 represents some of the most utilized routes,” CB 2 member Evan O’Neil said.
“Forty-seventh Avenue has less traffic and is really smooth,” CB 2 member Emilia Crotty noted.
And that’s not the end of the roll outs, which are a segment of 50 miles of bike lanes installed citywide each year.
About a handful of residents — 40 people showed up for the Phase 1 meeting in March — met on Tuesday to prioritize roads for Phase 2 bike lanes. Greenpoint and Jackson avenues got the most support.
Helen Ho, development director at Recycle-A- Bicycle, a nonprofit bike shop offering job training and environmental education with a Long Island City shop, liked the plan with some reservations, saying “something is better than nothing.”
Although the DOT is waiting to do bike counts until later this summer, according to Lord, anyone who frequents the neighborhood knows the Phase 1 streets are high- volume roadways for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers.
“They are talking about some big and serious streets,” Ho said. “If done well they will be major thoroughfares. If not done well, it will be a waste of money.”
The 11th Street bike lane will be a tricky design, she said, adding that the bike lane would need to distribute bike riders to both sides of the road to create easy paths for the riders. The street filters into the high-volume Pulaski Bridge, which connects that corner of Queens to Brooklyn. It also fans into Jackson Avenue, which is a little confusing for all modes of transportation because there are several turning options.
However, all spots will have their challenges. The DOT is not planning on taking away parking spots or widening roads, which means the department will have to work with what they have, Lord said.
On 11th Street, the DOT bicycle program may consider taking away a lane of traffic to accommodate a bike lane. Other options for narrow roads are painting lanes to notify drivers that the lanes should be shared with bicyclists. For areas with little pedestrian traffic such as the 39th Street Bridge, which feeds drivers to Northern Boulevard and Long Island City, allowing bike riders to share the sidewalk might be an option.
“There is almost no one ever walking there,” said Michael Wood, adding that he rides the bridge almost every day.
The DOT also wants to complement the bikes lanes by installing bike shelters and racks.
“I often need to park my bike on the scaffolding on Thomson,” said Nancy Silverman, who is an avid biker and part-time teacher at LaGuardia Community College on Thomson Avenue.
One area pegged for more bike parking was Queensboro Plaza. New businesses such as JetBlue have moved into the area.
Another issue making bike parking tough, CB 2 chairman Joe Conley said, is that many of the parking meters in the area are being replaced with Muni-Meters. Riders were able to chain their bikes to the old meters, but the bulky, Muni-Meters are too large to wrap a chain around.
DOT plans on battling the loss of meters with “meter racks.” They have a pole like a parking meter, but instead of a coin slot at the top, there is a metal circle to chain a bike to.