During the Winter Wander event, advocates called for an overhaul of Queens’ busiest and most risky corridor to save lives and strengthen the aesthetic and economic appeal of bordering neighborhoods.
Participants met at New Life Fellowship Church at 82-10 Queens Boulevard for a community dialogue coordinated by Transportation Alternatives, and then marched from Elmhurst to Forest Hills with signs that read “Zero Deaths on Queens Boulevard” and “Can You See Me Now?”
Passengers in some cars gave a thumb's up, and one car even pulled over to inquire. Peter Beadle of Rego Park welcomed a potentially new supporter.
“We’re pushing for the city to do a study in redesigning Queens Boulevard to make it a safer and better street for everybody,” he told the curious driver.
Beadle proposes more lights, wider medians, re-installing cross street intersections, eliminating slip lanes, and installing speed tables at major intersections.
A unanimous opinion was that the boulevard was conceived as a 12-lane, 7.2-mile superhighway for vehicular traffic rather than the average pedestrian.
Transportation Alternatives' “Zero on Queens Boulevard” campaign calls for a revitalization incorporating pedestrian safety improvements and specific lanes for Select Bus Service and protected bike lanes.
Advocates point to Brooklyn's Eastern Parkway, which also bears a 200-foot width with express and local lanes and accommodates buses and subways, but has wider medians that transform it into a “complete street” with a protected bikeway, trees, flowers, and benches.
Between 2002 and 2011, there were 17 pedestrian fatalities, 890 pedestrian injuries, two bicyclist fatalities and 205 bicyclist injuries on Queens Boulevard.
Although the Department of Transportation installed pedestrian countdown timers, modified signals to increase crossing times, and decreased the speed limit from 35 to 30 mph, more measures need to be implemented.
At the 67th Avenue intersection, the group paused and Beadle referenced the death of 14-year-old Sofia Leviyev, who was killed by a speeding minivan in November 2000.
Pointing to a weekly bouquet of flowers tied to the lamppost, he explained, “someone is coming out here for 13 years to remember her, as she was killed trying to cross.”
“It’s our kids that are on these streets,” he added. “We can’t watch them 100 percent of the time, but we can make these streets safer, so when they’re on their own, we won’t have to come and hang flowers.”
The march ended around 3:30 p.m. on Queens Boulevard and Continental Avenue.
“We have to be in it for the long haul, so let’s make a pledge,” Beadle told marchers before they dispersed. “Go to your community board meetings and stand up for three minutes to say your beef. Let’s say that Queens Boulevard threatens my safety and your safety, so help me change Queens Boulevard.”