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City Moves Forward With Plan To Add Bike Lane To Queens Boulevard

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to add a protected bike lane on Queens Boulevard despite opposition from residents.

As CBS2's Sonia Rincon reported, the DOT is re-shaping the landscape of one of the most dangerous roads in the city and extending Queens Boulevard's bike lanes east through Elmhurst and Corona.

The local community board removed the lane from a package of street safety designs, saying the stretch between the Long Island Expressway and 74th Street is a thruway, not a park, WCBS 880's Marla Diamond reported.

But de Blasio is not taking no for an answer.

He said the bike lane will go in this summer. Last year, de Blasio touted the traffic calming measure as he promoted $100 million in changes to the so-called "Boulevard of Death." It's all part of his Vision Zero initiative to eliminate pedestrian fatalities across the city.

"I respect those who disagree with us, but in the end, the safety of our neighbors and our children is the most fundamental responsibility we have in this work," de Blasio said in a statement released Wednesday. "Working together, we will close the book on the Boulevard of Death and make this roadway a Boulevard of Life."

Elmhurst resident Miriam Flores said bike lanes are needed because she sees more and more cyclists every day.

Leanne Cummings, who works in the area, agrees traffic needs to slow down, but she is opposed to the bike lane.

"It's already too congested, and there is a huge issue with parking," she said.

Councilman Daniel Dromm represents those neighborhoods and said the mayor made the right call.

"When you install those bike lanes, effectively what you're doing is narrowing that road and that has the effect on drivers of forcing them to drive more slowly. Ultimately that's what we want on Queens Boulevard," Dromm said.

Bikers in Queens were thanking the mayor on Thursday.

"I'm really proud that he took the initiative of leadership you know," Eddie Bustamante said.

Melody Santos said the lanes have changed her life.

"Right now I'm going to work while biking," Santos said.

Even some drivers said it's the only way to share a busy road.

"I like to know where they're at rather than have them weaving in and out of traffic. I think it makes a lot of sense," Kevin Corbett said.

But not everyone thinks it's safer.

"There are so many crossing over into the actual main road and the service road that there's going to be, at those intersections there's going to be way too much trouble," Mark Lema said.

The bike lane ends on Queens Boulevard and 73rd Street. The Queens Borough President said that's where things get complicated. A community board has to approve each step of the way just so the city can pick up where it left off.

"I just hope as we mover forward on Queens Boulevard and the bike lanes from the whole borough, that we have a more cohesive plane. And that we figure out how it's going to happen borough-wide. Doing it neighborhood by neighborhood is going to cause great difficulties," Borough President Melinda Katz said.

Katz said she would rather the community boards look at it together as a borough board, but Councilman Dromm said the DOT should make the call.

"They are the real experts on this. We need to hear from our community members, we need to hear from our community board, we need to consider their input, but ultimately that decision falls in the hands of the Department of Transportation," Dromm said.

The community board chairman who called for the vote rejecting the lanes did not return a call for comment from CBS2.

Between 2003 and 2013, the 7-mile corridor saw 38 traffic fatalities and 448 severe injuries, according to the Department of Transportation.

The city did not record one death on Queens Boulevard last year and local lawmakers said these improvements are making it safer.

The safety overhaul was proposed last year.

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