Dec. 22, 2013 By Christian Murray
This time next year there will be a lot more room for cyclists and pedestrians to go across the Pulaski Bridge.
The days of the 8 ½ foot wide lane—shared by cyclists and pedestrians—are nearly over. With cyclist and pedestrian traffic up, the DOT has taken steps to double the space dedicated to pedestrians and cyclists.
The plan is to create a two-way protected bike lane spanning the bridge for cyclists. Meanwhile, the existing 8 ½ foot wide lane with be for the exclusive use of pedestrians.
“The plan is to implement it next year,” said Nick Carey, Project Manager at NYCDOT Bicycle Program, at the Community Board 2 Transportation Committee last week. The DOT plans to put the project out to bid as part of a large contract, which involves the rehabilitation of 10 bridges.
The plan is close to having received all the necessary support. So far, Community Board 1 in Brooklyn, Transportation Alternatives and local elected officials support it. Queens community Board 2, which is waiting to sign off on details such as how the bike lane will connect with the existing Queens bike network, expressed general support for the project earlier in the planning process.
The decision to add the lane comes after years of friction between cyclists and pedestrians.
In 2009, when the community sought a solution to the bike/pedestrians congestion, the DOT added markings and signage to help organize traffic and increase safety on the bridge.
“Since then, the pedestrian volumes have increased almost 50% and the bicycle volumes have more than doubled, which is huge growth particular in the bicycle mode,” Carey said at the committee meeting. “None of the East River bridges have seen the same growth during that same time period.”
While the new lane will reduce tension between cyclists and pedestrians, it will help commuters in a number of other ways, Carey said.
- Residents of Northern Greenpoint will find it easier to walk or bike over the bridge to the Vernon Ave./Jackson Ave. stop, which is one stop to grand central.
- It will help connect the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway with the Queens East River and North Shore Greenway.
- It’s a critical link that connects Brooklyn to the Queensboro Bridge
But the creation of the bike lane will bring some changes to Brooklyn-bound motorists.
The three lanes on the bridge going from Queens into Brooklyn will be cut to two, to make room for the dedicated bicycle lane.
Carey said that this should not be too disruptive for motorists, since DOT studies have found that two lanes can easily accommodate the flow of traffic. Furthermore, Brooklyn bound traffic feeds into McGuinness Blvd which has two lanes.
There would also be a change for Brooklyn-bound vehicles trying to get on the bridge via the slip ramp entering 49th Ave/Jackson Avenue in Long Island City.
Currently, vehicles can enter the ramp and flow freely into a third lane and carry on. However, with the proposal eliminating the third lane, these motorists would have to slow down and yield to traffic coming from 11th street and merge onto the remaining two lanes.
The DOT said that it was not straight forward coming up with a plan to put in a dedicated bike lane. The biggest physical constraint, Carey said, is that the bridge opens up to maritime traffic 500 times a year. He said the design had to take into consideration the weight of the barriers as well as how to attach them.
Click on link to see DOT plans