What’s Your Brooklyn Bridge Ideal?

EastRiverBridgeCounts.jpgEast River bridge traffic counts and configurations through 1989. Source: FHWA [PDF]

Over the weekend, a Times op-ed from Robert "The Schluffer" Sullivan proposed physically protected roadway-level bike lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge as a way to eliminate cyclist-pedestrian conflicts and stem anti-cyclist sentiment.

Sullivan notes that, about a century ago, when it carried over twice as many people per day, horse-drawn trolleys and buggies once shared the Brooklyn Bridge with trains and pedestrians (and no creature, human or animal, crossed for free). Despite efforts by DOT to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians on the narrow elevated path, Sullivan says, "with more people walking and more people biking (both good developments), chaos quite naturally ensues."

Rather than ban bikes from the bridge, a proposal he says he hears "all the time," Sullivan writes:

If we bicyclists cede the Brooklyn Bridge walkway, then it might be a
step toward winning the public’s respect. Then, just maybe, pedestrians
would call a truce and recognize that their real enemy is the car, that
bikers are like pedestrians in that they are just trying to get to work
without the use of a gurney.

[Cyclists] are full-fledged New Yorkers now, not maniacs who need to be
banned. We are all fighting to make the streets safe for something
other than driving and parking. The livability revolution has begun.
There is no turning back.

With a four-year rehab project coming up, Sullivan suggests new bus routes on the bridge to lay the groundwork for the return of rail.

What do you think? Is an exclusive pedestrian walkway, with separated bike lanes below, the way to go? And what about bringing back rail? Who should be tolled? In short: What does your ideal Brooklyn Bridge look like?

  • mike

    Pedestrians on the walkway, bicyclists in a fully-protected two-way bike lane on the roadway and 2 lanes for bus rapid transit. Cars can have the remaining lanes, but at a heavy price, say $10 as part of a congestion pricing system. At some point, turn the bus rapid transit into light-rail.

  • I’ll have what mike’s having.

  • J Orcher

    Taking a lane on the deck for bike traffic is a great idea, and about five year overdue. One question, doesn’t the Brooklyn Bridge have a 5,000 lb weight limit? How would you run buses or BRT on it?

  • Clarence

    As long as I have a place to safely bike over the bridge, I don’t care much where it is (and if it were on the lower roadway then I wouldn’t have to bike my butt as high an elevation as I do now, just sayin’….)

    I’ll ask: do people remember the rumors about four or five years ago when a real Brooklyn Bridge bike ban was seriously being considered by the DOT? They figured they could shuttle all bike traffic over the new path on the Manhattan Bridge.

    Here’s the way to do it: along with Mike’s Congestion Pricing, they’d need to choose which side of the bridge to build a two-way bike lane. On the other side put a BRT that operated peak direction only – inbound in AM, outbound in PM, just like the Holland Tunnel.

  • J Orcher: How to get past a 5,000 lb. weight limit?
    Maybe by eliminating a few cars

  • My bike-commuting, wise-beyond-her-years wife frets about ceding valuable cycling infrastructure. What’s to stop a future (or this) administration from doing the deal and then taking back the bike lanes — just for “emergencies,” of course, which then expand into s.o.p., until Good-bye Brooklyn Bridge biking?

    In the meantime, couldn’t really clear lane markings on the promenade help abate some of the bike-ped confusion and conflict? I’m talking bright, repeated, multilingual signage. I’m as big a fan of our DOT Commissioner as anyone, but can’t she take this seemingly simple step?

  • I wrote a letter to the editor thanking the Times and Sullivan, and posted it on the Brooklyn Bridge Cycle Track Advocates Livable Streets blog.

    If you agree with Sullivan, I hope you’ll email Borough Presidents Markowitz and Stringer, and join our Livable Streets group!

  • Geck

    I too worry about ceding our most esthetically pleasing East River bike crossing. I think a very big well-designed multi-lingual sign at each entrance would go a long way to reducing conflict (and would be kind of fun).

    For what it is worth, my bike-commuting wife hates the noise of passing trains on the Manhattan Bridge and would rather dodge errant pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge (she rides pretty slowly).

  • Peter from Stuy Town

    Sullivan makes some really great points.

