NYC plans bike lane to replace car lane on Brooklyn Bridge

Clayton Guse, New York Daily News
·2 min read

The Brooklyn and Queensboro bridges are both set to get new bike lanes in a huge boon to cyclists who use the crowded crossings, Mayor de Blasio announced Thursday.

City officials plan to convert the innermost Manhattan-bound car lane on the Brooklyn Bridge into a two-way bike path by the end of the year. The path will be separated from the two other lanes of car traffic by concrete barriers, officials said.

That’s a marked shift for the span, which has a combined pedestrian and bike promenade above its roadway that is often crowded with tourists and vendors. The cramming together of pedestrians, sightseers and bike commuters on the path drives cyclists away and sometimes creates havoc.

City officials dating back to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s administration have looked into widening the promenade to give cyclists more space. Department of Transportation officials in de Blasio’s administration have said they’ve awaited the results of a lengthy engineering study to determine whether the bridge’s cables could hold a wider path.

All three of the bridge’s Brooklyn-bound lanes will remain dedicated to cars, and Manhattan’s incoming congestion pricing program to toll cars driving south of 61st St. is expected to reduce traffic on the East River bridges, which are currently free to cross.

A new two-way bike lane is also coming to the Queensboro Bridge, which currently has nine lanes for car traffic while its northern outer roadway jams together a bike lane and pedestrian walkway.

De Blasio’s plan would move the pedestrian walkway to the bridge’s southern roadway as part of ongoing construction on the span, a proposal that’s been pushed by City Council members and cycling advocates for years. The mayor’s office did not know when the Queensboro construction would be finished — only that it will drag on beyond the end of 2021, when de Blasio leaves office.

The announcement of the new lanes is a part of the mayor’s Thursday night State of the State address. It comes as the city has seen major growth in the number of cyclists during the COVID-19 pandemic, with cyclist activity up by roughly 30% in the fall from 2019.

“This is the bike lane reaction we’ve been looking for,” said Jon Orcutt, advocacy director at the nonprofit Bike New York, who worked for the city DOT under Bloomberg and has pushed for the city to do more to help cyclists.

“The city didn’t really have a response to booming bike use last year other than trying to get its bike lane program,” Orcutt said. “But it didn’t do anything extra.”