For many New Yorkers, navigating the city on a bike can be a risky proposition. Only a fraction of the city’s street infrastructure is conducive for safe cycling. And while the number of street fatalities dropped for the fourth consecutive year in 2017, the number of cyclist fatalities rose for the second straight year. In 2017, 4,942 cyclists were injured in collisions with motor vehicles, and another 28 were killed.
Yet despite the grim figures, commuting by bike in New York has become increasingly popular over the past couple of decades. Bike lanes were installed on the East River bridges in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and bike traffic has since grown by nearly seven-fold, according to the city’s Department of Transportation. Now, the department has released a sweeping proposal to make riding a bike more safe and more efficient between Manhattan and another borough: the Bronx.
The report, titled Connecting Communities: A Vision for the Harlem River Bridges, has been in the works since the spring of 2015. It proposes changes that would make all 13 crossings over the Harlem River more accessible to pedestrians and cyclists alike, including the addition of dedicated bike lanes on six key bridges: Washington University Heights, Broadway, Madison Avenue, 145th Street and Macombs Dam.
“In addition to improving vehicular traffic flow and traffic safety for pedestrians, the goal of Connecting Communities is to identify a feasible new bicycle crossing roughly every 1 mile, so that no detour would require more than a 10-minute ride on a bicycle,” the report says.
The plan, which must still complete a lengthy approval process, doubles down on recent changes made to cycling infrastructure in the area, including the reconstruction of the High Bridge, safety improvements on East 138th Street in the Bronx and extending the bike route on Tremont and Sedgwick Avenues to connect to Roberto Clemente State Park.
If the proposals go through as planned, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg hopes they will have a similar impact on cycling culture as the East River bridge improvements had more than a decade ago. Bicycle ridership on those crossings grew from 3,000 to more than 20,000 trips per day since new bike lanes were added.
“Part of Connecting Communities is dedicating DOT to a multi-year vision that makes traveling by foot or by bike from the Bronx to Manhattan (and vice versa) an attractive transportation option,” Trottenberg wrote in the report, “but our foremost priority is that crossing those bridges must continue to be safe for all.”