April 30, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has joined several local organizations in calling for separate pedestrian and cycling paths on the Queensboro Bridge after increasingly crowded conditions have led to serious injuries.
Van Bramer, along with Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, the Court Square Civic Association, and many community members, is asking the Department of Transportation to transform the bridge’s north outer roadway—the path currently shared by pedestrians and bikers—into a dedicated bike lane, while converting the south outer roadway—used only by cars—into an accessible pedestrian walkway.
“The Queensboro Bridge path is dangerously overcrowded and poses a safety hazard to the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists that rely on it to cross between Queens and Manhattan each day,” Van Bramer said. “There needs to be separate, exclusive lanes for pedestrians and cyclists on the Queensboro Bridge.”
The number of bicyclists using the bridge is on the rise, with 5,400 bikes crossing the bridge daily in 2017, according to DOT data. That number is up 35 percent from 2012.
The civic groups began to increase their call for the redesign earlier this year, stating that the current shared path is too narrow to allow for the amount of bike and foot traffic it now has.
Bike New York sent a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in March of this year, asking for the design changes to be made.
Earlier this week, it was reported by The City that a 49-year-old Jackson Heights man broke both his clavicle and elbow on the bridge after losing control of his bike while simultaneously trying to pass a pedestrian and avoid an oncoming cyclist.
The DOT says that the proposed design changes can not be implemented any time soon due to ongoing bridge work. The DOT said it needs the south outer roadway to be open for vehicle diversions.
The agency, however, hasn’t shunned the idea and will be reviewing it as a long term strategy.
“During construction, DOT will continue to look at the modifications that would be necessary to convert the South Outer Roadway to a pedestrian path and use the North Outer Roadway exclusively for cyclists,” the spokesperson said. “If we determine that it would be feasible, we could time the conversion to coincide with the completion of the construction work.”
Van Bramer responded to DOT’s position by calling for the city agency to speed up its timeline and implement the changes as quickly as possible.
“DOT cannot afford to wait until upcoming work on the bridge is completed to start planning to make this infrastructure more sustainable and accessible,” Van Bramer said. “More people are going to get seriously injured or worse. DOT must speed up repairs and start preparing for this necessary redesign immediately so that all people, regardless of their preferred transportation method, have the space they need to cross this vital pathway safely.”
Transportation Alternatives has set up a survey page to collect stories of cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured on the bridge.