    I’m confused about a 5,000-lb. weight limit. What exactly does that mean? The average Chevy Suburban or Hummer H2 easily hits 6,000 lbs.

    The Brooklyn Bridge once handled subways, as the 26-year-younger Manhattan Bridge does now. Can the BB still handle subways or buses at its current age and condition? If not, the best solution is two lanes of cars and a bike lane like the Manhattan Bridge.

    Stacy, thanks for that footage. I love it!

  • J

    I think this is a great idea. Reduce the amount of space for cars even further. We may not be able to toll cars to go over the bridge, but we can physically limit the number vehicles. Right now, the walkway is simply way too crowded and likely to become more so. No amount of striping is going to change that.

    Komanoff, if we can get a full separated bike facility into the reconstruction plans, it would be a permanent piece of cycling infrastructure. Even if it were a temporary measure, like the Queensboro path, it would still be a new facility. With cycling growing the way it is now, any DOT or mayor trying to remove cycling infrastructure (tantamount to banning bikes ) would face a fairly formidable wrath. I say go for it – a net gain in both biking and walking infrastructure.

  • Doug

    What if they experimented with a a “bikes on the roadway” plan during off-peak hours, say, on a weekend morning? Much in the way a lot of the current changes to areas such as Times Square and Herald Square, along with the summer streets program, were first floated as tests before being refined and made permanent in some cases.

    Surely that would go a long way towards generating support among peds and bikers for an expansion of the plan.

  • David_K

    My experience has been that the Brooklyn Bridge is too crowded with tourists. And it should be that way. The bridge is gorgeous, and I think people should be able to wander around without thinking about crossing into a bike lane.

    Putting segregated bike lane on the traffic deck is the way to go. Sullivan’s point in the Times op-ed was that biking has come into its own as a mainstream mode of transportation; I am sympathetic to Komanoff’s concern (about the city giving, and then taking away), but if enough people use the lane, it would be hard to take it away.

  • Personally I’d much prefer to bike on the car deck. (I work off Battery Park, and I take the Manhattan Bridge, because I once hit a pedestrian who stepped in front of me on the Brooklyn Bridge, and I consider it a miracle that nobody was hurt.)

    But I’d need some way of slowing the cars down. Offpeak, drivers routinely hit 50mph accelerating up the bridge, when I can’t break 10mph on my bike. Some idiot killed himself slamming into the back of a dump truck in exactly this situation a couple weeks back.

    I’d love to see fewer lanes, congestion pricing be damned. But that’s because I get schadenfreude from traffic jams. Americans voluntarily sitting in what are essentially Soviet bread lines for tens of hours every week makes my heart soar.

  • Larry Littlefield

    My wife says the noise and fumes of being directly adjacent to all that traffic would dissaude her from bicycling to work. Heavy adjacent traffic, for example, makes the GW Bridge path unpleasant compared with the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg.

    For it to work, in my view, the bicycle lane would have to be elevated above the traffic, though it would have to be below the central path to get under the girders. That would take some money, but perhaps not much extra if the deck is being replaced anyway. And there is less risk that a lane with only eight feet of clearance would be returned to motor vehicles.

    Note the original configuration included a steel box where the inner lanes are. That might not stop a Richard Lipsky-type win by delay lawsuit on historic preservation grounds, however.

  • What mike said.

    I enjoy biking across on the walkway as much as the next guy, but giving half the walkway to a dozen bikers while hundreds of pedestrians are crammed into the other half is a misallocation of resources that’s tantamount to wasting the traffic deck on cars only.

  • BklynBiker

    What about a new deck for bikes above the cars – you know, where people go to throw themselves in the East River – there seems to be so much empty space on the bridge out there. It could be decked on one side for bikes, another side for peds, and a tasteful fence to dissuade the desolate.

  • Geck

    I’m with Larry – above a traffic lane.

  • While we’re talking fences, can I derail the thread and mention how awful the Manhattan Bridge suicide fence is?

    It makes me want to die, it’s so bad.

  • Brooklyn

    Sullivan’s writing is irritating to me — ingratiating and passive-aggressive — writing to a lowest common denominator of urban cyclist that doesn’t really exist, or at least would never read him. I barely see him as an advocate.

    That said, I vote for one off-peak traffic lane made into a bike lane depending on the time of day — ideally, with some version of moveable barriers like I currently see on the Gowanus expressway. To Larry’s wife’s point, I’d rather be adjacent one lane of exhaust than be riding over the mixed exhausts of six lanes, as is the case now. And I would choose relatively smooth asphalt over wooden slats and neglected concrete any day.

    And I will grant that on a nice afternoon like this past Saturday, the place for bikes on the Brooklyn Bridge walkway is nearly untenable. I rode gingerly past an absolute wall of pedestrians from end to end, probably thousands of people. The vast majority respected the line. By contrast, I counted only twenty bikes in both directions in my time on the span. At that time and place, it seemed the same misappropriation of infrastructure that we blame on cars in other contexts.

  • The highway on- and offramps preclude using the outer lanes for bicycle traffic (see Sands St Streetfilm), so any realistic conversion of auto lanes to bike lanes would involve the inner, less attractive, lanes that are accessible from Centre St and Adams/Tillary. That solution plops riders in the midst of traffic at both ends of the bridge.

    With congestion pricing, however, DOT could limit access from the eastbound BQE to BRT vehicles and build a bicycle on-ramp on the patch of grass between Prospect Streets and Washington Streets in Brooklyn to climb to the outer margin of the north side of the bridge. Fudging with the lanes would allow a full lane-width for buses at the cost of an early merge with traffic using the Sands St onramp. The closed Park Row exit ramp in Manhattan could be reopened for bikes and buses both.

  • Bill from Brooklyn

    Be careful what you wish for!!! In theory I love the idea of reducing the number of car lanes say from 6 to 4 and turning one of those lanes over to a two way bike lane and another to peak direction buses/light rail. However, as other have noted, this would most likely result in biking right next to lane upon lane of congested traffic. Not a pleasant or healthy thought.

    Currently, I use the Brooklyn Bridge on my morning commute and overall it’s lovely in the morning with minimal and very infrequent conflicts. However, I avoid the Brooklyn Bridge at all other times, especially on my evening commute, since the times I have used it, the bridge has been filleed with tourists who just don’t pay attention. It’s easier and safer to ride the extra distance over to the Manhattan Bridge.

  • Personally I think the Brooklyn Bridge is one of the most beautiful rides the City has to offer. I would hate to see the walkway turned into another High Line where bikes are banned entirely.

    Rather than go with Robert “The Schluffer” Sullivan’s all-or-nothing plan I’d much rather see some bike commuter lanes on the roadway and continue to allow slower riders on the “walkway.” After all, not all tourists are pedestrians.

  • JK

    We need a bike only path on the Brooklyn Bridge. Whether it’s on the deck, on an outrigger hanging off the road deck, on an elevated path above the path. A good first step would be a DOT feasibility study of different options. It’s obvious that the sheer number of bicyclists and pedestrians has completely overwhelmed the existing path. Hard to fathom how anyone thinks it’s tolerable to bike on during the rush. Unrelated, I’d like this “We’re full fledged citizens now, not maniacs like we used to be” trope dropped. It’s unhelpful, untrue and tiresome to the many, many people who have been riding here for years. There are still plenty of maniacs on bikes, and plenty of good citizens as well.

  • Christopher

    I like this plan. In an ideal world, cyclists and pedestrians could share the current space, but in reality, all the signs in all the languages of the world are not going to keep the tourists safe from themselves. And since the view is so great, who can blame them? I think that if the alternative is a protected bikeway, the average commuter will welcome the trade-off: a safer (and probably quicker) commute in exchange for less view and a little more exhaust.

  • J

    In response to Jonathan, the inner lanes would be ideal, as they most closely mimic the walkway path (Adams & Tillary to Park Row) and don’t cross any ramps.

    Fully separated commuter lanes might be a good idea, as they’d certainly remove a lot of current bikers from the bridge. Slow bikers who don’t mind the congestion as much could still use the walkway, but the faster riders who clash most with pedestrians would voluntary ride on the new roadway bike lane. You could even put up a speed limit for the walkway (perhaps 8 mph). For me at least, the scenic view becomes less exciting when you are constantly terrified someone’s gonna jump in front of you, and I would certainly use a protected on-street lane.

