Almost ten years ago, a group of us got together and formed the Safer Skillman Avenue Coalition. People were driving too fast on Skillman and 43rd Avenues, injuring our neighbors and loved ones. I personally feared for my son’s life as he got older and began crossing streets by himself. We could no longer allow our neighborhood to be used as overflow for people driving to Manhattan on the Long Island Expressway and Queens Boulevard. We called in some urban planners, who examined the situations and made eight recommendations.
Since then the Department of Transportation has acted on three of the eight recommendations. They retimed the traffic lights to discourage speeding, added lights and repainted our crosswalks. They cut down the wide driving lanes that encouraged people to speed, and added bike lanes to give cyclists a place.
Already the results have been great. Speeding is much reduced, as are crashes and injuries. The avenues feel much safer and more comfortable to walk. Two of the recommendations, daylighting intersections and restoring two-way traffic flow, have not yet been implemented, but we expect that when they are implemented they will reduce crashes even further and make the avenues more pleasant.
I welcomed the bike lanes because they reduced speeding, but I have not ridden in them very much myself. Over the past ten years my bike has tended to My bike has spent most of the past nine years in the garage, because I do not feel very safe in them. I am not protected from drivers who swerve out of their lanes, and If someone chooses to illegally double-park in the bike lane I am forced to fight with cars again.
When Citibike was introduced in 2013 I tried riding it, and found that it was easy to take the 7 train to Manhattan or Long Island City and ride in the new protected bike lanes on Eighth Avenue or Kent Avenue. I still have to deal with cars at intersections, but the line of parked cars or jersey barriers feels more secure.
With this in mind I was pleased to hear that the DOT is considering converting the bike lanes on Skillman and 43rd Avenues to parking-protected lanes like those on Eighth and Ninth Avenues in Manhattan. This has the potential further reduce speeding, because the space next to the travel lanes will be blocked by parked cars most of the time. But I would also benefit by having safer lanes to ride to Long Island City and Manhattan.
My son is now too old to ride his bike on the sidewalk. I feel very apprehensive at the idea of him riding in the current bike lanes, and he has told me that he finds them intimidating. When I told him that the DOT was considering converting the bike lanes to parking-protected ones, he liked the idea immediately.
If you would also like to see the Skillman and 43rd Avenue bike lanes protected by parked cars, please make your feelings known to our City Council member, neighbor and longtime supporter, Jimmy Van Bramer, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also tell the DOT using this web form. And let me know if you want to help raise awareness of this issue!