Commentary, Traffic calming, Walking

Appreciating the 39th Avenue Bicycle Boulevard

Dear Commissioner Garcia:

I am writing to tell you how excited I am for the new Bicycle Boulevard configuration on 39th Avenue, and how much I appreciate it.

A woman crosses 39th Avenue on foot pulling a child in a wagon, while another child rides alongside her on a bicycle

When my wife and I were looking for an apartment in the neighborhood, we visited one in Sunnyside Towers at 46th Street and 39th Avenue, and we decided to rule out the entire building because it had no marked crosswalk in front of it.  My wife was pregnant at the time, and we did not want to worry about our child crossing an avenue rife with speeding.

When my mother, who was 75 years old at the time and will be 83 this year, moved to an apartment on 50th Street and walked her dog across 39th Avenue, where there was also no marked crosswalk, to take advantage of the trash cans generously provided by the Phipps Corporation, I feared for both their lives.

When I found out that 39th Avenue was chosen as one of the city’s Open Streets, I was excited to incorporate it into my daily exercise routine.  That excitement was short lived, as speeding drivers ignored the barricades.  After I was menaced and harassed on 39th Avenue by a city employee in a Parks Department pickup truck, I found it difficult to work up the courage to walk outside in my own neighborhood.

Now I am excited once again to see the new Bicycle Boulevard improvements being installed.  There are marked crosswalks and pedestrian refuges in front of Sunnyside Towers and the Phipps Gardens, as well as in front of Sunnyside Gardens Park.  I feel safe once again walking 39th Avenue every day, and I have already lost a few pounds.

Have I been inconvenienced by the Bicycle Boulevard?  A little: when I call a Lyft to bring my mom to the doctor, the driver may have to take a slightly longer route.  Is it worth it to know that my family and my neighbors and I are better protected from speeding cars?  You bet.

I am looking forward to the completion of the Bicycle Boulevard configuration.  If I am dissatisfied, it is that there is still not as much space to walk as I would like.  I would love a design that would give walkers and runners more space on the two-way blocks, between 47th and 49th Streets, and between 51st and 52nd Streets.

I appreciate all the hard work that you and your staff have put in to making not just 39th Avenue safer, but Barnett, Skillman and 43rd Avenues and Northern and Queens Boulevards.  Please keep up the good work!  We all will be rewarded with lower crash and injury counts.


Angus B. Grieve-Smith