DOT: Brooklyn Bridge Bike Lane Won’t Be Truly Awesome Because the Mayor Sprung It On Us

Here it is, the Brooklyn side of your Brooklyn Bridge bike lane.
Here it is, the Brooklyn side of your Brooklyn Bridge bike lane.

Surprise!

DOT representatives told Community Board 2 in Brooklyn that the Brooklyn Bridge roadbed bike lane only takes one Manhattan-bound lane for a two-way eight-foot bike lane because the de Blasio administration sprung the plan on them.

“This bike lane is being implemented completely within our DOT in-house forces in compliance with what the mayor announced at the State of the City, that this was going to be done this year,” DOT Executive Director of Community Affairs Joannene Kidder told the board’s Transportation Committee on Thursday night. “We’re not able to do any capital projects on that kind of timeline. Since the mayor announced it in January, and this bike lane is expected to be open later this year, in order to meet that deadline, we’re doing the most straightforward approach to opening this bike lane. It doesn’t preclude [DOT] putting in what all feel is a better or more workable bike lane in the future. This is the best the bike lane that we could provide in 2021.”

Kidder was responding in part to continued criticism and questioning why the roadbed bike lane is a single two-way lane on the bridge, and DOT attendees at the meeting also explained why there isn’t a lane on the Brooklyn-bound roadbed. Paul Schwartz, the associate deputy commissioner of maintenance in the DOT’s Bridges Division, claimed that the agency could not build a bike lane on the south side of the bridge (the Brooklyn-bound lanes) because workers need the left lane on that side of the bridge to “do the maintenance along the steel, the cables, everything that goes into making this bridge function safety for everybody who’s using it.”

Additionally, Patrick Kennedy from the DOT’s bike unit further backed up Kidder’s assertion that the plan was the best that could be done on the fly.

“If you were to have [the bike lane] on the south side of the bridge, on outer lane on the Brooklyn-bound side, you’re now dealing with lanes that feed from highways,” Kennedy said. “The plan you see before you is what we can do and accomplish and install in 2021. This does not preclude us from having a different solution that would require some sort of capital buildout of additional ramps, more substantial changes to the design of the bridge, anything like that on a longer term. This is the lane we can create in 2021 to have operational in 2021.”

The DOT’s need to work quickly and cheaply could pay dividends in the end, said one cycling advocate.

“I really believe that once the lane is in it will be used by so many people that the need to make it better will be apparent immediately,” Doug Gordon tweeted.

The DOT also shared an image of the bike lane entrance from the Brooklyn side of the bridge. Cyclists will enter the bike lane on the same plane they enter the current shared bike/pedestrian path, but the bike lane itself will be situated between one vehicle lane and the existing pedestrian promenade. Drivers will no longer be permitted to make a right turn from Tillary Street on to the bridge, though local access to Adams Street will still be allowed.

Per the agency’s traffic modeling, the DOT predicted that peak hour traffic volumes of cars going over the Brooklyn Bridge will fall by around 700 to 800 vehicles every morning after the bike lane goes in, which is about a 20-percent drop in traffic. Additionally, the DOT said it believed that 10 percent of the daily Manhattan-bound traffic would divert to the Manhattan Bridge.

The DOT predictions on where traffic will increase and decrease in response to the Brooklyn Bridge roadbed bike lane.
The DOT predictions on where traffic will increase and decrease in response to the Brooklyn Bridge roadbed bike lane.

Thursday’s presentation was the second one the de Blasio DOT has given to a community board since the bike lanes were announced in the mayor’s State of the City in January. At the presentation to Manhattan Community Board 1’s Transportation Committee, DOT reps announced that the bike lane wouldn’t be implemented until this fall, and that the transportation agency was planning on having cyclists come off the bridge at Centre Street. Additionally, the agency said it was designing a series of protected bike lanes for the lower Manhattan area around City Hall, in order to give cyclists coming off and getting on to the Brooklyn Bridge a safer path.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG