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Queens Chronicle

Another car hits Northern bike barrier

The collision, not the first one last week, latest controversy in 25A saga

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Posted: Thursday, October 12, 2017 10:30 am

A bike lane barrier on Northern Boulevard in Douglaston was controversial before it was even installed. Now that at least two vehicles have struck the concrete wall, voices of opposition are only getting louder.

A Mercedes Benz hit the front of the protected bike barrier last Thursday around 11 a.m., with the accident quickly springing up on a community web page.

“And it begins!” Douglaston resident Anna Alesci wrote with a photo she posted to the “Bayside, Queens” Facebook community. “I wasn’t a fan for these dividers but how do people not see them?”

Another user, Jimmy Frahm, posted a photo of the collision and asked a similar question: “the result of the stupid bike lanes or stupid people lol.”

The collision was not the first one to happen last week with the bike lane barrier — a few days earlier, a man hit it. Nobody was hurt in either crash, according to the police.

There may have been more, too.

“While I am still confirming this information, residents have reported four accidents since the installation of the bike lane,” state Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside) wrote in a letter to Mayor de Blasio and the Department of Transportation. The NYPD acknowledged a Chronicle inquiry about how many collisions have occurred with the barrier, but did not immediately give an answer.

In his letter, Avella added that there was a dangerous lack of signage for drivers at the location, which is an active construction area because of ongoing work for the bike lane. The senator also urged de Blasio and the DOT to abandon the bike lane plan and take up a different proposal for Northern supported by Community Board 11.

The office of Councilman Paul Vallone (D-Bayside) said he too has been in touch with city authorities.

“In response to the accidents and the community’s concerns, we reached out to the DOT to ask them to expedite the installation of signage and reflective panels to both inform motorists of the change in the traffic pattern and make the barriers more visible,” Vallone’s office said in an email.

Vallone’s opponent in November, Paul Graziano, said the bike lane has created “an extremely dangerous situation” and that the city shouldn’t install them on “what is essentially a highway.” Graziano, who lost the Democratic primary to Vallone but remains on the Reform Party line, is an urban planner who helped design the alternative bike lane proposal now backed by CB 11.

“You do not create something unless it’s well thought out, well planned and won’t be a negative,” he said.

In a statement, the transportation agency defended the barrier.

“These barriers did their job to protect those in the bike lane from accelerating turning vehicles,” the DOT said in an email last Friday. More signs, the agency said, are coming.

“In the next few days we will be installing additional safety treatments like reflective tape and flexible delineators that have been part of the design from the beginning of this project, to increase protection and awareness for all street users,” the agency said.

Most of the construction required for the bike lane will be done by this week.

The impetus for the lane, which stretches from Douglaston Parkway from 223rd Street, was a tragic death. The late Michael Schenkman had been riding on Northern to the Joe Michaels Mile and was struck by a car; the DOT and advocates supporting its plan have said that similar tragedies will be prevented in the future by its implementation.

CB 11 approved the DOT’s plan in June but later rescinded its vote and endorsed a different vision for Northern put forth by Bernie Haber, a co-chairman of its Transportation Committee. His design — which the city has said would take around $10 million and years to create — have cyclists going two ways over sidewalk space on the same part of Northern.

Vallone and Assemblyman Ed Braunstein (D-Bayside) sent a letter to the DOT on Sept. 19 urging it to “immediately revert Northern Boulevard back to its previous form” if “any increased delays or accidents occur.”

Vallone’s office will monitor the site once changes are in place. He also is continuing to ask the DOT to study Community Board 11’s alternative plan.

Braunstein Chief of Staff David Fischer told the Chronicle that the assemblyman reached out to the DOT after the accidents and that they “promised immediate modifications.” His stance on what should trigger the bike lane’s removal appears to have softened, though.

“If the accidents continue, then we would want them to make changes, including removing it,” Fischer said.

Transportation Alternatives Queens organizer Juan Restrepo, who supports the DOT’s project on Northern, said that the collisions last week are not unique. He pointed to the Kent Avenue protected bike lane in Brooklyn.

“You still see cars flip along that barrier because they were speeding down a street and were not adhering to the law,” Restrepo said. But, he added, “their cars get on that barrier and the barrier does its job.”

But some residents posting on Facebook remained unconvinced.

”... [F]or really what purpose besides all the aggravation and wasted taxpayer monies that can be used more wisely? Growing up as a child we didn’t have bike lanes, we had common sense and we survived,” wrote Frank Papp.

“Looks like an inevitable disaster,” wrote Joanne Goodman Alexander.

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1 comment:

  • Naima posted at 1:17 pm on Thu, Oct 12, 2017.

    Naima Posts: 1

    LOL! Oh my God how retarded do you have to be to slam into a barrier??? [tongue]