Streetfilms Shorties: The Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Squeeze

A hot topic on Streetsblog the past few weeks has been the massive numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the Brooklyn Bridge walkway during rush hours and weekends. Since many folks don’t have the chance to experience the promenade day-in and day-out, I decided to capture the conditions on a recent ride home from work.

I shot all the footage you see here in about half an hour, starting at 4:15 p.m. — it doesn’t even show rush hour, when there are usually far more cyclists. I would say these scenes capture typical conditions on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., as long as it’s not rainy.

So, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge promenade is popular. Which is good! It’s a wonderful place to experience the city and an important transportation link for many New Yorkers. But all those commutes, workouts, and sightseeing expeditions are increasingly uncomfortable for pedestrians and cyclists. Ten years ago I would have been amazed to see this many people using the walkway. Today, the Brooklyn Bridge promenade needs some relief.

  • The Dynamic Mumshenatz

    That right there is just about as much car traffic is on the bridge. More lanes for bikes and people!

  • Emma

    The Brooklyn Bridge is really one of the most annoying cycling experiences in the city. It would be such a convenient route for us Brooklyn residents to get downtown, but is always miserable due to the bonehead pedestrians who don’t pay attention to the bike lane!

  • Galls

    Aside from Landmark Preservation Laws. . .

    Is not the most economical solution to the pedestrian, cyclist problem to segregate and match automobile space allotment 1 for 1? Too build a new deck and abandon the old, on top of the current framework above the roadways? North side for cyclists and south side for camera tooting tourists, any other segregation would not be respected for obvious reasons.

    Does any cyclist really want to take a lane away from cars in this arena? The lane between the multi-ton guided, but not rational missiles, and the 200 ft drop?

  • spinto

    I broke my elbow and pinky finger on the bridge two weeks ago, when a pedestrian stepped in front of me into the bike lane. i tried to swerve around him and ended up going over my handlebars. He did not stop to see if I was OK and I was too shocked and injured to give chase.

    The next weekend, I heard from another friend of someone breaking their elbow in a similar incident five days later.

    the brooklyn bridge is the worst!

  • Spinto, I know once you’ve broken your finger and your elbow you’ve already lost, but this is one of those times when you gotta get a police report at the very least.

    Call 911 from the bridge. Give them a description of the dude, and then meet the cops at the foot of the bridge, for when the guy comes off it. Your insurance company will thank you.

    Get better, and don’t let it keep you off your horse.

  • Giffe

    spinto,

    Out of curiosity, could you have been going a bit too fast?

  • Giffe I appreciate your attempt to blame the victim, but I’m a bit surprised by it, since if you’re a cyclist you’ll know that low-speed crashes are often the most dangerous.

    My own Brooklyn Bridge crash was very low speed, and it’s a miracle I wasn’t more hurt than I was. The pedestrian was walking in the bike lane with her back to me, and so I slowed to a walking speed myself (and belled, and yelled, and then spoke as I got near her) to squeeze by her; when she realized I was there she spooked, flailed her arms, whacked my handlebars, and I veered into the railing, endo’d, and ate wood in my face.

    (She blamed me.)

  • Just go really slow! Every time I rode over the BB (several times during rush hour with nice weather) it was extremely crowded. I found I had no problem with the pedestrians if I just took it slow and rode at a speed that the conditions allowed.

    Even with the hoards of people the BB is still WAY more pleasant than the Manhattan Bridge with its truely deafening subway traffic. I’ve literally had temporary hearing loss after crossing the MB once as a train was going at exactly my speed and kept pace with me during my entire crossing.

  • Giffe

    “Giffe I appreciate your attempt to blame the victim, but I’m a bit surprised by it, since if you’re a cyclist you’ll know that low-speed crashes are often the most dangerous.”

    My question was an honest one, not an attempt to blame anyone. I use motorized transportation less than once a month, relying almost exclusively on my bike (though unaware of the relative danger of low-speed crashes).

