Eyes on the Street: The Williamsburg Bridge Bike Path Freezes Over

Courtesy of Will Sherman, here’s what the Williamsburg Bridge bike path — one of the most important bike transportation connections in the city — looked like this morning after the season’s first snowfall. Icy and unbikeable. Sherman says he saw at least a few people take a spill.

The city has a hit-or-miss record on keeping bike routes clear of snow and ice. An early snowfall in November 2012 got a prompt response from DOT crews, and response times this January were looking very sharp, but at other times the city has taken days or even weeks to make bike lanes passable.

Doug Gordon (@BrooklynSpoke) reports that when he filed a 311 request about the Williamsburg Bridge ice, the city said it’s being taken care of. And DOT says it is treating the bridge bike paths with de-icing chemicals.

What are you seeing on the bikeways and bridge paths today? Are other routes in better shape than the Willy-B?

  • qrt145

    Central Park was fine this morning.

  • Jesse

    Bridges tend to freeze first because they are surrounded by cold air.

  • The bridge was noticeably slippery, far more than any street. Luckily, I didn’t fall; nor did I see anyone else fall. But I took it extremely slowly, braking gingerly and often on the downhill into Manhattan in order to prevent picking up speed, and coasting most of the way down with my feet off the pedals.

  • Adrian

    Manhattan bridge was similar. The most icy part was the chicane just before the Manhattan exit, which is exactly where you’ll need to be braking and turning – I briefly lost traction and bounced into the railing, but didn’t come off.

    I don’t recall it being that bad at all last year, which is why I probably entered the chicane going too fast…

  • John

    Queensboro was the same way.

  • blenderfish

    The Brooklyn Bridge path was the same way as of 10:30am. I saw lots of slipping and sliding, but thankfully no bad falls.

  • Robert Wright

    I notified 311 about the Manhattan Bridge bike lane and, like Doug, got a response very quickly saying, essentially, it was all good.

    It shouldn’t be hard to run a salt-scattering vehicle over the bridge. The snow nearly all fell last night; there wasn’t much and salt would have resolved the problem very quickly. Today was exactly the kind of day this was needed. The surface streets are fine, so people set off without realizing they’d encounter this unnecessary obstacle.

  • Robert Wright

    Apologies, incidentally, to the person who had to brake suddenly behind me as I jammed on the brakes at the ice at the Manhattan Bridge chicane. It’s probably not a great idea to follow people quite that closely into the chicane – but apologies anyway.

  • Adrian

    They absolutely have those salt-scattering vehicles, I encountered them several times last year on Manhattan bridge and they generally had it very clear within a reasonable period after the snowstorm.

    I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume they were caught short last night, and hopefully they don’t disappoint me for the rest of the winter!

  • wkgreen

    I had the same experience about an hour earlier, and walked it most of the way after one low speed fall. I saw 2 other minor slips and falls as well. I awakened a sleeping policeman in his interceptor to ask if anything was being done, and was informed that DOT was ‘on it’. The problem was mostly on the boardwalk. The paved approaches weren’t too bad.

  • Geck

    I saw two people go down a little before 9:00 because police interceptors were blocking the path.

  • Lame Troll Parody

    Blah blah, get those cyclists licences, then they can complain. Do they pay for the roads! No, I do with gas taxes. And they’re crazy to ride like that – they just asking for accidents. Blah blah blah.

  • Robert Wright

    I sometimes in bad weather divert to the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan because it takes me on a route where I have to interact with cars less. But I anticipated that this morning those wooden boards might be pretty treacherous. I had thought that the constant presence of police interceptors might mean the problem got addressed this time, though. I guess I was wrong.

  • Robert Wright

    I encountered them last year too. For weeks there was a fine dusting of salt pretty much constantly on the bridge. I really don’t understand why they couldn’t address it today.

  • red_greenlight1

    I hate it when people do that! Come on its a sharp turn don’t tailgate.

  • red_greenlight1

    The problem with the Brooklyn bridge is that wood really hides black ice quite well. There have been a few times where I’ve had to walk it. One of my worst spills ever was on the Brooklyn Bridge.

  • red_greenlight1

    Anyone know what conditions are like right now on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridge?

  • Jeff

    I once had a guy tailgating me (in dry weather), and I kind of made a waving motion for him to back off. When he failed to do so, I turned my head and said to him, “You can pass if you’d like”. His response? “I’m drafting.” Are you f**king kidding me? Drafting? Sorry, but it’s a commuter route. And therefore it’s called “tailgating”, and it’s rude. If you want to “draft” then go out to your 9W or whatever.

  • red_greenlight1

    I’d be so tempted to brake check that guy.

  • Robert Wright

    I don’t know but I’d like to know. I’m going to a meeting on the Upper East Side shortly and will be returning around 7pm. I’m curious as to whether a Queensboro – Pulaski route home is likely to be more or less risky than returning via the Hudson Greenway and the Manhattan or Brooklyn Bridges.

    I’m sorry to post such a dull comment – but I do genuinely want/need to know.

  • stairbob

    Also higher altitude. At a standard of -5.4 degrees per thousand feet, it’s probably high enough to make the temp a half-degree, or so, cooler. And temps last night were right around freezing.

  • Robert Wright

    When I rode home last night around 8.30pm, snow was accumulating on the Manhattan Bridge but not lower-lying surfaces that weren’t bridges. It should have been obvious at that point to the DOT how things would work out in the morning.

  • Jeffrey Baker

    Not that you should have to do these kinds of things yourself, but a couple of people could salt that path with a fertilizer spreader in an hour.

