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Queensboro Bridge must have better bike paths, advocates say

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The bridge currently has a 12-foot-wide pathway to accommodate pedestrians and cyclists

Max Touhey

Currently, the Queensboro Bridge has just one relatively narrow shared pathway for pedestrians and bikers—but Queens lawmakers, along with cycling advocates, are hoping to change that.

City Council member Jimmy van Bramer is now backing a campaign to bring two dedicated pathways—one for pedestrians, and one for cyclists—to the Manhattan-Queens connector. The current path, which is only 11 or so feet wide, is “dangerously overcrowded,” per the council member, and the NYC Department of Transportation must prioritize improving access for its users.

“There needs to be separate, exclusive lanes for pedestrians and cyclists on the Queensboro Bridge,” Van Bramer said in a statement. “DOT cannot afford to wait until upcoming work on the bridge is completed to start planning to make this infrastructure more sustainable and accessible. More people are going to get seriously injured or worse.”

The number of cyclists who use the pathway, located on the bridge’s north outer roadway, has risen dramatically over the past decade: In 2009, an average of 3,400 bikers traveled over the bridge every day; by 2017, that number had gone up to 5,400 riders per day on average. But with that rise comes more crowding on the path—an issue that also plagues the Brooklyn Bridge—and the potential for collisions has increased.

Plus, advocates argue, the implementation of congestion pricing may lead to a decline in the number of cars that use the bridge; even though it’s the most heavily-used of the East River bridges, according to DOT, the volume of cars has decreased by eight percent from the period between 2006 and 2016.

Thus, advocacy groups—including Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, and Court Square Civic Association—are calling on the DOT to open the south outer roadway as a pathway exclusively for pedestrians, and turn the north roadway into a cyclist-only pathway.

The DOT may be listening: A spokesperson told THE CITY that it “will keep evaluating” how such a transformation could be carried out. But advocates want it to happen sooner than later.

“Over 2,000 New Yorkers and 30 local businesses have signed a petition to convert the South Outer Roadway to a fully-accessible space for walking and running,” Juan Restrepo, Queens organizer for Transportation Alternatives, said in a statement. “With many injuries already documented from routine use of the bridge, the city has a responsibility to prevent further harm by making the South Outer Walkway accessible as soon as possible.”