Solutions Mulled for Easing Brooklyn Bridge Promenade Congestion

It always seems like a great idea: on a beautiful day, a walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, or maybe a stroll preceding a subway ride uptown.

It’s a great idea: until you actually get to the Bridge. Aside from early mornings and late evenings, trying to cross the Bridge on foot or two wheels seems more like a drive on the BQE during rush hour than a soothing saunter across one of our City’s most beautiful structures.

Groups of tourists that think nothing of walking by the dozens en masse. The guy struck by the perfect view who stops abruptly to take a photo, mindless of who is behind me. The bikers that think that because there’s a dedicated bike lane, they can go as fast as they want, sending scurrying the oblivious walkers who have wandered into the wrong lane.

Walking across the Bridge can be, these days, an exercise in frustration more than anything else.

But, maybe, not for long.

According to The Times: 

Pedestrian crossings have soared in 2017 to an average of 13,196 for a weekday, compared with 10,484 in 2011, while weekend crossings for the same period have boomed to 32,453 from 14,145.

Cyclist crossings have also increased to an average of 3,157 for a weekday in 2017 from 2,981 in 2011.

As a result, the Department of Transportation is considering several options to reduce the congestion: a new bike-only lane entrance; reducing the number of vendors; building an additional structure to accommodate the increased crowds.

Says commenter Jake: “Bikes need to have priority.”

Offers Charles: “Someone should come up with a Tourist Summons to hand out to visitors too enamored with and/or overwhelmed by NYC to realize how inconsiderate they’re being.”

[editorial note: it fascinates me that by far the majority of commenters that identify by their real names are men.]

One option not on the table is converting an existing auto lane into a bike lane.

As someone who regularly crosses the Bridge by foot, I’d love to see the number of vendors reduced or eliminated entirely; surely, too, the four little NYPD vehicles that clog the pedestrian lane, which are often inhabited by officers looking at their cell phones and not much else.

The Times story offers much more detail about the plans under consideration. Your thoughts? How do you think the City should help make traversing the Bridge a better experience than it currently is?

Photo:  The Miriam and Ira D. Wallach Division of Art, Prints and Photographs: Photography Collection, The New York Public Library. “Brooklyn Bridge.” The New York Public Library Digital Collections. 1867 – 1910.


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  • A Neighbor

    For anyone who walks on the bridge, the answer is easy. Bikes shouldn’t be allowed. The walkway is excruciatingly narrow for two walking lanes as it is. Of course, people stop to look and take pictures and travel in groups. Many of them are tourists, enjoying one of the most exquisite sites in New York.

    For some unknown reason, bikes, of which there are many fewer than pedestrians, are given half of the narrow walkway. Many self-entitled riders whiz by pedestrians at high speed, terrifying pedestrians and apparently unaware that many walk into the bike lane without notice.

    Brooklyn bike riders I speak to say the Manhattan Bridge is a far better alternative. It’s only a short ride away – and it has exclusive walkways for bikers and walkers.

  • EasyPeasy

    Exactly. This isn’t rocket science. Ban the bikes.

  • karateca2000

    I disagree. People ride bicycles not because they want to have fun. It is a mode of transportation. Taking the Brooklyn bridge is convenient because it is very well connected to the west side highway greenway. The Manhattan bridge is a terrible option if you are going to the west of Manhattan. The same can be said for pedestrians: “Take the Manhattan bridge, you will get a better view and it is nearby”.

    Perhaps there should be a physical barrier to avoid tourists from invading the bike lane.

  • Banet

    Agreed. The Brooklyn Bridge is fat superior for getting to the West Side Greenway, Which is the most popular bike lane in the city.

    Why not ban pedestrians from the Brooklyn Bridge? The view of the Brooklyn Bridge from the Manhattan bridge would be wonderful and Chinatown is far more interesting than City Hall.

  • petercow

    Boy – the stupid is strong on this thread.

    de Blasio, being de Blasio took off the table the obvious.. take a car lane away.. give it to the bikes.

  • Claude Scales

    So, if I’m working in the Financial District, as I am now, and get up early on a nice morning and decide to walk to work, I’m to be forced to take a long detour to the Manhattan Bridge in order to please bicyclists?

  • Banet

    Right back at ya. I want to bike to work and have to take a much more dangerous (and longer) route on the Manhattan bridge?

    While I expect that far more people bike to work over the Brooklyn Bridge than walk to work, the bridge should be designed to accommodate all modes of transport.

    Personally I think 1 of the 6 car lanes should be dedicated to bikes and the boardwalk above should be all pedestrian.

