More than two dozen transportation activists and local residents rallied in a Queens park on Sunday afternoon, demanding City Hall begin work on the next phase of a long-delayed Queens Boulevard bike lane.

The protest, organized by Families for Safe Streets and Transportation Alternatives, came after Gothamist reported that the Department of Transportation had been prepared to paint the bike lane last summer before City Hall told the agency to stop. A DOT official told Gothamist the agency believed Mayor Bill de Blasio was indefinitely pausing work on the controversial bike lane so he could win support from a local councilmember for an enormous new jail.

No start date has been given for the Forest Hills bike lane.

“It shouldn’t take a protest or anything to do what it is so logical. This shouldn’t be controversial at all,” said Laura Shepard, chair of Transportation Alternative’s Queens committee, at the protest. “Our streets are a fundamental part of our city and how we get around and everyone uses them.”

“Most people get around here by walking, some by biking, but many take the subway, we ride the buses,” Shepard, an organizer of the protest, added. “These are the people we really need the mayor to think about it.”

As a light rain fell, transportation activists and Queens natives took turns speaking in McDonald Park, a small patch of grass and benches near the Rego Park section of Queens Boulevard. They pleaded for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians. They hoped for less car traffic and a healthier environment. "Finish Queens Boulevard!” they chanted.

The fourth phase of the Queens Boulevard bike lane would have begun right there: at nearby Yellowstone Boulevard, at the edge of the park, and continued several miles east to Kew Gardens. DOT projects typically launch now, at the start of spring.

The bike lanes in Queens, like those elsewhere, have faced local pushback because of as many as 200 lost parking spaces. A select number of businesses have blamed the existing Queens Boulevard bike lanes for hurting their bottom line, though no independent studies have been conducted to study the impact of the bike lanes on Queens Boulevard storefronts.

Councilmember Karen Koslowitz, the Democrat representing Forest Hills, Rego Park, and Kew Gardens, has joined the local community board in opposing the fourth phase of the bike lane, citing concerns about parking and the impact on local businesses. At the same time, Koslowitz is a tentative supporter of a proposed jail in Kew Gardens, one of four borough-based jails that will replace Rikers Island when the infamous jail complex is closed next decade.

Both the jail and the bike lanes have loud detractors. Within the DOT, the belief is de Blasio decided he could not pressure Koslowitz to support a new jail and a controversial bike lane extension. For now, he has chosen the jail.

“Bike lanes and jail are two different things,” Koslowitz told the Queens Chronicle last week, insisting there is no link between her position on the two issues. “They’re totally, totally different. They don’t belong together.”

“We are moving forward with the redesign and working with the community,” mayoral spokesperson Seth Stein said. “We’ve completed four miles of redesign on Queens Boulevard, driving fatalities to a record low, and will continue working through this last, most challenging section.

For transportation activists, finishing the Queens Boulevard bike network—the ultimate goal is to have the lanes run all the way to the Van Wyck Expressway—is a matter of survival. Long known as the “boulevard of death,” the notorious Queens thoroughfare, with its wide lanes and speeding vehicles cutting across the borough, was extraordinarily treacherous for cyclists and pedestrians before de Blasio took office. Queens Boulevard once saw as many as 18 deaths in a single year.

In 2015, as part of his “Vision Zero” initiative to drastically to cut down on pedestrian fatalities, de Blasio announced a $100 million redesign of Queens Boulevard, adding bike lanes and traffic calming measures. The efforts have largely been successful: there have been only three pedestrian fatalities on the boulevard since the announcement.

“Thinking about trying to cross Queens Boulevard—it was frightening. I was afraid for my grandmother all the time and I was afraid trying to dodge cars, and the cars that went into the bike lane to get around other cars … it’s scary,” said Debbie Kahn, a transportation activist who grew up in Rego Park. “We need to finish Queens Boulevard and we need to finish the protected bike lane so everyone can be safe. I don’t want anyone else to die on the streets.”

As Kahn spoke, she held a picture of her son, Seth Kahn. A speeding bus driver killed Seth in 2009 while he was a crossing a street in Manhattan.

Rita Barravecchio also spoke holding a portrait. It was of her niece Madeline Sershen, who was struck and killed by a driver last summer while crossing the street in Whitestone, Queens.

“Vision Zero and the DOT knows what works: street redesign. This phase of redesign on Queens Boulevard must be completed. Safe streets save lives,” she said. “People matter more than politics, money, and convenience. Put people first.”