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Cyclists, Delivery Workers Fume After City Fails to Clear Icy Bridge Paths

Bike commuters and delivery workers faced treacherous, unplowed pathways on the four East River bridges long after it stopped snowing.

4:30 PM EST on January 17, 2024

Julianne Cuba |

The city failed to clear the bridges of snow and ice more than 24 hours after it snowed.

Now, this is cold.

More than 24 hours after a mere 1.5 inches of snow fell in New York City, cyclists were still dealing with treacherous, unplowed pathways on the four East River bridges. And commuters and delivery workers who depend on two wheels to get around lamented the city’s lackadaisical approach to ensuring their safety.

“It seems like something that could be done, but I just wonder if the city really cares or it just seems like one of those things where the city caters to drivers,” Dre Darden, who delivers medication for Capsule, said at the Manhattan end of the slick Williamsburg bridge on Wednesday, as the temperature hovered around 20 degrees, but the snow had long since ended.

It's not as if New Yorkers don't want to ride just because it's cold out. According to city data, more than 372,000 cyclists traversed the four East River spans in January, 2023. And despite the below-freezing temperatures and snow on Tuesday, more than 28,000 people took out a Citi Bike, according to the Lyft-owned company; and another 23,000 did on frigid Wednesday as of 3 p.m. — that's on top of the more than 65,000 delivery workers in the five boroughs who brave its roads in rain and snow, and smoke.

The Queensboro Bridge path — which is shared by cyclists and pedestrians in both directions — was very icy on the morning after the storm.Photo: Sofia Barandiaran

The Department of Sanitation, which is responsible for snow removal on city streets, said last month that clearing car lanes would no longer take priority over clearing bike lanes — promising to clear bike paths simultaneously with other roads, Streetsblog reported.

But New York’s Strongest aren't responsible for clearing city-run bridges — that job belongs to the Department of Transportation, which has come under fire in recent months for repeatedly capitulating to the needs of car owners and other powerful private interest groups at the expense of more vulnerable road users, like pedestrians and cyclists.

And clearing the bridges would go a long way for those who rely on them to traverse the city and make a living, said Mike Chalco, who lives in the Bronx and was making deliveries for Uber Eats. 

“Anything with metal and ice, you're guaranteed to slip. It would make a big difference in the delivery worker community,” said Chalco at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge, where cyclists forged their own narrow pathway, not more than a few inches wide, in the unpaved snow.

Cyclists create their own pathway clear of ice and snow at the foot of the Williamsburg Bridge in Manhattan. Photo: Julianne Cuba

And biking conditions on the city’s other pathways — like the Queensboro Bridge — were just as deplorable, others fumed on social media

A spokesperson for the DOT said crews had been “clearing the bike and pedestrian paths on the city’s East River bridges beginning yesterday and into the overnight hours,” and were back out on Wednesday “continuing that work to keep these spaces clear for cyclists and pedestrians.”

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