NYPD Has Found Yet Another Way to Completely Screw Up the Brooklyn Bridge Footpath

Not only was the center stripe faded, but pedestrian and biker silhouettes had faded from each side of the path. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Not only was the center stripe faded, but pedestrian and biker silhouettes had faded from each side of the path. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

This chicane is a real pain.

The NYPD has created a new headache for cyclists and pedestrians along the overcrowded Brooklyn Bridge footpath, deploying police vehicles in an offset pattern that forces cyclists into the path of pedestrians and pedestrians into the path of cyclists — worsening the already-dangerous conditions on a route that is often called “The Times Square of the Sky.”

Here's how NYPD vehicles were deployed before. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Here’s how NYPD vehicles were deployed before. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

Typically, chicanes are deployed as a way of slowing down drivers, but cycling speeds on the Brooklyn Bridge are far lower than along other bike paths, owing to the congestion. The city says it can’t even begin planning a path-winding project [PDF] until a cable inspection is completed next year. (We asked the NYPD, DOT and City Hall to explain the new strategy, but none got back to us before initial publication of this story. Later, NYPD spokeswoman Sergeant Jessica McRorie sent us a terse email: “There have been no recent changes to enforcement on the Brooklyn Bridge,” she said.)

Cycling advocates said it’s just the latest epic fail by the NYPD, which has already installed additional rows of bollards and continually stations officers in vehicles parked directly on the wood footpath — officers who spend a lot of their time sitting in said vehicles on their phones.

These vendors could easily be removed. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
These vendors could easily be removed. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

“There’s nothing good to say about the city’s management of the Brooklyn Bridge promenade,” said Jon Orcutt, spokesman for Bike NY and a former city official. “From DOT slow-walking its own plan to expand the path to police aggravating intense crowding, it’s basically abdication.”

The latest effort to obstruct pedestrians and cyclists follows years of confusion and dismay from the bridge’s non-car users about why no one seems able or willing to fix the footpath, where hundreds of thousands of tourists compete with New York commuters on feet and wheels for space on a pathway that is just 10-feet wide at several narrow pinchpoints.

Cyclists mostly avoid the fabled span because of the crowds, but sometimes the bridge, which links DUMBO and Brooklyn Heights to Manhattan’s civic core, is the shortest distance between two key points. Last month, Streetsblog collected all the anecdotes into a simple list of recommendations that could be undertaken in a single afternoon — such low-hanging fruit as re-painting all the faded bike and pedestrian icons to keep users aware of their space, re-deploying the NYPD vehicles from the narrowest stretches of the path, removing excessive security barriers that block the path and cause unsafe conditions and, no less important, evicting scores of illegal vendors who lined the pathway.

None of those suggestions has been taken. In fact, this week’s NYPD strategy has only lengthened the list.

The pinchpoint.
The pinchpoint.
  • Larry Littlefield

    My strategy — use the Brooklyn to bike in during the morning to get to work. It’s just too perfect for my destination and enjoyable compared with my former ride all the way up to Midtown. I save 20-plus minutes.

    But detour to the Manhattan for the way home. It adds 10-plus minutes and a lot of vertical climb, compared with the Brooklyn, but still beats the longer ride from Midtown. The Park Row bike path definitely helps.

  • Times Square is an apt comparison. Walking the BB is like, one of THE Things To Do in NYC. Anytime I pass by I marvel at the sheer mass, the thick streams of people moseying back and forth. They love it. I get it, I guess. It’s free, it’s panoramic, and there’s stuff to do in DUMBO now. But I feel bad for anyone whose commute relies on it. I’ve biked across exactly once.

  • JarekFA

    I take the Brooklyn Bridge nearly daily. I started working in Hudson Yards a couple months ago after 7+ years in FiDi. I want to be able to take the Manhattan Bridge more regularly because the experience is 100x better than on the Brooklyn Bridge but every time I do so it (i) adds a good 6 to 8 minutes to my trip and (ii) requires me to take a longer and less safe route to get to/from the west side.
    Getting to the hudson river greenway from the Brooklyn Bridge is annoying but it isn’t particularly unsafe. Just a lot of lights and traffic but it’s not a long distance. But getting to the greenway from the Manhattan Bridge is a lot more of a pain in the ass. You’ve got to cut through SoHo, which takes a long time and doesn’t actually directly connect to the greenway. Chrystie is unpleasant (especially the intersections). So, I take the Brooklyn Bridge

    Biggest peeves about the Brooklyn Bridge is just how utterly useless the NYPD are. They park in the choke points, they conduct absolutely no crowd control and then you have these giant bollards in the pinch points. And they do nothing to move the vendors from the choke points either. It’s a clusterfuck. However, even when crowded, i’ll still take it because just going slow and being patient (and I stress patient) it’ll save me a lot of time over the Manhattan Bridge and a lot of aggravation in getting to the Manhattan Bridge.