  • Robert Wright

    I’m consistently slightly shocked by people’s behavior at the chicane at the Manhattan end of the Manhattan Bridge bike lane. It’s not OK, for instance, to overtake people just before the chicane and veer onto the wrong side of the path. I’ve had some scary near misses when climbing the bridge with people doing that.

    But this morning I wasn’t going to add to the hassles and stresses by being awkward with the guy. There were enough challenges without my creating more.

  • Jeff

    Oh yeah, people who try to pass on the downhill near the end of the bridge paths are the worst. When I’m coming down the Brooklyn side of the Williamsburg bridge I will passive-aggressively make a left hand turn signal if it looks like someone is thinking of passing me. Really it’s my little way of saying “Obviously I’m turning left as soon as I squeeze through that little gap between bollards, and therefore it would be idiotic to even consider passing me right now, you moron.”

  • Geoffrey Hollinden

    See how much u enjoy the roads when all the cyclists and pedestrians decide to get a car and clog up ur already clogged streets. U are so clueless

  • Antonio

    I took the Brooklyn Bridge an hour ago. Most of the path was ice free, except for an area right around the Brooklyn-side tower, which had patches of slippery ice.

  • When that happens I just slow down to a snail’s pace of 3 or 4 mph.

  • Antonio

    I should add, there were guys in DOT vests milling about, but I didn’t see any spreading salt. I only noticed them because 3-4 of them were strolling (seemingly) aimlessly up and down the bike lane, blocking the path to bikes.

  • red_greenlight1

    Thank you!

  • bklynbad

    Does anyone have updates on Manhattan bridge conditions?

  • Cold Shoaler

    I only had a little bit of trouble with traction this morning, and I didn’t see anyone go down, but I did tell the two ‘across the aisle’ Interceptor idiots that they were making a bad situation worse. They just stared at me. Carry on. The Brooklyn Bridge was in worse shape today than it was on any of my crossings last winter, and I used it throughout. I hope this ins’t a harbinger of what we’ll be getting from DOT this season. I’m anticipating black ice on the way home. Those boards are bad, but it looks like other bridges may actually be worse.

  • BridgeTroll

    Lame Troll Parody made a serious and not parody comment. Please respect his serious and not parody opinion.

  • Cold Shoaler

    How do you classify the bridge complaint with 311? My call (can’t find a category with the app/web site) was filed as a “non-toll bridge bike path complaint”. Operator said that he wasn’t supposed to take snow/ice condition complaints until 6(?) hours after the city’s snow removal operations were complete, but that his supervisor gave him the okay to take it anyway. The complaint will go to DOT and “they will respond within 10 days.”

    When asked which precinct I should contact regarding the hazardous placement of police vehicles, I was told it would be either the 5th (212-334-0711) or the 84th (718-875-6811) depending if its assigned to the Manhattan or Brooklyn side.

    It’s very discouraging after how well snow removal was handled here last year to encounter this today. Especially given how many plows were out on the roads last night.

  • cyclist

    I had a bad spill on the Williamsburg bridge this morning and I’m not looking forward to the ride back home tonight. Maybe I can get matching bruises on both sides of my body!

  • Interceptor III

    those patches were salted and mostly gone by this evening, thankfully.

  • Andrew

    As a non-cyclist, it simply never occurred to me that this sort of conversation could have taken place. If you had been in cars rather than on bicycles, the conversation would have gone something like this: “Beep. Beep. Beep! Beep! BEEP!” (along with the requisite hand motions).

    This has nothing to do with your content – it’s just a random aside.

  • Nathanael

    Apart from being appallingly dangerous, “drafting” doesn’t even work at low speeds, only at high speeds. Below about 40 mph, other factors are dominant in fuel efficiency, and below 30 mph, aerodynamics is practically irrelevant.

  • Nathanael

    There seems to be a routine problem with police cars illegally blocking bike paths. I suppose a start would be to take down the license plates, and then find out what precinct the cars are from (since the problem behavior seems to be concentrated in particular precincts).

  • ahwr

    Looking for ice?

  • Robert Wright

    The Manhattan Bridge was completely clear by the time I rode home from work around 10pm last night. This morning it was also fine, albeit there were the customary little ice puddles along the outside of the path. I saw no sign, however, that DOT had done anything yesterday other than wait for higher temperatures to melt the snow and ice. I’m still pretty irritated at yesterday’s performance.

  • Interceptor III

    The Brooklyn Bridge has evidence of salt being applied to the icy patches near the towers. But yes, supper irritating, as it seems every drivable surface in the city was clear for the morning rush, but these essential walking/biking connections to Manhattan were neglected.

  • Geoffrey Hollinden

    Ironically I can’t tell if u r serious or are teasing me…..:)

  • Dead Last

    An email closing a related 311 complaint about the Brooklyn Bridge included this, hopefully not prescient, language:

    Response time to all bridges and overpasses varies depending on *location and other priority* factors. All snow will be removed based on the *priority schedule*.

    Let’s not forget that, while oft forgotten by the motoring class, this infrastructure functions as an emergency route in the event of terrorist attack, blackout, etc.

    Vision Zero PRIORITIES!

  • donald stedanko

    what the hell is a ‘chicane’?

  • donald stedanko

    I support this idea, and I have a feeling TA might be amenable to providing space for those interested in meeting to draft an implementation strategy for a proposal such as this. Cops are never going to NOT LIE when it comes to admitting their fat, dumb and happy role in the vehicular-homicide-industrial-complex. Happy Holidays!


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