Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridge car lanes to become bike lanes

by SpeedLux
Queensboro Bridge

New York City prepares to prohibit cars from part of two major East River bridges and reserve them for cyclists. Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday revealed a proposal to transform the innermost lane of the Brooklyn Bridge into a two-way protected bike lane and modify the north outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge into a two-way bike-only lane.

The “Bridges for the People” plan was declared as part of the mayor’s final State of the City address, “A Recovery for All of Us.”

During the taped address, de Blasio said the city is “moving away from cars and leaving the era of the automobile behind.” He added: “We’ll take our bridges, our iconic bridges that we see in beautiful symbols of the city but unfortunately have been part of the problem, and we’ll turn them into part of the solution.”

According to the proposal, a two-way designated bike lane will take the place of the innermost car lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge and the existing shared elevated promenade will be dedicated to pedestrians. On the Queensboro Bridge, the construction will start this year to convert the north outer car lane into a two-way bike-only lane and turn the south outer roadway into a two-way pedestrian-only lane, de Blasio said.

A rendering of the proposal indicates an eight-foot-wide bike with a two-foot protective barrier separating cyclists from the 10-foot car lane.

Advocates and some officials have been pushing for the city to address the concerns about the dangerous congestion issue of the Brooklyn Bridge, which saw foot traffic on its promenade rise on weekends by 275 percent and bike traffic grow by over 100 percent between 2008 and 2015. Together with that, the coronavirus pandemic has led to an increase in bicycle ridership as New Yorkers choose bikes over mass transit, with 55 percent more bikers crossing East River bridges in November 2020 compared to November 2019, according to Comptroller Scott Stringer’s office.

A variety of proposals have been introduced over the years to repair the “Times Square in the Sky” and last year City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and the Van Alen Institute introduced a design competition seeking creative improvements to the 138-year-old structure’s walkway. In September, Transportation Alternatives launched the Bridges 4 People campaign that called on the city to move two car lanes on Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg Bridges into safe space for cyclists.

“Converting car lanes into bike lanes on two of our most important bridges is a giant leap forward for New York City,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement.

“After decades of advocacy by Transportation Alternatives and thousands of our grassroots activists, we are thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has taken up our Bridges 4 People campaign with his Bridges for the People plan. We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration on this vital new project and other efforts to improve infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on bridges and streets across the five boroughs,” Harris added.

The mayor also declared that the city would install five new “Bike Boulevards,” streets designed to give bikers priority and slow vehicles, and make his “Open Streets” initiative permanent and even broaden the program to more streets citywide. The mayor also proposed building new public spaces, such as pedestrian plazas, new Open Streets, and Greenmarkets, in 30 neighborhoods hit hardest by COVID-19.

Apart from this, de Blasio’s addressal also included statements on vaccinating five million New Yorkers by June, forming a permanent racial inclusion and equity task force, recovering the job losses that emerged from the pandemic, urging for a billionaires’ tax, revitalizing small businesses, ending homelessness, closing the COVID-19 achievement gap for students, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and cars, and some other proposals.

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