Cyclists Line Up To Tour The QueensWay
March 22nd, 2014
by Matt Melore
It was a perfect day for a March bike ride. It was over 50 degrees, with clear skies and a brisk wind when I rode to Shalimar Dinner at around 10:07 AM. I was one of the first cyclists to arrive.
The purpose of our ride was to tour the QueensWay. On the 7 mile trip that would span the neighborhoods of Rego Park, Forest Hills, Richmond Hill, Woodhaven, and Ozone Park, we would stop at the right of way. We would even have the privilege to take a few moments to climb up onto the right of way and admire the abandoned rail road tracks, the shrubbery and the passing breeze.
Even though there is no official count for the bike ride, and I might be overreaching, there were probably over 70 riders there. With the help of the Five Boro Bike Club, The Friends of the QueenswWay, and of course our knowledgeable tour guide, Peter Beadle, the ride was a complete success. There were no break downs, incidents, or wipe outs to report. The ride went so smoothly that it felt as though our ride south was an unstoppable force. People came to ride with us from all corners of the city, from. Some of us, including me, spent more time getting there.
We feasted on bagels in Woodhaven, made a stop in Forest Park to admire some urban art. We talked about the stories surrounding our bikes, compared frames, and even got know each other a bit. Some of us became impromptu leaders on the ride, helping to cork traffic and keep everyone together. Most importantly though, we dreamed of what could be.
That’s the draw of the QueensWay though. It is something so simple, yet special. It’s wild, because of its very nature, abandoned 50 years ago and left alone. It was a fundamental piece of transportation infrastructure that could now be revitalized to fit a more pressing purpose.
The pressing purpose: park land, transportation alternatives, cultural spaces, economic development opportunities are all the main drivers that have motivated so many to work towards making the QueensWay a reality.
While we rode parallel to the QueensWay, we began to ponder the Way, in order to grasp the potential of such an important piece of land. We dreamed of what could be. Our bike ride was on the street, but if the QueensWay was completed a week ago, we could have zipped from Rego Park to Ozone Park in no time at all. Instead of dodging cars, stopping traffic and constantly stopping at lights, we could have been going almost straight south, along a tree lined path, stopping for no one.
Parks are few and far the further south you go. Sure, there is always going to be the magnificent Forest Park to the North, but while I was biking down through Ozone Park I thought of all my friends who lived there, and how much more joyful their childhoods would have been if the QueensWay had existed as a park. Unlike a railway, the QueensWay is something a community can take ownership of; it is something that an individual can take pride in, something to build a community around.
When the QueensWay is built, my friends in Ozone Park can proudly say that they live near the park. If they choose to start a family there, they can one day take their children to the QueensWay, teach them how to ride a bike, admire the flowers in the Spring time and the foliage in the fall. Park space is something that I always took for granted, especially since I lived a block away from Alley Pond Park and the Vanderbilt Motor Parkway during my childhood.
It took the bike tour for me to realize in my heart, not just by using reasoning and statistics, that a park, like the QueensWay, is something that a community can cherish for decades, if not centuries. It is something that the people of Ozone Park and all others who live along the Way deserve. It might not be a perfect park on day one, but I have faith that we can make this 3.5 mile abandoned stretch of land into something that will be loved by the people of Queens, and admired by people across the state, country and the world.