Expand Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian and Bike Paths?

Your correspondent occasionally enjoys a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, but as the narrow pedestrian and bike paths, separated only by a thick painted white line, have become increasingly crowded, enjoyment has become scarce. I’ll quickly admit this is more the fault of pedestrians than of cyclists. Walking three or even four abreast, or stopping to pose photos, causes other pedestrians to have to glance nervously ahead and over their shoulders before gingerly stepping over the white line to clear the obstruction. Even the precautionary look sometimes fails to spot a helmeted, goggled, and Spandex clad speed demon taking fullest advantage of a downward slope and bellowing “Bike lane! Bike Lane!” as one struggles to get back on one’s rightful side.

Today’s New York Times reports that the New York City Department of Transportation has commissioned a study to determine if it is feasible to expand the pedestrian and bike paths. One possibility, shown in the Times piece, would be to build two new paths on top of the girders that now flank the existing path and extend over the automobile roads. The illustration shows these as new pedestrian paths, with bikes having all of the old path below. I would reverse this, and make the new paths for bikes, one eastbound and one westbound. The old path would be exclusively for pedestrians. It would still be crowded with tourists on sunny days, but I think we could handle it. I’m actually a big fan of bike riding, despite having never learned to ride. I’d like to see lots more people commuting by bike instead of by car.

In any event, the Times quotes Polly Trottenberg, the city’s Commissioner of Transportation, as saying the study is “only a first step” and that any attempt to change anything on the 133 year old Brooklyn Bridge “tends to be costly and complicated.”

Photo: C. Scales for BHB

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  • BicycleRider

    How about if the Brooklyn Bridge was pedestrian only and the Manhattan Bridge was bicycle only?

    Wouldn’t be easier solution?
    I usually ride my bike over the Manhattan Bridge to avoid pedestrians anyway.

  • Jorale-man

    I’d vote (if such a vote was possible) to close one of the car lanes and give it to bikes, leaving the promenade for pedestrians. Cars would still dominate the bridge with 5 lanes but this would help reduce the fumes and noise (though the honking wouldn’t go away).

    Having bikes and pedestrians on separate levels would not only allow each to more easily coexist but send a message that cars shouldn’t always dominate the city in the way that they do.

  • MaryT

    I like this. Akin to the new street design approaches (see the Bowery – good job!). I’d love to feel it’s safe to walk the bridge again. Is it structurally feasible to widen the walk/bike ways? And – the tourists, the tourists.. what to do?

  • GHB

    If it’s taking this long to fix the bouncy bridge to BBP, I’d hate to think of the time frame for THIS project!

  • Reggie

    The inside lanes can’t be the ped’ lanes because the tourists, which make up the great majority of the pedestrians, want to be at the railing taking pictures.

  • Dalvec

    This would be the best approach. There would have to be a way to make the Manhattan side of the Manhattan bridge a bit safer for cyclists though. The vehicular traffic is a bit overwhelming when you get off the bridge into China Town.

  • Greg

    I agree this would be the most practical approach. No doubt more politically challenging, though.

  • Greg

    This is a tempting solution, but I think it’s best to resist the pattern of restricting the types of transit our core arteries accept. The Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, while close, are not equivalent. It’s also become clear that different users of the bridges have different needs, preferences, and personal comfort levels. For some it’s a no-brainer to use the Manhattan Bridge all the time. For others it’s the opposite.

    I don’t think forcing the solution one way or the other would be the most productive outcome for the overall community. Furthermore, all these bridges have enough raw capacity to accommodate all three of bicyclists / pedestrians / automobiles. Some fair partition among them seems reasonable to me.

  • obv

    The obvious solution is to ban bikes from the Brooklyn Bridge. They come by at the rate of one every three-to-five minutes, so the lane is unused most of the time, but unsafe for pedestrians all the time. Tourists will NEVER learn to stay in the right place (by definition, they can’t be taught anything). The bikers, meanwhile, can… I don’t know? Kill themselves?

  • ColumbiaHeightster

    And I usually run over the Manhattan Bridge to avoid the Brooklyn Bridge crowd. A novel idea, but would be a blow to the running community, since running on the Brooklyn Bridge stinks, for obvious reasons.

    The Manhattan Bridge has it right though – south side is pedestrians only; north side is bikes only. Not physically possible on the Brooklyn Bridge, but it’s the perfect scenario.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Problem is, the bridge already cannot handle the amount of traffic, its almost a perpetual traffic jam. Taking away a lane would only exacerbate the situation.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Wrong, the bridge is an important route for cyclists, who are mostly commuters. The pedestrians are mostly tourists. Why should city residents be inconvenienced for the sake of tourism?

