Finally, the Brooklyn Bridge is getting a bike lane

The bridges will lose a lane of car traffic to a two-way protected bike lane.

Shaye Weaver
Written by
Shaye Weaver
Editor, Time Out New York
brooklyn bridge sidewalk
Photograph: Shutterstock

Bicyclists in NYC got great news this week—both the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges will be getting dedicated, two-way bike lanes this year, making it safer and easier to travel between the boroughs.

In his State of the City Address on Thursday, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a "radical new plan" to ban cars from the innermost lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge and transform it into a two-way protected bike lane and transform the existing promenade space into a pedestrians-only area.

The Brooklyn Bridge bike lane, which will be completed by the end of this year, will be eight feet wide with a two-foot-wide wall separating it from vehicle traffic, which will have its own two lanes across 10 feet.

(According to Bike New York, Manhattan Bridge's bike lane is about nine feet wide.) 

The city will begin construction this year to convert the north outer roadway on the Queensboro Bridge into a two-way bike-only lane and convert the south outer roadway to a two-way pedestrian-only lane, but this won't be done until next year.

Brooklyn Bridge bike lane
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office

By putting in bike lanes, the mayor intends on putting cyclist safety first (more than 20 cyclists were killed in crashes last year, Streetsblog says.) and launching the city into a greener future, he said. 

"These are the kinds of efforts that change the reality fundamentally, but we also have to change the way we live if we're going to fight climate change, and that means moving away from our cars, leaving the era of the automobile behind," he said in his address. "We'll take our bridges, our iconic bridges that we see as beautiful symbols of the city – but, unfortunately, has also been part of the problem – and we'll turn them into part of the solution."

It's a huge win for cycling advocates. Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group that pushes for changes in public policy, street design, enforcement, and resource allocation, lauds the decision because it aligns with its Bridges 4 People campaign.

"Converting car lanes into bike lanes on two of our most important bridges is a giant leap forward for New York City," Executive Director Danny Harris said in a statement. "After decades of advocacy by Transportation Alternatives and thousands of our grassroots activists, we are thrilled that Mayor de Blasio has taken up our Bridges 4 People campaign with his Bridges for the People plan. We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration on this vital new project and other efforts to improve infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on bridges and streets across the five boroughs."

According to the Bridges 4 People campaign, more than 20,000 pedestrians and 19,000 cyclists currently cross the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Williamsburg bridges each day. This increased by 22.75% in July 2020 over July 2019, and by 55% in November 2020 over November 2019. "As New York City reopens, even more pedestrians and cyclists will be crossing the bridges," it says.

Andrew Yang, who's running for mayor, says the city should go one step further with camera enforcement:

The current mayor's plan also includes installing new "Bike Boulevards" across the city that will be designed to slow vehicles and reduce volume with traffic diverters, signal timing changes, shared streets, Open Streets and gateway treatments. This year, five of them—one for each borough—will be built.

"These are the kind of changes that allow us to move out of the era of fossil fuels and the era of the automobile, and into a green future as part of our commitment to the New York City Green New Deal," the mayor said.   

Bike Boulevard
Photograph: Courtesy NYC Mayor's Office

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