Oct. 14, 2016 By Hannah Wulkan
The Queensboro Bridge is getting overcrowded and dangerous for bicyclists, according to commuters and activists.
Transportation Alternatives, a bicycle and pedestrian advocacy group, launched a petition recently to bring a designated bike lane to the Queensboro Bridge, in the hopes of making the commute across the East River safer and more enjoyable for both cyclists and pedestrians.
The petition pushes for the city to turn the South Outer Roadway in to a designated bike lane, rather than a third car lane from Manhattan to Queens as it is now.
“Unlike some of the other East River bridges, this one has a shared path for bikes and pedestrians, which makes it tight during rush hour, and it’s an especially aggravated issue right now because of construction on the bridge,” said Jaime Moncayo, an activist with Transportation Alternatives. “We are really just trying to bring the Queensboro Bridge up to parity with other bridges across the East River.”
The argument in favor of the bike path is essentially to reduce the crowding of pedestrians and bikes on a single path, and the petition explains that the SOR used to be a bike path before it was converted in to a third lane, which is closed at night as it is.
“Overcrowding on the extremely narrow ped/bike path leads to dangerous pedestrian-bike conflicts and is entirely inconsistent with the official NYC goal to ‘accelerate the growth of safe cycling by providing a system of bicycle routes that traverse and connect all five boroughs,’” reads the petition. “Particularly unfair is that continued nighttime closures of the ped/bike path create a hardship for Queens residents who rely on walking or biking to get to and from night jobs in Manhattan, and vice versa.”
According to Department of Transportation statistics, the Queensboro Bridge has seen a 27 percent growth in bike traffic between 2010 and 2015, and has more than 4,500 bike commuters in an average 24-hour period.
The DOT has not yet officially responded to the petition, but according to a spokesperson, it studied the possibility of turning the SOR in to a bike lane and “found there are many challenges that comes with permanently closing the roadway to vehicles.”
The current issues with bike congestion are exacerbated by ongoing Con Edison construction on the bridge, which closes the pedestrian and bike path from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. each night. Though Con Edison provides shuttles across the bridge during those hours, many cyclists have complained of long delays, according to Moncayo, who said that he has spoken to people who experienced delays up to 45 minutes crossing the bridge.
When asked about the delays, a Con Edison representative said “We added an extra bus and truck after reviewing anticipated rider usage with the city. We will continue to assess shuttle needs in accordance with the NYCDOT permit stipulation.”
He added that the construction is supposed to be mostly completed by December.
The petition launched online earlier this month, though Moncayo said that advocates began collecting signatures on paper in April. So far the online petition has garnered 227 signatures towards the goal of 500.
The signatures will be delivered to Council Members Jimmy Van Bramer and Ben Kallos, as well as Queens Community Board 2 and Manhattan Community Board 6.
To view the petition, visit https://campaigns.transalt.org/petition/create-exclusive-bikelane-queensborough-bridge.