  • Yes, Peter, it is illegal to drive an SUV across the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • gecko

    Plenty of room and steel infrastructure above the roadways for bikes and even more walkways for pedestrians as there will likely never be enough room when the weather is good. It is such a beautiful bridge and the view is spectacular!

    Let the cars travel underneath and they should have nothing to be complain about since they will still have all their roadways underneath.

    That is what should be done. The bridge will flourish; and, will become an even better place for tourists and New Yorkers alike. The increase in city revenues from the increase in tourism could possibly offset much of the cost for the upgrade. The Gates project in Central Park was supposedly brought in about one-quarter billion dollars.

    A Highline-type park adaptation might be also be suitable. It will definitely be quite high.

  • Cap’n Transit — Very few SUVs actually break six thousand pounds.


    Even the Sequoia and the Land Cruiser, among the most egregious SUVs, are ~5.4Klb fully laden. I think the Hummers qualify for the ban.

  • epc

    Close the direct ramp from the BQE to the Bridge and fence off the right hand west bound lane with jersey barriers. The Jay & Sands street bike lanes could funnel traffic into the bridge. East bound would require reconfiguring the lights at Pearl & Sands.

  • Hilary

    How about time sharing? Close the bridge to vehicular traffic on the weekends, maybe along with the East River Drive.. like the Bronx River Parkway in Westchester on weekends.

  • zach

    We got some suggestions just for peak hours, others for just off-peak hours. The whole business of having different rules for different hours I think is unnecessarily confusing and solves nothing. See, for example, parks. What works during rush hour works the rest of the time. If during some periods traffic is lighter, in those periods it’s especially unnecessary for cars to use every lane.

  • zach

    And if in some periods traffic is heavier, it’s especially necessary for bikes and buses to have their own lanes, since they can move more people per lane.

  • Canonchet

    We may not like it, but Robert Sullivan is right about bikes and the Brooklyn Bridge. And the pro-bike lobby represented in Streetsblog and Transportation Alternatives needs to pay heed rather than cry foul.

    As urban biking has increased, so has anti-bike sentiment. The non-biking populace still outnumbers our cycling crowd by at least a hundred to one. Pedestrians fearful of being clipped by bikers at crosswalks don’t stop and think how grateful they are that bikes aren’t SUVs. We bike riders may see ourselves as eco-friendly contributors to traffic decongestion, but to many pedestrians we are just pests. There is a reason why Bill Thompson concluded that Mayor Bloomberg’s blessing of bike lanes is a point of vulnerability for the incumbent, even in cycle-happy Williamsburg.

    As Sullivan argues, the wonderful Brooklyn Bridge walkway is one of those places that is now making a bad relationship worse. A decade or less ago you could walk or bike across the bridge with something approaching a sense of restful solitude. That’s long gone, with more New Yorkers biking everywhere and every tourist guidebook urging a Bridge stroll (followed by the mandatory pizza at the former Patsy’s). On weekends the pedestrian side of the path can barely accommodate the foot traffic.

    For almost two decades I’ve been a regular from-and-to-Brooklyn bike commuter. The Manhattan Bridge is best for heading up the East Side, but for Wall Street or Tribeca or the Hudson the Brooklyn is still the only way to go. But after ten minutes on the bridge as a mere pedestrian I’m ready to sign a bike-banning petition.This is an architectural treasure, not a velodrome. Bikers still usually enjoy more personal space on the bridge than walkers, the pedestrians wandering blindly into bike lanes notwithstanding. Yet as a group we bikers can seem selfish and outright rude, thanks to snarling shouts at straying walkers from the off-to-the-races Lycra brigade. Bridge walkers are not all clueless tourists, either. There are plenty of ordinary Brooklynites and Manhattanites headed for work or out on errands while also enjoying the views and fresh air. Not all path-clogging snapshot-takers are out-of-towners either: listen to them talking, if you slow down enough to hear.

    So Sullivan is correct: something has to give. Putting bikes on the roadways below with the cars may not be the best alternative, though.

    Creating dedicated bike paths on the bridge roadways would reduce an already congested and narrow three-lane bridge crossing to just two, one of which each way is essentially an exit lane, to Cadman Plaza/Fulton Street and the FDR, respectively. The bike paths would have to go on the inside lanes, which makes bridge approaches and exits physically tricky, and probably prohibitively expensive. And they would still snarl inbound and outbound auto traffic, even if adopted as part of a bridge-toll congestion pricing plan.

    Here are five alternative ideas, in roughly declining order of ambition:

    * Retrofitting: Build new bike paths paralleling the wooden pedestrian walk on each side, some five feet above with light protective fencing, right over the roadway. Use as the undergirding the existing steel framework over the roadways. Horrified preservationists can be reminded that this would be just the latest transport-mode alteration of the iconic span, `and with minor visual impact. Granted, this framework inconveniently ends before the bridge does, in both directions, but extensions could perhaps be cantilevered down to return to the inside walkway entrance and exit. Or, better, on the Manhattan side, create bike flyways from the new overhead bike lanes in and out of City Hall Park.
    * Bike speed limits: Coasting down the bridge slopes unimpeded, a bike quickly reaches 15-20 mph, too fast at peak use times given the proximity of pedestrians. Add a little aggressive pedaling and downhill bike speed can exceed 25 mph, a speed that is dangerous to nearby walkers and slower-moving bikers alike. Screaming ‘on your left’ or ‘get off the bleeping bike path’ is not a civicly acceptable compromise. How about a voluntarily observed 10mph cycling limit on the bridge, at least on weekends, perhaps with radar-gun signs signaling a biker’s speed?
    * The Coney Island precedent: The boardwalk at the beach is open to bikes from 5 am to 10 am only. That seems to work well, allowing reasonable access to recreational bikers but avoiding conflicts and congestion when pedestrian traffic gets too heavy for both. The Bridge path is quite different, as a weekday commuter route, but it could also be closed to bike traffic after 10 am on weekends when tourism and recreational bridge strolling doubles or triples the average weekday pedestrian flow.
    * The Manhattan Transfer: Biking the Manhattan Bridge instead would be more popular if there were a clear, protected east-west bike route between the bridge and the West Side. Build it now, with barriers and signposts and all, a block south of Canal all the way to the Hudson River Greenway. And that includes a rethinking and rebuilding of the current bridge access and exit routes on the Manhattan side, which after the last series of improvements still requires adept dodging of delivery vans, intercity buses, pedestrians and skateboarders.
    * And finally, get those City Hall and Board of Ed cars with their spurious parking passes off the bike path in front of City Hall Park. The southbound bike lane directly across from the Brooklyn Bridge entrance should be one of New York’s busiest, but has instead long been a free linear parking lot for assorted municipal functionaries, forcing bikes out into intense traffic or onto the already crowded sidewalk. Fixing this won’t resolve bike-vs.-walker tensions in the greater Bridge area, but it would keep a few more bikers off the sidewalks, away from the buses and out of the emergency rooms. Call it the Broken-Bikepath Theory of Transportation Mismanagement: You can hardly expect your average car-driving civilian to respect bike lanes as no-parking zones if this elemental rule is brazenly flouted by senior city officials in one of the most visible and critical marked bike lanes in the city. Nor can you expect the police to start ticketing parked cars for blocking bike lanes elsewhere if this rule is never enforced right in front of City Hall. Instead, police also use the City Hall bike lane for workday parking.

  • Larry Littlefield

    A bike path above the girders would have to be fenced, and the fence would obstruct the view from the walkway.

  • Canonchet: “* The Manhattan Transfer: Biking the Manhattan Bridge instead would be more popular if there were a clear, protected east-west bike route between the bridge and the West Side. Build it now, with barriers and signposts and all, a block south of Canal all the way to the Hudson River Greenway. And that includes a rethinking and rebuilding of the current bridge access and exit routes on the Manhattan side, which after the last series of improvements still requires adept dodging of delivery vans, intercity buses, pedestrians and skateboarders.”

    We already have this route, it’s called the Grand Street Cycle Track which crosses Chrystie Street two blocks north of the Manhattan Bridge. Granted, the route going west, over the (non-protected) Prince Street Bike Lane, is a bit more sketchy but the downtown Bicycle Network is still developing.

    One major hurdle is that there are a limited number of through-streets below Houston and too many streets have become access routes for trucks entering either the Holland Tunnel, the Willy B or the Manhattan Bridge. The closest through street below Canal is Worth Street, and that only runs from Chatham Square to the Hudson Street. Those of us who live in the area have argued, for decades, that reworking the whole Verrazzano toll scheme could dramatically reduce congestion in lower Manhattan, but I digress.

    Encouraging cyclists to use the Manhattan Bridge is one of the factors that makes the Grand Street Bike Lane key, Not only does it encourage cycling for those wary of trafficas well as shorten the distance for pedestrians crossing Grand Street itself, but it should also should help relieve bicycle congestion on the Brooklyn Bridge by providing safer cross town access to the Manhattan Bridge.

  • vnm

    As long as we’re talking what we’d like to see and not what is feasible within the realm of available resources:

    I’d like to see a complete restoration of the Myrtle Avenue Elevated and the Lexington Avenue Elevated across the bridge, meeting up, as they used to, with today’s J/M/Z. And in separate lanes I’d like to see the bridge carry an extension of the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail to Red Hook. And of coruse ample bike lanes on the lower level giving peds the full upper deck.

    If there is any room left over for cars, they should be charged a toll commensurate with the carbon they emit to the atmosphere and the costs they create in terms of congestion, crashes and frayed nerves.

  • Kaja

    Man. This vnm guy says things I like hearin’. Unf.

    My grandparents’ business was destroyed by the removal of the Myrtle Avenue El. They moved to Long Island and didn’t look back.

    Incidentally, in honor of this thread, I used the Brooklyn Bridge to get home from work yesterday. At 7.30pm I counted seventeen (17) bicyclists, and NONE OF THEM ZERO had ANY lights fore or aft. One I didn’t see coming as a result, and he yelled at me for being in the “oncoming” side of the cycle track. One other was traveling much faster than I do, and I move fast.

    Given this behavior I think the ped annoyance is entirely acceptable. I also find myself hoping for another NYPD scofflaw-cyclist crackdown. 🙁

  • The plan is fine, what is not fine is Sullivan trying to haul all of us up onto a cross, AGAIN, to atone for the sins of whoever pissed off the mythical, reasonable NY Times reader. When the problem is an expressed prejudice—as it so plainly is—I don’t know how anyone as fancy as Sullivan and his admirers can suggest that fixing one problem spot is going to make the underlying prejudice evaporate. Where have you guys been? That’s not how it works, has never been how it works. Prejudice has to die off, and happily we make that happen even faster than people die by integrating fragmented cultures. There is prejudice on all sides, against “bikers” and “tourists” and “pedestrians” that can be quickly dispelled by by crossing cultures from time to time and exposing ignorance for what it is. Groveling, schluffing, and whatever the next holier-than-thou cyclist comes up with has no part in it.

    And vnm’s ideal is the best.

  • vnm, rebuilding the elevated lines is a daydream. Since that peak in traffic in 1907, seven rapid-transit tunnels from Brooklyn to Manhattan have been constructed, and the subways which run through them offer through routing to points in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens from Brooklyn. Why replace the pleasant renaissance along Myrtle Avenue today with an elevated that only gets you to City Hall Park?

  • Brooklyn Bridge, current configuration: 1 elevated ped/bike path, 6 lanes of automotive traffic below.

    Brooklyn Bridge, ideal configuration: 1 elevated pedestrian-only path; on the main deck, 2 automotive lanes (TOLLED), 2 express light rail lanes, 2 local light rail lanes; on an additional elevated structure, a bidirectional bicycle path.

    Brooklyn Bridge, even more ideal configuration: cars are banned from the 5 boros, and the 2 automotive lanes are given over to pedestrians and pedestrian amenities. When necessary, small emergency and maintenance vehicles (e.g., streetcleaning machines) can pass through this area.

  • MisterBadExample

    I love the ride across the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning (hardly any pedestrians), but after several close calls on rides home, I gave up and started taking the Manhattan Bridge home. In a perfect world we’d all get along,etc. One of my pet peeves about the Brooklyn Bridge is the way the pedestrian/bike path gets commandeered by various groups–the city wouldn’t let charity groups or fashion photographers take over big chunks of the West Side Highway or FDR during rush hour (or any other time without prior notice), and they should understand that a bike-accessible Brooklyn Bridge takes hundreds of riders off its over-capacity trains. But the status quo doesn’t work in the afternoon–it’s not realistic to throw commuters into the mix with unaware tourists on the narrow confines of the current path.

