Thursday, July 31, 2008

Push For Bike Lanes on Queens Boulevard

Rally at the Site of Fatal Accident to Highlight Need

By Conor Greene

Relatives of Asif Rahman, who was killed while biking along Queen Boulevard in February, gathered with officials and residents on Sunday at the scene of the fatal accident to highlight the need for bike lanes on the seven mile stretch of road.

The family gathered near 55th Avenue, where a white ghost bike commemorates the 22-year-old Jamaica Estate man’s death, with Councilman James Gennaro (D-Fresh Meadows) and members of Transportation Alternatives to demand that bike lanes and more crosswalks for pedestrians be installed along the notorious “Boulevard of Death.”

“Asif loved to ride his bike since he was a little boy,” said his mother Lizi Rahman. “I always worried about his safety. We all know that Queens Boulevard is a dangerous road. If it had a bike lane, Asif might still be with us today.”

Roughly 100 pedestrians and bicyclists are struck by vehicles on Queens Boulevard each year, according to Transportation Alternatives, a group that advocates for bicycling, walking and public transit as better options than driving. “There has never been a better time for the city, elected officials and the community to come together and fix this dangerous street once and for all,” said Paul Steely White, the group’s executive director.

Gennaro distributed a letter sent to Mayor Michael Bloomberg pushing for installation of a bike lane “that is practical and safe for bicyclists, motorists and pedestrians alike.” The letter, also signed by Councilmembers John Liu and Eric Gioia, notes that Asif “died instantly upon being struck by a truck as he biked... on his way home from work.” His life was cut short by a “reckless driver” in a type of that has become “all too common [since] bike ridership increased 77 percent” since 2000.

“We as a City owe cyclists like Asif, who contribute to a healthier environment by not driving automobiles, a better infrastructure of protection as they try to traverse the length of the borough,” wrote the councilmembers. “Cyclists who attempt to ride down Queens Boulevard continue to do so at a great risk for themselves and those around them. The lack of dedicated bike lanes on Queens Boulevard leaves cyclists without a safe path to travel, and leaves motorists and pedestrians without the adequate separation they need to avoid collisions.”

While accidents involving pedestrians and bikers are a common occurrence along the boulevard, fatalities have decreased since the city Department of Transportation removed two lanes of traffic in both directions along the service roads. Those lanes were turned into metered parking spaces, and the speed limit was lowered to 30 miles per hour. The department has also changed the timing of some traffic signals to give pedestrians more time to cross and installed fences to prevent jaywalking.

There have been five pedestrians killed on Queens Boulevard in the past three years, and Rahman was the first biker killed there since 1996. In December, a woman was killed after she was hit by a cement truck while crossing near Woodhaven Boulevard.

The DOT has announced a plan to install 200 miles of bike lane around the city, but Queens Boulevard was not included something Lizi Rahman hopes to change. For details on the effort to have bike lanes installed along Queens Boulevard, contact Transportation Alternatives at (646) 873-6021 or

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