The Pulaski Bridge Bikeway Is Open and It’s Magnificent

State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer lead the pack of DOT officials, electeds and advocates on the Pulaski Bridge protected lane's first official ride. Photo: David Meyer
State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan (front left) and City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer (right) lead the pack. Photo: David Meyer

Pedestrians and cyclists don’t have to settle for scraps of space on the Pulaski Bridge any more. This morning, the bridge’s new two-way protected bikeway officially opened to the public, the culmination of a four-year effort to improve biking and walking access between Greenpoint and Long Island City.

The Pulaski carries thousands of cyclists between Queens and Brooklyn across Newtown Creek each day, according to DOT. For many years, cyclists and pedestrians had to squeeze onto a single narrow path, while motorists zoomed along on six lanes of congestion-free roadway. The Pulaski path became more congested every year as housing and jobs boomed on both sides of the bridge.

Assembly Member Joe Lentol began pushing DOT for the project in late 2012 after meeting with local residents frustrated by the increasingly crowded conditions on the path. The engineering challenge of providing sufficient protection for cyclists on the drawbridge section of the Pulaski proved surmountable, and construction was initially set to conclude by the end of 2014.

Red tape and construction delays pushed the project back more than a year, and the long wait came to an end with today’s grand opening. The project cost $4.9 million and was funded by the city with support from the Federal Highway Administration.

The Pulaski project is the most prominent example of the city repurposing car lanes on a bridge for biking and walking since Transportation Alternatives won the full-time use of a lane on the Queensboro Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists in 2000 (a fight that lasted no less than 22 years).

Other bridges could use similar treatments. The Brooklyn Bridge and Queensboro Bridge both have bike-ped paths that get uncomfortably crowded, and DOT is currently working to improve bike-ped crossings on the Harlem River.

DOT Deputy Commissioner for Transportation Planning Ryan Russo led a group of department officials, advocates, and electeds on an inaugural ride on the bikeway from Long Island City to Greenpoint this morning.

Russo hailed the Pulaski project as an important step in connecting the two boroughs. “This bridge really illustrates the power of infrastructure to shrink distances,” he said. The Pulaski project was “one of the first times,” he added, that DOT has done a “bike and pedestrian capital project” on a bridge.

lentol
Assembly Member Joe Lentol began pushing for the Pulaski bikeway in 2012. Photo: David Meyer

Russo was joined by Lentol, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Council Majority Leader Jimmy Van Bramer and State Senator Martin Malavé Dilan.

“This is one of those days that really makes a politician happy,” Lentol said. “There was a problem, a solution was found — even though they said it couldn’t be done — and it was implemented.”

“The only way we get to Vision Zero is by having visionaries that won’t allow a drawbridge to be a drawback on how we continue the expansion of alternative transportation,” Adams said. “The old way of commuting is behind us.”

Bike connections to the Pulaski, especially on the Queens side, could still use improvement. DOT and the Department of Design and Construction are planning a complete reconstruction of Long Island City’s streets, but the preliminary plan does not call for a protected bike lane on 11th Street, which feeds directly into the Pulaski.

I asked Russo if DOT is planning to build a protected bike lane on 11th Street. “We have connections [in Long Island City] now, but we will be looking to upgrade them as part of incorporating that comprehensive area-wide plan,” he said.

  • Jules1

    Great to see elected officials at a ribbon cutting ceremony for new bike infrastructure! Wonder where the Queens BP was?

  • MatthewEH

    6 bridges? I count Pulaski, Greenpoint, Kosciuszko (two spans current, perhaps as many four temporarily as construction of the replacement bridge proceeds, but long-term, 2), and Grand Ave. Even if we count the Kosciuszko double that comes out to 5. 😉

  • Grand crosses two forks of Newtown Creek. There’s also a rail bridge at the very end of one fork, not sure if the city is counting that.

  • Actually, scratch that. The bridge count doesn’t really work, it’s been cut from the post.

  • Danny G

    Grand Avenue crosses the creek twice: once when it combines with Metropolitan Avenue, and again when it crosses the Brooklyn-Queens border. Bridge number six must be the rail bridge at the very southern end of Newtown Creek.

  • AnoNYC
  • J

    When this project was first suggested, DOT made all sorts of excuses about why it couldn’t be done (traffic, bridge weight, etc.). When the politicians applied a bit of pressure, DOT figured out how to do it pretty quickly.

    Today, DOT continues to throw up road blocks and excuses for not pursuing all sorts of projects, citing parking, double parking, and traffic as their primary reasons. Why can’t our Vision Zero-espousing DOT be pushing for progress instead of pushing back against it?