    That said, here are two problems with closing off the Brooklyn Bridge ped path to cyclists:
    1) I’m pretty sure that the cycling community doesn’t trust the city to do the right thing in setting up bike lanes on the Brooklyn Bridge itself (I can already hear the angry drivers screaming at cyclists); and
    2) the city hasn’t done much to make the Manhattan bridge approaches as safe as those on the Brooklyn Bridge. I’d prefer to ride the Manhattan bridge–but the entrances to the Manhattan bridge are downright crazy compared to those for Brooklyn. Not only that, but the Canal Street leadup to the Manhattan bridge is an absolute nightmare.

  • I commute to work in Soho on my bike every day (weather permitting). I’ve also been using the Brooklyn Bridge for the past two years to do so. In the morning, the commute is totally fine. I can’t remember a time that there was an issue with pedestrians during the morning commute. My morning commute usually brings me to the bridge between 8:45 and 9:15. On the way home, however, its a completely different story, especially once the weather gets above 50 degrees. I usually commute home anywhere between 5:30 and 7:00. As any BB rider knows, its just ridiculous as to how many pedestrians can accumulate on the bridge at that time.

    When I first started encountering so many pedestrians on the bridge, I used to get angry and feel righteous about “my” bike lane. I used to holler at the meandering tourists who would be staring through their camera lenses, oblivious to the world around them at that moment. I used to purposely ride past pedestrians and brush my shoulder bag against them to send a little message. What a jerk I used to have been.

    Then I thought about it a little. What the hell was I doing? I’m not helping anything by acting this way. In my mind, the Brooklyn Bridge has so much more significance to the city as whole than it does when compared to the five or so minutes that I am on it on my way home from work. So if you ask me, if Sullivan is really concerned about alleviating cyclist/pedestrian relations, then only allow bikes on it from 5AM to 10AM. Its that simple. Obviously this means you’d have to take the Manhattan Bridge at times, and yes, I know, a whole extra half mile is a difficult thing to deal with on a bicycle. But we can’t have everything. Otherwise, leave the bike lane as is and promote a better atmosphere on the bridge with some signs that tell pedestrians to be careful and bikers to SLOW DOWN and treat the visitors of one of NYC’s greatest landmarks with respect.

    As far as a new bike lane on the deck goes, I honestly think it’d be a cold day in hell if this ever came to be. I’m not civil engineering expert, and I know new infrastructure in NYC is infinitely complicated to consider, but the effort that would have to go into getting cyclists onto the street level safely just seems impossible to me. However, as I said, I’m no expert and would never discourage anyone from looking into it.

    The question I keep asking myself now is, would I use such a bike lane? And I’m not sure. Regardless of the pedestrians I deal with on my way home work, I still enjoy taking the Brooklyn Bridge on my way home solely because of the view. I’m not sure I’d get the same feeling if I wasn’t on an elevated platform where I could see more than the asphalt in front of me. I try to never take it for granted. And I encourage everyone else to try it, all you have to do is slow down.

  • The Opoponax

    “What’s to stop a future (or this) administration from doing the deal and then taking back the bike lanes — just for “emergencies,” of course, which then expand into s.o.p., until Good-bye Brooklyn Bridge biking?”

    What’s to stop that from happening to any bike infrastructure, or any pedestrian infrastructure for that matter? What’s to stop some future administration from converting the Hudson River Greenway into a couple more lanes for the West Side Highway?

    “In the meantime, couldn’t really clear lane markings on the promenade help abate some of the bike-ped confusion and conflict? I’m talking bright, repeated, multilingual signage. I’m as big a fan of our DOT Commissioner as anyone, but can’t she take this seemingly simple step?”

    I bike over the Brooklyn Bridge every day, and if the markings were any more clear, they would have to be replaced by DOT workers physically moving the tourists into the correct lane. I mean, what could possibly be more clear than a thick solid line with an icon of a bike on one side and an icon of a pedestrian on the other side? Not to mention that in my experience the issue is with spillover and photo ops, not because people don’t understand the lane concept.

    I’ll also mention that the people who have the most trouble with this seem in my experience to be Americans, not folks from far flung countries who need it spelled out for them in their obscure native language. It’s not like I’m dodging people in African robes or saris or kimonos.


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