Highlights From NYC DOT’s Plan for Safer Walking and Biking Across the Harlem River

A two-way bikeway segment on the Bronx side of the Willis Avenue Bridge would create a safer transition to the local street network. Image: DOT
A two-way bikeway segment on the Bronx side of the Willis Avenue Bridge would create a safer transition to the local street network. Image: DOT

Today DOT released its long-awaited blueprint for safer walking and biking conditions across the Harlem River bridges.

These 13 crossings should function as convenient connections between neighborhood street networks, where people feel comfortable getting around by walking or biking. Instead they’re overbuilt for cars, like small highway segments disrupting the local street grid.

Making the bridges function well for walking and biking could have the same transformative effect for neighborhoods in northern Manhattan and the South Bronx as East River bridge access improvements have had for northern Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, anchoring a new wave of safer street designs linking up with the bridges.

Local organizing for safer Harlem River bridge access began with a Transportation Alternatives campaign in 2014, and DOT started talking to local residents about improving safety on and around the bridges the next year. DOT released a preliminary plan for better bridge access in 2016 and has implemented a few projects on surface streets that connect to the bridges. (This redesign of 138th Street just wrapped up yesterday.)

Streetsblog’s David Meyer will have a post on DOT’s announcement later today. In the meantime, you can look over the DOT report [PDF], which lays out a series of bike and pedestrian fixes for several Harlem River bridges and the streets that feed into them. Below is a brief look at some of the report’s best visuals for enhanced bridge access.

While this plan is very encouraging, there’s a lot of advocacy and oversight still to come. Timetables are missing for most of the projects, the city will need to be pressed to make the best possible design choices, and the momentum from the bridge improvements will have to carry over to more surface streets to create a truly safe network for biking and walking.

Image: NYC DOT
Image: NYC DOT

Approaching the Broadway Bridge from Manhattan, DOT is proposing a short segment of parking-protected bike lanes, feeding into buffered bike lanes on the bridge itself, which will be included in an upcoming bridge replacement. DOT expects the Broadway Bridge replacement to wrap up in 2020.


A capital project on the Macombs Dam Bridge will widen the north sidewalk so it can function as a shared path. At 11 feet wide, it would still be pretty narrow to handle large numbers of people biking and walking.


On the dangerous approach to the Madison Avenue Bridge from Manhattan, where cyclists currently have to mix it up with motor vehicles moving on 15-foot-wide lanes, DOT is proposing a capital project to add a two-way bike lane.

  • On the bottom image, why would you keep 13 foot lanes? Why not 12 and make the bike path 12?

  • BrandonWC

    What’s with all the wasted space in the after version of the Madison Ave Bridge? 13′ car lanes? 11′ for channelization? Two-way traffic going the speed limit doesn’t need physical separation.

  • AnoNYC

    Still running the proposed Willis Avenue protected lane only to E 140th Street (9A). Ugh. Run it to the Hub at E 147th St at least! Such a random place to drop people coming off the bridge. The appendix has this scheduled for completion in 2017.

    And the Third Ave Bridge plan: Please use Willis Ave Bridge.

    An at grade crossing and stop light at the base on the Manhattan side would be so much better than the bridge with the steps. At the minimum they should ramp that pedestrian bridge.

    Oh and how about a reliable connection through Randall’s Island when coming from/to the Bronx (iv). Nothing like trekking out there to reach Manhattan and Frieze Art fair or a festival has the waterfront path closed. And that waterfront area where they throw the events needs a repave badly.

  • Brad Aaron

    Painted lanes on the B’way Bridge and three whole blocks of protected Broadway lanes to hook up with … What? The painted lanes DOT erased on 218 and Seaman Avenue?

    After all this time, that’s the plan.

    If CB 12 approves, that is.

  • J

    Yeah, some good stuff in there, but a lot of mediocrity. When it’s a choice between decent bike access and car congestion, bikes still lose every time. For example, the bike plan for the Third Ave bridge is:

    “Direct cyclists to preferred Willis Ave Bridge route with wayfinding signage.”

  • J

    Anyone know how this is different from the 2016 plan? Seems remarkably similar on first glance.

  • It is very similar. Some projects in that plan aren’t in this one. Some aspects of this one are better than that one (one side of the Broadway Bridge was sharrows in the old one).

    In general DOT must feel comfortable calling this a final plan for public consumption, while the old one was a draft plan not ready for prime time. But there’s still a lot left to decide and there will have to be pressure on the city to improve what’s in the plan released today.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    The University Heights bridge should at least get shared use signs to remove the dismount ticket trap. Ideally they’d also get rid of the slip lane entrance to enter the southbound Major Deegan from the bridge; that looks like hell to cross on foot or bike.

  • Elizabeth F

    The most critical section for the Broadway Bridge is 218 St. to 225 St. At that point, bikes heading north can cut west to Kingsbridge Ave or east to Bailey Ave. I routinely take 225 East to Bailey Ave, then Bailey all the way to the park. While Bailey isn’t perfect, it is relatively low traffic (by NYC standards), and MUCH easier/safer to navigate than Broadway. It’s also wquick.

  • Elizabeth F

    A car wash currently uses curb space / blocks traffic on the northbound approach to the Broadway bridge. Sometimes cars are parked around the block waiting for the wash, blocking the street going both in and out. If the pictured plan is implemented, what is DOT’s plan to ensure the bike lane isn’t perennially blocked? And if they enforce the bike lane, how will the car wash stay in business?

    Could we do a 2-way protected bike lane on the west side of Broadway instead?

  • Jake G.

    Car wash on east side of Bway south side of bway bridge creates serious traffic clog. I love the idea of a bike lane but won’t that add to the congestion? Car wash is the prob. First: 220th needs to change to one way going east instead of two way. And 229th needs to be going one way west. Just like all other cross streets in Manhattan! And would the bridge be entirely closed during all this? That would cause a riot.

  • DoctorMemory

    Very belatedly, I can confirm that entire intersection is a deathtrap. Little/no wayfinding tells you that only the south side of the bridge is pedestrian-accessible, and in fact if you approach on the north side you’ll find yourself following what looks like a functional sidewalk that leads you to a ramp down to Exterior Street, which is essentially a MTA/NYPD parking lot across from the railbed. Meanwhile the crosswalk light for the walk across Fordham has been broken for months. The slip lane into the Deegan is exactly as awful to walk through as you’d expect.

    The entire intersection was clearly designed with zero expectation that anyone would be mad enough to walk or cycle across it: presumably the expectation was that most foot traffic would be from the University Heights Metro North station (which connects directly to the footpath via a stairwell) into Inwood and that (as with most of the Hudson/Harlem line stations in the Bronx) that no Bronx resident would actually use it.


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