  • AnoNYC

    It doesn’t seem to be everyone at DOT though. I talked to some of the planners at a workshop a couple months ago and they were very pro-bicycle/transit and wanted to try some innovative things. They did state however that the community boards were often an obstacle.

  • MatthewEH

    Heh. This is just me splitting hairs, in any case.

    I think the way the post was originally phrased was “6 bridges that connect Brooklyn to Queens over Newtown Creek”. If that’s the criterion I stand by my original count. Grand goes over two branches of Newtown Creek, but only one of those is at the borough border. Similarly with the rail bridge others have noted; that’s Queens on both sides.

    😉

  • QueensWatcher

    What a good question.

  • BBnet3000

    The sad thing is a lot of them are going to get vastly better facilities than Jay Street (and the Manhattan Bridge itself actually) despite the latter having many, many times the usage (100x?).

  • Jeff

    No they’re not. Some asshole is going to throw a temper tantrum at a community board meeting and they’re going to get nothing.

  • ahwr

    >100x?

    You think the Harlem river bridges only have 50 riders a day? They’re short, a higher share will walk than over the brooklyn-manhattan bridges. You’d want ped counts here too, not just bikes.

  • BBnet3000

    I’d love to see counts. My point here isn’t that the Harlem River Bridges shouldn’t get high quality infrastructure, it’s that the most heavily used corridors should too.

  • J

    Great! It’s exciting to see DOT showing a bit of proactive leadership on this. If only they could do the same on most street projects and neighborhood planning studies.

  • J

    True, and there are certainly some good things to celebrate. I have to say, though, that DOT is the one making the advisory Community Boards an obstacle by giving them a veto.

    Having DOT commissioner Trottenberg argue against more funding for safe streets doesn’t help either.

  • Who’s the person with a fist in the air? Totally makes the photo. Well done.

  • Jonathan R

    Mr. High Quality Infrastructure, you have forgotten the 14 subway tracks between lower Manhattan and downtown Brooklyn. When you Brooklyn “avid cyclists” are lazy, hurt, sick, wasted, or suffering mechanical difficulties, you can take the subway to Manhattan; meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the Washington Heights to Highbridge subway to be built. The Harlem River bridge bicycle crossings should be a priority over the Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges because we don’t have the alternatives that you do.

  • BBnet3000

    My point here isn’t that the Harlem River Bridges shouldn’t get high quality infrastructure

  • AnoNYC

    A lot of these are low hanging fruit. Going to some of the meetings in the Bronx, i’ve also noticed that the community is more receptive towards bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure than what I hear in Queens and Brooklyn.

  • Kevin Love

    We can do both. At the same time. Notice how insanely cheap the Pulaski bridge infra was. A fraction of the cost of car infrastructure.

  • Vooch

    next one to tackle is Brooklyn Bridge

  • Jules1

    Even though bridge projects tend to cost more because of engineering & construction issues, they’re often politically easier because they don’t involve parking or re-allocating space in a NIMBY’s backyard.

  • ahwr

    It helps when you’ve built motor vehicle infrastructure – a lane on a three lane bridge that connects to a two lane road – that can be reused without significant impact on existing users. Not always the case, especially when you don’t like bike lanes disappearing at congested spots.

  • Vooch

    where is the FREE PARKING on the street in this photo ? thought BB would get a chuckle Out of this

  • Kevin Love

    The world-class Dutch cycling infra costs a not-so-whopping 30 Euros per person annually. It costs me more to take my family out to lunch.

    The best in the world for literally lunch money. See:

    http://www.aviewfromthecyclepath.com/2010/05/487-million-euros-for-cycling.html

  • Vooch

    protected bike lanes in NYC cost $600k per mile these days. 50 Miles of protected bike Lanes exist in urban NYC (plus 50 more that are on far flung Greenways such as the Jamacia Bay Greenway)

    For a pittance of $25million, NYC could build 50 Miles of protected bike Lanes and double the Network.

    The Existing network supports about 200,000 daily trips. Doubling the network would Support at least another 200,000 Daily trips possiblY as Many as 300,000 Daily Trips due to positive network Effects.

    200-300,000 Daily trips for $25 Million

    What other mobility project Supports so Many people at such little cost ?

  • Richard Miller

    Does anyone else think like me that the Gil Hodges bridge to the Rockaways should also be on the list?

  • Way in the back? That’s me filming the action overhead!

  • Synergy

  • Toots

    That’s an MTA Bridge. Worth a shot to advocate for, but might be difficult since they don’t permit bikes on their bridge carte blanche. Also, the span is not asphalt or concrete but scary-seeming ridged metal.

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