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Make way! Pols push bike-pedestrian split on Brooklyn Bridge

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

A new plan was introduced yesterday by City Council members from both Brooklyn and Manhattan to try to end the uncomfortable, dangerous overcrowding on the Brooklyn Bridge’s bike/pedestrian path.

Councilmembers Brad Lander (D-Park Slope), Steve Levin (D-Heights) and Margaret Chen (D-Lower East Side) held a press conference at the bridge’s Manhattan entrance to propose expanding the pathway.

The plan would essentially double the width of the pathway, which sits atop the bridge’s roadway, supported by girders. According to Alex Moore, spokesman for Lander, three-quarters of the expanded path would be reserved for pedestrians.

However, the bikers would get a dedicated bike lane of their own, set off from the walking path by a more secure barrier. Currently, the path is configured half for walkers, half for bicyclists.

According to the city Department of Transportation, an average of 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists use the narrow pathway every day.

The path is divided by a white line, with cyclists on one side and walkers on the other  but plenty of people either cross the line, are unaware of it or ignore it.

Many of the walkers, perhaps the majority, are tourists who stop every few minutes to take photos. And many of the cyclists try to zip across the bridge at high speeds. This writer has seen many near-collisions, which typically end with one person yelling at another.

“We’re hearing complaints from more and more of our constituents,” Moore said. Most of those are Brooklyn residents who bicycle over the bridge  while there are plenty of locals who walk over the bridge, tourists, by almost all accounts, are the majority of pedestrians.

The council members are seeking architecture and design professionals to launch the elevated design competition.

There are several obvious structural problems. The path, as it now exists, sits between two sets of cables that are part of the bridge’s support system and cannot be removed.

In addition, landmarks issues would have to be considered, since the bridge is a both a city and national historic landmark.

At any rate, the plan is still in a preliminary stage. It would have to be approved by both the DOT and the City Council to become effective.

As a temporary situation, the city last year began posting “pedestrian safety officers” on the bridge.

One avid bicyclist, an out-of-town transplant who occasionally uses the Brooklyn Bridge, said these officers often are helpful  particularly when, for example, tourists who are unaware that bicycles share the path climb the stairs onto the entrance north of Cadman Plaza Park. 

“I’ve seen the agents talk to them and hold them back until there’s a lull in bike traffic,” he said.

This writer asked Ashley Thompson, chief of staff for Councilman Levin, whether some of the bike or pedestrian traffic could be diverted to the Manhattan Bridge.

She answered that for the many bicyclists who commute from the Heights, Downtown or Cobble Hill to Manhattan, detouring east to reach the Manhattan Bridge would be an inconvenience.

For the tourists, she added, “As much as I love the Manhattan Bridge, the Brooklyn Bridge is what they come to see.”

August 8, 2012 - 10:47am


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