Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tour Galore for 1,000-Plus Bicyclists by John Lauinger - NY Daily News

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WHEN ONLINE registration opened for 1,000 free slots in this year's Tour de Queens bike ride, cyclists gobbled them all up in less than 12 hours.

The registration rush for the second annual event, to be held Sunday, blew away the numbers for last year's inaugural spin, in which 600 cyclists rode and 500 people booked slots online.

"It's the hottest ticket in town," said Wiley Norvell of the tour's promoter, Transportation Alternatives. The nonprofit group encourages cycling, walking and mass transit as a more healthy and environmentally friendly way to get around the city.

An additional 500 spots will be available for walk-ins on the morning of the tour, which will start and end at the Queens Museum of Art in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park.

The event is intended to help accelerate the growth of the borough's biking community, so the jump in demand was welcome news for organizers.

"That's a great sign," said Eddie Hernandez, 35, a graduate student from Astoria, who chairs the Queens committee for Transportation Alternatives.

He noted the increase validates other stats that show bicycling is on the rise in Queens.

Between 2000 and 2007, the number of bicyclists crossing the Queensboro Bridge into Manhattan each day more than doubled, from 546 to 1,292, city figures show.

The tour will begin at 9:30 a.m., with same-day registration starting at 8 a.m.

The inaugural ride focused on western Queens. This year's 19-mile course will explore eastern Queens.

The ride will pass through Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, Jamaica, St. Albans, Hollis and Fresh Meadows before turning back for the park. A pit stop will be provided at York College in Jamaica.

Riders on the tour - who will be given green T-shirts - will also cruise down Queens Blvd., the eastbound service lanes of which will be temporarily closed to traffic between 108th St. and Hillside Ave.

Cycling advocates have argued that installing a protected bike lane on Queens Blvd. - a treacherous but convenient east-west thoroughfare - is key to increasing bicycling in Queens.

Having a green wave of cyclists pedaling down Queens Blvd. - the so-called Boulevard of Death - is intended to make a symbolic statement, organizers said.

"It highlights a change that we think needs to take place on Queens' most iconic street - greening it, making it safer to bike and walk on - and bringing it into the 21st century," Norvell said.