Speaking with Department of Transportation (DOT) officials and advocates at the intersection of 70th Street last week, Mayor Bill de Blasio renamed the busy thoroughfare the “Boulevard of Life.”
From 1990 to 2017, an estimated that 186 people died in accidents on Queens Boulevard.
“The history here is extremely powerful, and in many ways painful,” said de Blasio. “I remember year after year, it was normal that this street was called the ‘Boulevard of Death.’ How is that normal?”
In Forest Hills, the project includes protected bike lanes along a 1.2-mile stretch, as well as new pedestrian space at several intersections. The project was started in 2014 and addressed the seven-mile stretch of Queens Boulevard from Woodside to Forest Hills.
Juan Restrepo, an organizer with Transportation Alternatives, said the safety improvements were more than a decade in the making.
“Hopefully, with changes like these, we’re going to create a model where people don’t have to die to start these conversations,” he said. “We don’t have to grieve and advocate for the people who have lost their loved ones, but rather celebrate with those who are going to benefit from the changes.”
Councilman Ydanis Rodriguez, chair of the City Council’s Transportation Committee, said he hopes the safety improvements will also encourage cycling.
“We need to do the best we can to deal with climate change,” he said. “Walking or riding a bike is the best way of how we can also protect the planet.”
DOT Commissioner Hank Gutman said the bike lanes on Queens Boulaevard are part of a larger network of 30 miles of protected bike lanes created throughout the city.
“The idea is to reduce dependence on private automobiles by getting people on bicycles and in mass transit,” said Gutman. “It's about safety and it's about saving our planet. There couldn't be two more critical issues.”