At the entrance to the bridge in Long Island City, Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer joined members of Transportation Alternatives to call for an exclusive bike lane and a separate pedestrian walkway on the bridge.
The call comes in response to recent overcrowding of the Queensboro Bridge path, which is only 12 feet wide and split in half for pedestrians and cyclists, that has resulted in numerous crashes.
The Queensboro Bridge, opened in 1909, was built with two outer lanes, which were used by trolleys until 1957.
The outer north lane was established as a permanent pedestrian/cyclist lane in 2000, and the southern outer lane currently serves Queens-bound traffic.
Van Bramer, who arrived at the press conference by cycling over the bridge from Manhattan, called for Department of Transportation (DOT) to make the southern outer roadway into an accessible pedestrian walkway and the northern outer roadway into a bike-only lane.
“There are literally thousands of people biking over the bridge now,” the councilman said. “You cannot have thousands of people competing for a very narrow piece of land – or bridge – and making them dodge each other.
“We know that there are crashes happening,” he added. “We know that people’s lives are being put at risk every day that the DOT keeps us from having a dedicated and protected outer walkway.”
Three weeks ago, Josh Arfield was cycling across the bridge and crashed due to the tightness of the path and the simultaneous high traffic.
“I was going one way, the cyclist was coming towards me, and a pedestrian was on my right,” he recalled. “She took a step to the left, and there was basically not enough room for the three of us to be in the same general area at the same time.”
He hit the pavement with such force that he broke multiple bones and still wears a brace.
“There’s not enough room for two-way pedestrians and two-way bikes in their respective halves of the path, so it needs to be wider,” Arfield said. “And the only way it can be wider, I think, is what Transportation Alternatives is proposing.”
Transportation Alternatives has been gathering support for the bike lane, and launched a campaign that has collected over 2,000 signatures in support, 30 letters from local businesses, and support from the Long Island City Partnership.
“It just seems like a no-brainer,” said Laura Shepard, communications coordinator for Bike New York. “Biking in the city is growing; 5,400 a day now go across this bridge on bikes. That’s a 35 percent increase over the last five years.”
She added that with the recent passage of congestion pricing, “The city has to prepare for more people to opt for alternatives and make those alternatives safe and viable.”
Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said that residents who crossed the bridge by foot for decades have stopped due to the large congestion of high-speed bicycles.
“The way that this bridge is designed emphasizes car access and does not give proper space to people who are walking and running because they are meant to share this one lane out of the ten lanes,” he said.
According to published reports, DOT will continue to evaluate the proposal. If approved, the changes would take place during the bridge’s planned $337 million upper road and steel repair project, which is estimated to be finished by fall 2022.
“I am calling and fully supporting the Department of Transportation to right now – not in two or three years, right now – say that they agree with us and they are going to implement this plan,” Van Bramer said before returning to his bike.