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    If you follow the link to the NYT article, it shows the outer lanes for pedestrians and the current boardwalk for bikes.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    The problem is the Manhattan side of the MB has no easy/safe access to the south or west. The Brooklyn Bridge is still the best choice is for cyclists heading in those directions.

  • Jorale-man

    True, unless they add tolls to the East River bridges, which would likely cut down on some vehicular traffic (and the $ from that could go into fixing our mass transit).

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    I don’t think tolls will ever happen on the East River bridges but even if it does, I doubt it would decrease traffic to any significant degree. Driving to Manhattan is already a costly headache, most don’t unless it’s absolutely necessary.

  • Reggie

    I was responding to Claude’s statement, “The illustration shows these as new pedestrian paths, with bikes having all of the old path below. I would reverse this….”

  • robertnill

    My first thought when I saw the rendering was to reverse the lanes, too. They could possibly be narrower as well. But I suspect the width of the pedestrian lanes is the help handle traffic, and also keeping the bikes in the center would make the landings in Manhattan simpler.

    A big question is what happens to the pedestrian ramps as they approach the ends of the bridge – the walkway tapers down until it becomes a sidewalk between the traffic lines at both ends, so you’d need to elevate the approaches in some way.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Ah, yes then I agree with you.

  • http://selfabsorbedboomer.blogspot.com/ Claude Scales

    I hadn’t thought about the new decks above the girders blocking views from the existing path. It’s a good point.

  • Tikebike

    Bikes should banned from the bridge. Bike people think they have the right to injure people that are just trying to enjoy the views from the bridge. Bike people are generally self absorbed and have this entitlement mentality about owning the roads bridges and sidewalks. Who hasnt seen some arrogant moron bring a bike onto a subway at rush hour? Ban all bikes is the answer.

  • Concerned

    LOL. I agree with you. I think no bike should even be let into NYC unless we can vet the rider, first. In fact, let’s build a bike wall that shuts off the entire city from bikes. If anyone disagrees, we may have some second amendment people who can solve our problem. And that goes doubly for the women bike riders, who have blood coming out of their noses and their, wherever… Finally, I just want to say how hot my daughter is. I know I have your vote, Tikebike!!!

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Typical weak-minded approach. Can’t figure out how to make it work so just ban it.
    First, No cyclist that I know (and that’s lot) thinks “they have the right to injure people” in fact its quite the opposite. I have had many conversations with fellow riders on how to best ride the Brooklyn Bridge safely. Furthermore, according to the NYT article, there are actually relatively few collisions between bikes and pedestrians on the bridge, so the problem is more imagined than actual.
    Second, As far as “self absorbed” there are just as many pedestrians that fit that description on the bridge. Just look at all the morons swinging selfie-sticks haphazardly about.
    Fortunately, people like you are not the ones making the decisions about the bridge.

  • Jorale-man

    I suspect TikeBike is just trolling the thread. It doesn’t sound like he’s being serious in his Trumpian bluster. That said, you make good points, Arch.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Yes, I thought it might be a troll, but sadly there are plenty of people who think like that and plenty of others who would agree with that statement.

  • Tikebike

    Sadly for you. No
    troll here, just an older resident that does not want to be playing frogger with cyclists in bh. Lets get a few more examples out here. Bikes on sidewalks driven by adults. Bike people going the wrong way on streets. Bike people assuming everyone has eyes behind thier heads and great hearing. Bike people chaining their childish bikes to railings in front of private property. Bike people exceeding max vehicle speed limit blowing red lights and stop signs. Delivery guys with electric bikes that cant be heard. Bikes on subways. Unused bike lanes that are a waste of taxpayer money to maintain. Overall bad behavior

  • Greg

    You’re clearly frustrated by a segment of the population that’s different from you.

    I’m sorry these differences give you such ongoing frustration and anguish.

    I’m sure you understand how the logic of “ban them because they’re different from me” is ultimately not going to be compelling nor going to gain traction by those considering the interests of the full spectrum of this city’s inhabitants, young and old, on bike or foot or car or bus, in all their variety.

    Your perspective is acknowledged. Thank you for sharing.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    Of course there are a few bad riders out there just as there bad drivers and bad pedestrians. Sadly for you, your rant is moot as bikes are here to stay.

  • Concerned

    I agree with you in a lot of respects. I think the adult bike riders on the sidewalks (including delivery persons) is the worst thing (although I don’t drive a car). But an overall ban seems harsh.

  • http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UlsiLOnWCoI Arch Stanton

    I almost never see an adult riding on the sidewalk. I think this is an exaggerated problem.