2008-08-29 / Front Page

Like It Or Not! Rockaway Getting Bicycle Lanes

Rockaway Beach Boulevard Set To Lose Lane Of Traffic
By Nicholas Briano

Motorists traveling along a lengthy strip of Rockaway Beach Boulevard will soon have to share the road with cyclists and, in some areas, lose a lane of traffic when the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) installs bicycle lanes this fall.

Map (right), courtesy of DOT, illustrates the proposed bicycle lanes that will be installed starting in October. Map (right), courtesy of DOT, illustrates the proposed bicycle lanes that will be installed starting in October. The project is set to begin in October and will feature a designated bicycle lane in each direction along Rockaway Beach Boulevard between Beach 108 Street and Beach 149 Street.

The neighborhoods of Belle Harbor and Neponsit, where the boulevard is two lanes wide in each direction, will lose their curbside lane to cyclists. The plan also includes cross peninsula bicycle lanes on Beach 108 Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Shore Front Parkway and on Beach 126 Street between Rockaway Beach Boulevard and Ocean Promenade.

According to Jonathan Gaska, District Manager of Community Board 14, the community board did not request this project, it does not require board approval and it will most likely go forward despite opposition from area civic groups.

The opposition is coming from the Belle Harbor and Neponsit Property Owners associations, says Gaska. They feel the lanes are unnecessary, and could disrupt traffic patterns and increase congestion in their area. Neither association was immediately available for comment.

Democratic District Leader Lew Simon is outraged that DOT would even consider putting in these bike lanes.

"It is absolutely ridiculous and quite obvious that the road is too narrow from Beach 108 to Beach 126 Street," Simon said. "Once again DOT has made the wrong decision for our community."

Gaska says that the Community Board and the area civic groups will be sending letters of opposition to DOT for reconsideration of the plan.

"I was told by DOT that they do not need board approval to go forward with the plan," Gaska adds. "I don't think it makes much sense to eliminate an entire lane of traffic."

City Councilman Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. cosponsored a Resolution in the Council in 2006, in anticipation that DOT would one day attempt to install lanes in Rockaway, as part of Mayor Bloomberg's effort to expand the city's bicycle path network.

That resolution, which passed on October 20, 2006, states, "Resolved, that the Council of the City of New York calls upon the Commissioner of the New York City Department of Transportation to give community boards significant input with respect to accepting or rejecting bicycle lane proposals in their districts."

However, two years later DOT is planning on going forward with the plan without any community input.

"Two years later I am still adamant about community input," Addabbo said. "I had asked for input in 2006 so we would be ahead of the curve when bike lanes are installed."

Addabbo continued to say that not only are he and members of the community against disturbing the flow of traffic by eliminating a driving lane, but he also feels it is not safe for bikes to be on Rockaway Beach Boulevard.

"Painted lines on the pavement are no substitute for safety," he said in reference to the bike lane markers. "We want bike lanes in Rockaway, but we need DOT to listen to residents suggestions and be open to discussions."

Addabbo said he doesn't believe the bike lane plans are imminent, because he has reached out to the DOT commissioner, Janette Sadik-Khan, to ask her to accept input from his community.

Rockaway Beach Boulevard, although not the most congested street in the city, still sees a fair amount of traffic and includes an MTA bus route, a church, and schools that often have buses park on the boulevard.

The lanes are part of a city-wide plan to expand the city's bicycling network. The installation would create 4.6 bike lane miles in Rockaway and be designated with signs and pavement markings.

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