Sept. 28, 2020 By Allie Griffin
Cyclists and pedestrians took over the south outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge Sunday to demand that it be converted from a car lane into a pedestrian pathway.
Bike advocates and several elected officials are calling on the Department of Transportation (DOT) to convert the lane into a pedestrian-only pathway and make the current shared pedestrian and cyclist pathway on the north outer roadway into a bicycle-only path.
Transportation advocacy groups — such as Transportation Alternatives and Bike New York — have been calling for the changes for years, but a recent uptick in bicycle use across New York City during the pandemic has made their demands more urgent.
They say the current pathway is too narrow to be safely shared by pedestrians and cyclists–who walk and bike in both directions.
Several elected officials joined bike advocates at the rally Sunday, including City Council Members Ben Kallos and Jimmy Van Bramer, State Sens. Mike Gianaris and Jessica Ramos and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer.
“More people are cycling than ever before,” Ramos said at the rally. “That means that our streets and our bridges need to keep us safe with the infrastructure that is necessary to keep us safe. The same way that streets are for people and not cars, bridges are for people.”
— Bike New York (@bikenewyork) September 27, 2020
Kallos and Van Bramer, who both represent districts that flank the Queensboro Bridge, have even pledged discretionary funds to support the roadway conversion along the bridge.
The DOT is in favor of converting the south outer roadway, but a department spokesperson said it cannot be done as soon as the rally-goers would like.
The department must complete major safety upgrades and repairs to the bridge before it can convert the roadway from vehicle usage to pedestrian usage, according to the spokesperson.
“We couldn’t agree more: adding bike and pedestrian capacity to our bridges is a great idea,” the spokesperson said. “We’re completing urgent safety upgrades to the Queensboro Bridge, a 100+ year old structure, and we need extra lane capacity to get it done.”
The repairs aren’t expected to be completed until 2022 and the city’s budget crisis due to the coronavirus shutdowns adds another obstacle to the lane conversion project.
“We also have to evaluate every project in the context of our historic budget crisis,” the DOT spokesperson said. “But conversations are ongoing on moving this project forward, and we’re grateful for the community’s enthusiasm for it.”