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City proposes plan to make it safer to bike to work when the L train shuts down

Written by
Clayton Guse

The dreaded 18-month-long L train shutdown is less than two years away, and Brooklynites who rely on the line are already beginning to think of transit alternatives for their commutes into Manhattan. From a giant inflatable tunnel across the East River to shuttle routes, residents have put together numerous proposals for concessions that will make life less miserable for the hundreds of thousands of riders who will be affected by the closure.

Last week, the New York Department of Transportation released plans for one way to reduce the impact of the shutdown: make the Williamsburg Bridge more accessible for bicycles. 

The idea of riding a two-wheeled, human-powered machine into Manhattan every day might sound like a death wish, but the DOT's plan aims to make that commute significantly less dangerous. The department has proposed work that will improve bicycle safety across Brooklyn, including four key locations around access points to the Williamsburg bridge.

The proposal also includes the addition of bike lanes along Scholes and Meserole Streets, which hopes to provide an easier connection between the bridge, East Williamsburg and Bushwick.

Currently, accessing the Williamsburg Bridge from Brooklyn is no walk in the park, and for less experienced cyclists the ride is anything but comforting. The proposed improvements look to not only help encourage L commuters to trade in their MetroCards for a helmet, but also to make cycling through Brooklyn safer in general.

According to the DOT's report, data shows that there is a demand for more biking concessions in the borough. Bike commuting in Brooklyn increased by 83 percent from 2010 to 2015, and the Williamsburg Bridge was used by a daily average of 7,580 cyclists in 2016. The number of commuters who turn cycling as an alternate during MTA shutdowns was more evident than ever during the 2005 transit strike: bike volumes on East River bridge quadrupled during those three days (granted, ride-sharing wasn't around back then). 

The bicycle-oriented proposal is a part of a larger plan to mitigate the effects of the L shutdown. But with or without the run of improvements and alternatives that the city is providing in the area, it's time to start bracing yourselves for a year-and-a-half of Brooklynites complaining about the shutdown. 

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