Does New York City view local mom & pop shops as expendable in their redesign of major thoroughfares? This is the question merchants are asking as bike lane infrastructure continues to increase. Trucks have dealt with this issue for a few years now as bike lanes have reduced parking space for deliveries. Now as bike lanes have removed available parking from in front of local merchants, our customers, the threat to small businesses and our industry increases. This has become abundantly clear in Rego Park along Queens Boulevard. To create bike lanes on the boulevard’s service roads between Eliot Avenue and Yellowstone Boulevard 198 parking spaces were removed.
The cost of these bike lanes to the local economy has been catastrophic. Gary Taylor, co-owner of Tropix, a restaurant/bar on Queens Blvd organized a group of his fellow merchants to discuss solutions. We attended this meeting along with approximately 25 local merchants and the stories were brutal. Since the summer of 2017 when parking was removed for bike lanes, revenues were down double digits across the board. Multiple owners said customers had their cars towed while they were inside. During the holiday season, when restaurants expect an uptick in attendance, they are painfully empty. As a result, the group has started a petition to remove the bike lanes. Local bike lane advocates say previously merchants supported the plan, but a copy of the letter advocates have been getting merchants to sign in the area of the next QB bike lane phase (Yellowstone Blvd. to Union Turnpike) fails to advise merchants that parking would be removed, and curbside deliveries curtailed.
The City must address this issue now because not only are these mom & pop shops dying, the bike lanes aren’t even safe. Both lanes of traffic and parking are removed for bike lanes but the demand for parking remains unchanged. Add into the mix trucks needing to make deliveries and the gridlock has become a nightmare. The bike lanes are designed like this; there is some parking by the curb, the traffic lane, and the bike lane. This forces trucks making deliveries or a motorist waiting to park/pickup to either block traffic, which forces vehicles into the bike lane or park in the bike lane forcing bikes onto traffic. Either way, the bike lane as constructed like this doesn’t work. In some areas, particularly Eliot Ave. in the Middle Village neighborhood, trucks are forced to park in communities while they make their deliveries. Often this is off the truck route, subjecting the driver to a 2-point penalty on their license and endangering their livelihood.
To the City’s credit, they revised some bike lanes on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx and bike lanes have been installed well on some of the westbound portions of Queens Blvd. There remains one lane for parking, two lanes for traffic, and a bike lane. This allows for double parking and the ability for traffic to continue to flow. This should be the template. If there is not enough room for this template to fly then sorry, no bike lane. Or, better yet, bike lanes can be installed along the medians across Queens Blvd. If this is too expensive, sorry no bike lane.
If you are interested in signing the bike lane petition or if you would like to join Gary’s coalition of merchants he can be contacted at 718-275-0024. Have a similar story affecting you or your customer? Let us know.