By Phineas Rueckert
On Thursday, the Department of Transportation released a $58.4 million updated bike safety plan that will expand protected bike lanes, redesign and increase police presence at certain “high-crash” intersections across the city and hire a spate of new workers to implement the changes.
The new plan comes as the number of cyclist fatalities has reached 17 citywide in 2019 — more than last year’s total and nearly 70 percent of the total number of crashes in 2017, the year with the highest fatalities in the past decade according to DOT statistics.
"When we came into office, we promised New Yorkers we'd do everything we could to end traffic fatalities," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement Thursday. "No loss of life on our streets is acceptable.
“With a dangerous surge in cyclist fatalities, we have to keep pushing the envelope and increasing our efforts,” he continued. “That's what this plan is about.”
According to the new plan, “Green Wave: A Plan for Cycling in New York City,” 22 percent of bike fatalities in the city since 2014 have been in Queens, compared to 40 percent in Brooklyn and 24 percent in Manhattan. Cyclist deaths in the borough peaked in 2014, when seven cyclists were killed — the highest amount citywide that year.
The DOT identified several Queens neighborhoods as “priority districts,” including Corona, East Elmhurst and Jackson Heights. Each will receive new protected bike lanes.
The DOT will also extend the protected bike lane at Beach 94th Street in the Rockaways, and “improve on-street connections” to a number of bridges, including the Queensboro Bridge.
"Ten people lost their lives while biking on our streets in the first five months of this year, as many as the total killed in all of 2018, and seven more have died since. Needless to say, the 800,000 New Yorkers who regularly travel on two wheels are worried,” Marco Conner, deputy director of Transportation Alternatives, told the Eagle in an email.
“The Department of Transportation knows that it takes a bold set of infrastructure and policy changes to make our streets safe for all New Yorkers, so we're pleased to see Mayor de Blasio doubling down on his mandate to save lives and empowering the DOT to bring sweeping changes to our streets,” he added.
Two Queens cyclists have been killed in Queens this year, according to NYC Crash Mapper, a street safety tool developed by the pedestrian advocacy organization Chekpeds. DOT statistics, in comparison, show only one cyclist fatality in Queens in 2019.
That hasn’t stopped some Queens representatives from speaking out in defense of cyclists.
“We must break car culture to protect cyclists in NYC. @NYCMayor’s new bike plan- largely an expansion & acceleration of Vision Zero - falls short. Reckless drivers will continue to terrorize our streets until there’s a culture shift to prioritize pedestrians & cyclists,” Ridgewood Councilmember Antonio Reynoso tweeted.
On Wednesday, a cyclist was struck by an SUV and critically injured in Woodhaven, hours before the City Council voted to pass a bill to allow cyclists to follow pedestrian traffic signals at intersections. As the Eagle reported, three Queens councilmembers — Councilmembers Rory Lancman, Robert Holden and Karen Koslowitz — voted against the measure, citing pedestrian safety concerns.
The DOT did not immediately respond to requests for comment.