  • Jorale-man

    I agree that a car lane should be removed and given to cyclists. Cars still vastly dominate our city’s infrastructure; this would be a small concession in the grand scheme of things.

    Better yet, they should introduce congestion pricing for Manhattan, but it will never happen. These aren’t visionary times for urban planning.

  • petercow

    It will happen.. probably not under de Blasio, but it will happen.

  • Andrew Porter
  • Ann Herendeen

    Not sure when it started, the enmity between cyclists and pedestrians, but we should be on the same side. Having to share a narrow *walk*way is absurd—and comments from cyclists to ban pedestrians are ridiculous. Yes, take a car lane and use it for bicycles. More important: recognize that not everyone is able to ride a bike. The elderly, people with disabilities—some of us can walk, and prefer it to riding in a car, but cannot ride a bike. We do not appreciate being mowed down and ridiculed by riders on two-wheeled vehicles who behave as aggressively as drivers but don’t obey any of the traffic rules.

  • petercow

    I don’t know any bicyclists that ridicule walkers, and I can tell you two things:
    1) on the BB bike path, the problem is pedestrians encroaching onto the bike path, not the other way round.

    2) in the time since a bicyclist last struck and killed a pedestrian in NYC, over 700 New Yorkers have been killed by cars.

    So let’s keep the focus where the problem is.

  • petercow

    Correct – the bridge used to take trolleys and subways.

    Its capacity was much higher than it is today, when it was given over to autos.

  • Reggie

    I would be more than happy if the City made the walkway pedestrians only AND took a lane on the bridge for cyclists. The only mode of traffic for which numbers are down on the Brooklyn Bridge are cars. As others have said, it is absurd to ask cyclists to take the Manhattan Bridge (which I do use whenever I can because the Brooklyn Bridge has become such a nightmare) regardless of their destination, be it the Hudson River Greenway or the Staten Island Ferry.

  • Ann Herendeen

    Perhaps ridicule is the wrong word. Many bicyclists seem to feel contempt for pedestrians, not stopping at red lights and stop signs, and going the wrong way on one-way streets. On the BB, the walkway is just too narrow to be shared by walkers and cyclists. I think it was built as a walkway, not a bike way. Yes, pedestrians “stray,” especially tourists. That’s the pleasure of visiting one of the city’s great structures. The only practical solution is to give cyclists a lane of their own, separate from cars and.pedestrians.

  • Heightsguy

    Make the promenade two-tiered. Bicycles on bottom, pedestrians on top. Problem solved

  • CHatter

    Why not treat it like our own promenade: bikers have to dismount at the bridge and walk their bikes across. That way bikers can continue to use the route, but not present a hazard to pedestrians.

  • Andrew Porter

    If you think that people actually obey the rules and don’t ride their bikes on the Promenade, I have a bridge to sell… uh…

  • Reggie

    Since I am often on Citibike, what CHatter proposes is in essence what I frequently do. I dock-up on one side of the Brooklyn Bridge, walk across and get a new bike on the other side. It adds, I dunno, 20 minutes to a half-hour to my trip. That seems like a big ask of local residents so tourists can take selfies with the Manhattan skyline in the background. There has to be a way to increase capacity and hopefully DOT is working on it. Or, if we are set on a categorical ban of users, I suggest non-residents. There was plenty of room on the promenade in the 80s.

  • winchell’s cavanaugh

    Why is it absurd? There is a dedicated bike lane.

  • winchell’s cavanaugh

    If the bicyclists could treat the bridge like the pedestrians, and not a flat stage of the Tour, than bikes would be ok. The Blazing Saddle riders are fine, and they, too, stop to gawk at the amazing views and take photos. No sprinting, not no bikes

  • Fritz

    Move the bicyclists to the Manhattan Bridge. It’s a few blocks, easie peasie on a bike. Either that or they walk their bikes.

  • Arch Stanton

    What a silly idea, that would render the bridge virtually useless to cyclists, most of whom are city residents commuting.
    Time has come to make a dedicated bike lane on or over the car deck.

  • Arch Stanton

    A simple solution from a simpleton.

  • Arch Stanton

    How about the”self-entitled” pedestrians?

  • Arch Stanton

    because it doesn’t provide safe easy access to the westside or downtown.

  • Arch Stanton

    Or new walk/bike paths above the roadways.

  • Heightsguy

    Exactly. Why is this such a big deal? I know a few carpenters who could bang that job out in a few months.

  • Reggie

    What Arch says but also, because cyclists are not the problem yet they are expected to be the solution.

  • Arch Stanton

    Yeah, It would be great if it were that simple.