Cyclists Press DOT for Night-Time Access to Queensboro Bridge

The Queensboro Bridge biking and walking path could be closed for construction on weeknights for months, cutting off access at times when many people still use it. Members of Transportation Alternatives’ Queens Committee have a solution: Allow cyclists and pedestrians to use the bridge’s south outer roadway, which is closed to car traffic after 9 p.m.

Ongoing infrastructure work by ConEd has shuttered the Queensboro Bridge bike-pedestrian path every weeknight from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. since March 28. The construction is expected to continue “for several months,” according to public notices posted by DOT. ConEd has accommodated cyclists and pedestrians by providing a shuttle bus to transport people and bikes across the East River every 15 minutes.

Image: DOT
ConEd is providing a shuttle bus service for people crossing the Queensboro Bridge after 10 p.m., but the wait times and circuitous route are frustrating bike commuters who depend on the bridge to get to and from work. Image: DOT

TA volunteers were out on the bridge last night speaking to cyclists taking the shuttle service, the vast majority of whom were heading to or from late-night jobs. They were tired and frustrated. “It’s of course overwhelmingly working cyclists crossing the bridge at night,” said TA Queens member Angela Stach.

The shuttle service takes a circuitous route on both sides of the bridge. Add that extra travel time to the wait time, and it adds up to significantly longer night-time commutes.

Opening up the unused south outer roadway for biking would not only save cyclists time but also save ConEdison the expense of operating the shuttle, says TA member Steve Scofield. “They’re really making an effort, but it’s costing them a fortune,” he said. Scofield has been in touch with the ConEd project manager, who is currently negotiating with DOT about opening the roadway.

DOT has not replied to Streetsblog’s inquiry on the subject, but Scofield said that a resolution could be possible in the next few weeks.

  • Jeff

    I had no idea the south outer roadway was closed overnight. The approaches are both perfectly bike-friendly by NYC standards. Anything preventing cyclists from just using it anyway?

  • rogue

    Another reminder of our status as 2nd class citizen. Thanks DOT

  • Steve Scofield

    There are barriers,but apparently cyclists are already taking matters into their own hands, circumventing the barriers and using the SOR.

  • Paul G.

    This is a really good idea. (And frankly, that roadway should be converted to sole pedestrian access with the north roadway given over to bikes, as is done on the Manhattan Bridge). However, they’d need to post something to prevent cars from taking it anyway. I’ve seen insane drivers swerve around those cones at 59th and 1st to take the roadway after it’s closed.

    Hell, they need to enforce the hell out of that disastrous intersection if they won’t do a full redesign–there are constantly drivers going the wrong way on 59th after the bridge entrance, drivers going into the jersey-barriered bike lane on 1st Ave, you name it, I’ve seen it.

  • Brian Howald

    There was a crash several years ago that killed a police officer from the 108th Precinct. Also, a business at the base of the lane kept on getting hit by cars flying off the bridge.

    Several people, including the commanding officer of the 108th Pct. at the time (Captain, now Deputy Inspector, Brian Hennessy), argued that the lane should be closed when traffic volumes are insufficient for it to be open.

    The city might get sued if cyclists come off the bridge and then get hit by traffic at the road merges. Nothing a few jersey barriers strategically placed couldn’t handle.

  • Jules1

    Didn’t the south outer roadway used to be the official bike route? Didn’t anything physically change since then?

  • AnoNYC

    Great potential solution.

  • Philip Neumann

    I believe it was – there’s a TA magazine article from the 1970s or 80s pertaining to this, if my limited memory serves. And honestly, motorists have 4 lanes going Manhattan-bound (upper and lower roadways), and 5 going Queens-bound during daylight hours (upper-, lower-, & south-outer roadways)

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Without access to the north outer roadway, cyclists have to either wait for a circuitous shuttle bus or find another way over the bridge. Photo: Angela Stach

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