Tensions between bike riders and pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge may lessen if some City Council members have their way. Brad Lander (Brooklyn), Margaret Chin (Manhattan) and Steve Levin (Brooklyn) have called for a safer pedestrian crossing to protect both cyclists and walkers from accidents.
Congestion on the bridge is intensified by the many tourists who walk onto the iconic structure to snap pictures of the city skyline. Because they are usually standing still while taking photos, they often create serious hazards for other users of bridge deck.
On a typical day, 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists use the bridge – a number that rises significantly in the summer. Although there are designated lanes for walkers and bikers, visitors to the city are often unaware of the importance of staying in their lanes.
Bikers and other walkers try to go around pedestrians who have halted to take a picture, and bikers may zip into the walking lane to try to avoid tourists who have drifted into the bike lane. Walking or riding across the Brooklyn Bridge is not a simple proposition.
Currently, the bike lane varies from eight to sixteen feet. The council members would like to increase the lane to 32 feet in most part of the span. This would require extending the overhang over the vehicle deck. It may also require the bridge to be reinforced to carry the extra weight from both the larger non-vehicle lanes and the larger number of people and bikes that would use the larger lanes.
The proponents of the plan would also like to see cyclists and walkers separated by a permanent structure – something that would also add weight to the bridge.
The Brooklyn Bridge is currently under a two-year renovation. However, the current project does not include plans to expand the space available to pedestrians and bike riders. Additionally, neither the City Council members nor the city’s traffic department can say how much extending the walking and biking lanes would cost the city.
Source: New York Daily News, “City Councilmembers call for widening of pedestrian lane on Brooklyn Bridge in effort to avoid dangerous collisions with cyclists,” by Erin Durkin, Aug. 7, 2012.