Today I took a walk along Queens Boulevard in my neighborhood, where the Department of Transportation has been working to transform the medians into walking and cycling paths like those on Eastern and Ocean Parkways in Brooklyn. One of the most interesting changes is the closing of the “slip lanes” which allowed drivers to switch from the express to the local lanes and back. The slip lanes between 54th and 56th Streets are already closed (see above).
Back in January I attended a DOT revisioning workshop for the Boulevard. We packed the cafeteria at my son’s old elementary school, and in a very encouraging contrast to a similar meeting in 2003, everyone seemed to agree that we need to do something. Peter Beadle, a fellow pedestrian advocate who lives down the Boulevard in Rego Park, focused on the slip lanes when reporting his table’s recommendations. After the meeting, he pointed out to me that Ocean and Eastern Parkways in Brooklyn have no slip lanes, which is a major factor in why they feel so much safer than avenues that are otherwise similarly designed, like Queens, Woodhaven and Linden Boulevards and the Grand Concourse. Here is a slip lane on Queens Boulevard that has not been closed, between 58th and 59th Streets:
Reviewing the presentation that the DOT gave to Community Board 2, it looks like they are not planning to close this slip lane. Instead, they will make it safer by putting a stop sign in the middle of it. Knowing how cavalierly drivers treat other stop signs, I’m skeptical about this, but it will be an improvement over the current slip lanes.
More importantly, it will allow for a continuous pedestrian path alongside the bike path on this entire stretch of Queens Boulevard. This afternoon I walked from 51st to 58th Streets on this path, and because there was only one lane of moving vehicles to my right it felt relatively safe. Once this path is continued all the way to 63rd Street (and hopefully beyond, one day), I think it will become a popular stroll, like the paths on Ocean and Eastern Parkways are now. The DOT has already painted crosswalks and put up signals for pedestrians:
(If you zoom in on this picture, you can see that the last car that went through here was doing 38 in a 25 mile an hour zone. We’ve got a lot more work to do.)