Just about every weekday morning, even in summertime, the folks at ICCD, the Interdisciplinary Center for Child Development, on 62nd Drive in Rego Park go out to the arriving buses to guide the preschoolers inside. One of the adults usually holds up a sign that says “Slow” so the rush-hour traffic can keep moving — though Queens residents already seem to think they’re exempt from having to stop for a school bus with red lights flashing.
The ICCD can do what it does because it has the luxury of a 14-foot-wide parking lane in front of the school, enabling kids to get off buses and into the building without even stepping into the travel lane. But that will end as the Department of Transportation reconfigures the street, narrowing the parking lane to 8 feet so it can add a bike lane across the road. The DOT calls the wide parking lane “excess road space.” Actual humans in the Rego Park-Forest Hills area consider it the place that lets children get off the bus safely and allows for double-parking in front of the apartment towers on both sides of the street — as well as the homes and shops on 63rd Road, which is getting the same treatment.
Space for cars is being reduced along both streets from Queens Boulevard to the Grand Central Parkway service road, part of which is also being redone. The goals are to close gaps in the bike network, reduce crashes, slow traffic to a crawl and convince enough people to switch from cars to bikes or buses that they can help reduce the rise in average global temperatures.
What the change really will do is cause chaos for thousands of people. Driving through the area is frustrating as is, but people manage. All the double-parking for pickups, drop-offs and shopping is annoying, but cars can squeeze by. Now double-parking will close a lane off. Meanwhile the bike lanes will sit there mostly empty, except for delivery people on motorized scooters and e-bikes. Certainly you’re not going to see much in the way of commuters or families on a leisurely ride to picnic in the park. The redesign just means the “excess road space” will no longer be available — whether it’s for getting kids off buses safely, waiting for your passenger to come out or running into a store.
In a way, the people asked for this, at least some of them — driving recklessly on these roads, speeding and crashing all the time. And a handful will benefit from the bike lanes. But most will just be innocent victims of the DOT’s insistence on imposing Manhattan solutions on Queens problems — much like those suffering from business-killing busways in Jamaica and Flushing, chaos-causing dividers in Howard Beach and more. One thing, though: However worse the road gets, please watch out for those kids at the ICCD and elsewhere who are losing their safe space.