    Oh, and in the mornings, the traffic back-ups for cars is significantly worse on the Brooklyn bound side then on the Manhattan bound side. I don’t know why that is. But you’ll see super long back-ups to access the BQE from the Brooklyn Bridge in the morning whereas the Manhattan bound approach typically moves fast.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If you want to take the Manhattan Bridge home, as I do, I recommend exiting the greenway and hopping over the Bleecker, which curves from south to east across Manhattan.

    To get to Second Avenue/Christie you can either hop half a block up on the Bowery to E 2nd, or take the challenge of squeezing down Mott Street from Bleecker — more interesting, but sometimes backed up.

    I recommend Saigon Vietnamese Sandwich Deli on Broome right off Mott to grab a quick sandwich on the way home.

    I’ve tried the Brooklyn Bridge a couple of times in the drizzle going home, and it was still packed. Come summer it will be impassable after noon, no matter what the NYPD does.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    hudson yards? why don’t you just take manhattan bridge, to 2nd avenue, to rivington, to prince, to 13th, and then ride up 8th avenue. would be hella faster.

  • ThomasDaBombas

    I was thinking the same thing. This is way easier, faster, and safer.

  • zach

    There is a ton of extra space there. It’s over the cars. They can widen the pedestrian path by 20 feet on either side. Cover those cross-beams with wood.

    The BB is a direct line home for me, and I use it once a year, and then remember why I go out of my way to the Manhattan.

  • JarekFA

    You skipped how I get to 13th street from Prince. Also, there isn’t a bike lane on 6th ave from where Prince hits it. And there’s a lot of car traffic on this stretch of 6th ave and while I can “vehicular cyclist” my way until 13th st (when the crosstown bike lane begins), I’d probably turn off at Greenwich Ave (which happens to be where the 6th ave bike lane begins but Greenwich is quicker as it is the hypotenuse and the direct way to 8th ave and 13th st). But I don’t like to ride on that non-bike lane portion of 6th ave because of the congestion and cars aggressive behavior (lots of lanes, lots of lights, lots of lane shifting by drivers as they jockey for the best position to be stopped at the red light), so instead of taking 6th ave at Prince, I’d continue to Hudson and Prince (or I’d maybe take 6th until Houston since it’s short and then Bedford to Hudson).

    But if I’m at Hudson and Prince, that means I’m super close to the greenway. And this is the issue I can’t fix — by the time I get from Hudson and Prince to the Greenway, it ALWAYS is longer then it’d take to get to the same point then via Chambers from the BK Bridge and then up the Greenway. The Manhattan Bridge gets me further N, but it’s so much further East that the N/S time savings on the Greenway more than compensates for that N/S “headstart” the Manhattan Bridge gives me. While also, the time it takes me to get to the Greenway from Chambers is much quicker than the longer distance and more lights way going through SoHo takes.

    The one benefit of a now longer commute is that I can try a lot of variations (I take Bleeker down, take 19th across, Bowery to Houston etc . . . ) and there’s no way around the fact that it consistently takes me 5-7 minuntes longers via the Manhattan Bridge over the BK Bridge. Getting from 9th ave to 2nd ave just takes longer than getting from HRG to City Hall Park and then yah, the HRG is a hell of a lot more pleasant than taking 9th ave down or 2nd ave. Oh Chrystie and Houston and Chrystie and Delancey are also some of the worst bike intersections involving a so-called protected bike lane in the whole city.

  • Altered Beast ✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ

    prince to lafayette to 13th to 8th avenue. don’t take 6th avenue. there is a new bike lane on 13th because of the L train. or you could ride up lafayette to 17th street union square and then go all the way to 10th avenue which you said you liked. The christie street intersectiion is all about timing. you just look to the right or left before, see how many cars in the lane. if you are on the south side you go first, and if you are coming home you let them go first and go after. I actually have a shortcut going through the construction on this one, or you can go on forsyth which is a super shortcut that no one knows.

  • JarekFA
  • Val Prism

    The cops aren’t there for crowd control or traffic control. They are there to make sure no one steals the magic cloth again.

  • KeNYC2030

    As I’ve said before, my understanding is that the NYPD started stationing cops there after people climbed one of the bridge’s towers and raised a flag (an anarchist flag, I think). Just on the off-chance that someone will try that again in the next half-century, the NYPD is inconveniencing and endangering thousands each day — as if the cops would even look up from their phones long enough to notice someone climbing up anyway.

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