    It’s just that the way some cyclists in the video swerve between pedestrians reminds me of obnoxious SUV drivers who cut off me off in traffic because they feel entitled to go faster. Things on the bridge would certainly be a less hectic with adequate cycling facilities, but it doesn’t seem the cyclists are behaving any better than the pedestrians, given the circumstances.

    BTW, it seems like pedestrians in other countries are more predictable and don’t get spooked as easily by bikes — they just kind of ignore them.

  • Kaja

    I was appreciating the attempt to blame the victim honestly, because the victim’s guilty of idiocy more often than most like to admit. Just, not in this case, I don’t think.

    SUVs “cutting you off” – are they really “cutting you off” if they’re going faster than you are? It’s idle curiosity, mostly rhetorical.

    I’m with you on the Euros; they’re by far my favorite bridgewalkers. So well-dressed, too; and thin!

  • zach

    I cycle across the bridge a hundred times for every time I walk over it, but still I feel bad for the peds. People come from across the world to walk across this bridge, and they’re packed in like sardines, fearful of getting hit by bikes, not to mention countless commuters who by walking make the subways less crowded. I’m all for making one of the car lanes a bike lane and taking the bikes off the top. What are we afraid of, a bike lane like on the Queensboro? Bring it on.

  • Bob

    Give me a break. This is one of the top tourist destinations in the world. Put it into some perspective. Given that it’s probably their first time here, clearly the tourists aren’t going understand what an important route this is for many NYC bicyclists, just as you apparently aren’t understanding that you’re spoiling their pleasant experience by flying by them and screaming at them.

    If you must go fast, take the Manhattan Bridge. Otherwise, relax, enjoy the view, go at a safe (controlled – i.e. you could stop if a “boneheaded” pedestrian stepped in front of you) speed, and be grateful for our blessing of being able to bike over one of the most beautiful structures in the world.

    As usual, bicyclists and pedestrians fighting over the scraps.

  • Anti Whine

    When I cycle on the Brooklyn Bridge at certain times of day, I expect it to be very crowded, and I adjust my speed according.

    I expect many other users to be unfamiliar with the customs, and I adjust my attitude accordingly.

    Until which time the Brooklyn Bridge is fitted with a suitable bicycle facility, there’s not much other choice.

    What rankles me much more than clueless pedestrians are impatient cyclists who take this bridge and think they’re going to be able to maintain 15 mph the whole way.

  • big T

    the cyclists are now complaining about pedestrians! Will you ever be appeased? Get off your bike and walk across. The Brooklyn Bridge is the best free tourist attraction (next to the SI Ferry)the city has. Get over your bespoked selves!

  • I’d give up the view for a protected asphalt lane, yeah. I could always still walk over the bridge.

  • Over the past 20 years I have run many miles on the Brooklyn Bridge. But now that the Manhattan Bridge has a foot path I run there unless it is early in the morning.

    I think the problem on the Brooklyn Bridge is not the quantity of tourists, pedestrians, recreational bikers and commuter bikers but (non) level of supervision / guidance they they have.

    The deck of the Brooklyn bridge is maintained and governed by the Dept of Transportation. They mostly put up signs, paint lines and empty pails.

    If this area were under the auspicious of the Parks Dept there could be Urban Park Rangers up there. They could keep the tourists to one side and slow down the speeding bikers. They might even give tours.

  • Ian Turner

    Chicken,

    The problem is that 88% of bridge roadway is allocated to cars, 5.5% to bicycles, and 5.5% to pedestrians. Those proportions need to change, rather than any discussion of education, signage, enforcement, supervision, or the like.

    It’s entirely reasonable and desirable to take one lane of automobile traffic and convert it into a two-way dedicated bike path with physical separation. Pedestrians can continue to take the pedestrian path, and cyclists who want the view can walk their bikes.

    Cheers,

    –Ian

  • Ian, they ain’t gonna remove a lane of traffic.

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