On Friday morning, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer sent a letter to the Department of Transportation to inquire about pedestrian and bike safety on the bridge, which includes a 20-foot bike and walking path that is not protected.
“Without protected bike lanes, sufficient lighting, and high-quality signage in the immediate vicinity, bicycle riders and pedestrians could be placed in harm’s way,” the letter from Stringer reads.
Stringer noted that the high volume of large trucks in surrounding neighborhoods calls for protected lanes on the streets leading up to the bridge (in Greenpoint and Maspeth), as well as traffic-calming measures to reduce speeding around the bridge. He also requested a “full accounting” of why upgraded bike and pedestrian infrastructure was not ready on the span’s opening day.
“Just as no transportation department would open up a highway before constructing the on- and off-ramps, it is utterly baffling that a new bike and pedestrian path could be introduced without sufficient connecting infrastructure—on day one,” Stringer said in a statement. “This is a matter of life and death.”
But a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation said that markings and signage work will begin next week.
“We’d been planning to implement in the late summer and would have had the marked crossings ready, though as you may be aware the state accelerated the opening of the path,” the spokesperson told Curbed.
The lanes will be “standard on-street,” the DOT said, but Laurel Hill Boulevard will be protected. And for the future, they’re exploring protected bike lane connections on both sides, as noted in the de Blasio administration’s Green Wave plan.
In a statement, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that since the bridge’s opening yesterday morning, progress has been made in “easing congestion” with speeds 65 percent faster—but he didn’t address bike safety.
“We are continuing to monitor the bridge traffic in real time to ensure the new, improved traffic patterns are having the maximum impact for drivers, however these results are extremely encouraging and demonstrate what New York can do when we think big and build for the future,” Cuomo said.
There have been 20 cyclist deaths in 2019 so far, 10 more than the total killed in all of 2018. According to the DOT, as cited in Stringer’s letter, these deaths have disproportionately happened in historically industrial areas where the residential population has increased.