Queens Pol Demands More Space for Cyclists and Peds on Queensboro Bridge

People biking and walking in both directions must compete for the same narrow space on the Queensboro Bridge. Photo: Clarence Eckerson
People biking and walking in both directions must compete for the same narrow space on the Queensboro Bridge. Photo: Clarence Eckerson

The city must give cyclists and pedestrians their own pathways on the cramped Queensboro Bridge, Queens Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer said on Monday — one day before he plans to hold a rally to protest dangerous overcrowding on the span’s shared bike and walking route.

The Sunnyside pol, who is running for Queens Borough President, will join transportation and bike advocates, who have long been calling for the city to create dedicated pathways on the East River crossing instead of forcing them to share one narrow lane.

“We’re calling on DOT to keep all New Yorkers safe [and] create a dedicated and protected bike pathway on the Queensboro Bridge,” said Van Bramer. 

Thousands of cyclists cross the Queensboro Bridge daily — the combined number of people walking and biking across even outnumbered cars —and that number is still only climbing.

The city can’t wait to separate bikers from those who cross the bridge by foot — it’s a safety hazard, Van Bramer said. 

“Right now the existing bike pedestrian pathway is overcrowded and dangerous and it is only getting more and more crowded as more people bike to work and more and more people are walking over the bridge as well,” he said.

Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, seen here at a vigil for a dead cyclist earlier this year, says the DOT could make the Queensboro Bridge safer with more space for cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, seen here at a vigil for a dead cyclist earlier this year, says the DOT could make the Queensboro Bridge safer with more space for cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

People have already gotten seriously hurt on the bridge because there’s just not enough space for everyone. Cyclist Josh Arfield said he recently broke his elbow and clavicle, and suffered a concussion as he swerved to avoid a pedestrian and crashing into another biker head on.

“The pedestrian suddenly and unexpectedly moved to the left and raised her left arm,” said Arfield. “As is well known, there is not enough room for pedestrians and two-way bike traffic on that path.”

Cyclists want the Department of Transportation to convert the bridge’s outermost eastbound car lane — also known as the south outer roadway — into a pedestrian path so that bicyclists can take full use of the north outer roadway. But DOT says it can’t consider any changes until it replaces the upper deck of the bridge next year.

“We want to first get through our project. Obviously we’re doing planning on that, thinking as soon as that project is done what we can do to make the bridge bike friendly,” DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg told Streetsblog.

Van Bramer said that not only is there more than enough room drivers — but the de Blasio administration needs to show that it’s serious about reducing carbon emissions. 

“It’s not good enough to wait.” he said. “If we care about the environment, if you say you are for the Green New Deal … then you got to get away from all of this talk about protecting space for cars and talk more about creating more space for cyclists and pedestrians.”

  • AMH

    Delays, delays. We can’t afford to wait any longer when lives and limbs are at stake.

  • AstoriaBlowin

    The logic of the DOT shows how captured they still are by LOS, if there are forced car lane reductions because of work on the upper deck, then it’s impossible to consider taking away a little more space voluntarily. What is the lane capacity of the south outer roadway per hour? How much of a difference can that possibly make in the course of a day to car travel times?

  • Those people walking across need to get on a bike IMO. No I am not talking about the disabled or the elderly or the infirm, and yet I understand those people exist. OK?? It’s just an offhand opinion, alright? Personally I don’t know if I could complete two trips walking across that dumb bridge before getting so jealous of the wheeled people that I joined them. Walking as transportation is alright but biking is way better IMO. It’s easier and faster. Mechanical advantage FTW.

  • Jeff

    It sounds like the plan is indeed to give the South Outer Roadway to pedestrians after the construction wraps. As long as the construction timeline is measured in months and not years, this really seems like one of those “Pick your battles” kind of situations.

  • The city needs to decide whether having a space is doable for cyclist or not. If yes, then they have to work on safety and expanding spaces. There are many deaths and injuries because of this issue. Especially drivers going to the Newark airport, JFK or LaGuardia are in rush and careless time to time.

  • Maggie

    This is a key issue that Gale Brewer and Melinda Katz should be out in front pushing for, asap, and it shouldn’t be close. Baby boomer politicians who are serious about 1) a livable city for the car-free majority of the electorate, 2) the ticking clock for avoiding catastrophic climate change, 3) not getting Crowley’ed in a primary by voters who DO care about the issue, and 4) the expensive cost of climate resilience infrastructure that NYC locals will face anyway; urgently need to do a better job on getting low-hanging fruit like QBB done in a timely way.

    Katz and Brewer’s silence to date speaks volumes about how they see climate risk.

  • Simon Phearson

    While I absolutely agree that some separation of cyclists and pedestrians over the QB bridge would benefit both, I don’t know how they’ll make the south outer roadway attractive to pedestrians, and I certainly don’t expect the currently-staffed NYCDOT to figure it out. It seems like the likely outcome of a repurposing of the bridge’s outer roadways will be a worse version of the mode-mixing you see on the “cyclists only” side of the WB bridge.

  • jeremy

    South outer roadway should be for cyclists

  • Philip Neumann

    As far as views go, the SORW offers a better, less obstructed view of lower Manhattan. As for the configuration of the Manhattan-side entrances/ramps, neither is ideal for pedestrians or cyclists, but, with the current conditions on E 59th Street and E 60th Street, it makes more sense to keep cyclists on the North roadway

  • Simon Phearson

    Breaking the link with the Skillman/Queens Boulevard lanes on the Queens side, requiring cyclists to stop two/three times to go straight? Yeah, that’s not much better.

  • Simon Phearson

    I don’t think there’s any perfect solution. I tend to agree that cyclists should stick to the north, because we already have a lot of bike infrastructure keyed to it. But getting pedestrians to use the south will be a challenge.

  • Claude François Norvez

    I agree the Williamsburg Bridge is a mess. I never see cyclists on the pedestrian path (South side) but i always see pedestrians on the cyclists path (North) NYPD never tickets these people. For the longest time there was a police scooter stationed at the base of the bike path in Williamsburg. They could have prevented westbound pedestrians from entering the bike lane and ticked eastbound pedestrians when they exited. I once asked one of the officers why this isn’t happing. He said it wasnt important enough to prevent the pedestrians from illegally using the bike path.

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m not in favor of police enforcement of the cyclist-only side on the WB path. I just don’t think that’s an appropriate tool. I think it’s a design problem; pedestrians have to walk a couple blocks out of their way to reach “their” entrance, and it’s actually a hard one to spot if you’re not looking for it.

    I just wish the pedestrians would be more conscientious. If you’re Brooklyn-bound, you have really no excuse to be on the cyclist side.

    A similar issue would arise for pedestrians on the QB bridge – the south outer roadway comes down in a very different spot than the north outer roadway does.

  • Claude François Norvez

    Effective law enforcement is th key. Unfortunately NYPD doesn’t feel it’s worth while enforcing this. They don’t on the Williamsburg Bridge

  • Claude François Norvez

    Why the south for cyclist? The infrastructure is already set up on the north side

  • Emmily_Litella

    Good point. The bridge is over 7000′ feet long with no resting area. Wait till the GD scooters show up (which I love).

  • Knut Torkelson

    There’s also a single sign that’s usually covered up with stickers, and isn’t very clear on where the ped entrance is. DOT could do a lot more with signage- big, clear, and marked in more than one place with simple directions to the ped entrance.

  • muffinstumps

    It makes no sense to me that this hasn’t been done already. I’ve been saying this for years! I ride over that bridge almost daily (weekdays) and consistently see few cars on the south outer roadway, yet the cyclists and runners and pedestrians are all sharing a tiny amount of space with conflicts. There is no reason we shouldnt have one side for wheeled transport and one side for foot traffic. The south side is already closed 9 hours a day because drivers are a menace! Just give us the space already!

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