OPINION: Expand the Brooklyn Bridge walking and bicycling path NOW
I’ve walked over the Brooklyn Bridge, mainly from Brooklyn to Manhattan, many, many times. Unless you’re in a hurry to get somewhere fast (and if you are, you probably would take the subway or a cab instead), it’s a lot of fun. In fact, it’s a party atmosphere. You see tourists taking photos and videos, vendors selling food, street performers doing their acts, teachers taking groups of kids across — you name it. The crowds are there because Brooklyn Bridge, unlike the other three East River bridges, is a world-famous landmark.
But if you’re a bicyclist, that’s a different story. While there is a separate lane for bikers, there are so many walkers that some inevitably wander in and out of it. Also, there’s barely enough room for two bicycles going in opposite directions to pass each other — unlike, say, Hudson River Park, where there are two bike lanes, one for each direction.
Bikers, too, often veer into the pedestrian path, making for some tricky situations. Add to this the tendency of some macho bicyclists to pedal as fast as possible, and you have the potential for injuries and accidents.
The city Department of Transportation (DOT) now has announced that it is considering expanding the width of the walkway/bikeway. To do this, the city must raise the path slightly, up to the level of the adjoining girders on both sides, then put a new surface over the path and part of the existing girder structure.
This would create needed extra space for both walkers and cyclists, particularly since walking and cycling on the bridge have more than doubled over the past decade.
As far as I’m concerned, expanding the walkway and bikeway should be done as soon as possible. The Brooklyn Bridge, the first to be built of the four East River bridges, is a world-famous landmark. When tourists come to New York, the bridge is one of the main attractions people want to see. Many of these tourists aren’t satisfied with just standing near the bridge and taking pictures of it, but want to walk across it, too. While you can also walk across the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges (and I’ve walked across the Williamsburg Bridge myself), it holds somewhat less fascination for someone from Tokyo or from Bangor, Maine.
Proposals for improving conditions for walkers and bikers alike also include creating a separate bicyclists-only entrance on the Manhattan side. As I’m not a long-distance bicyclist, I reserve judgment on that one. Also, the city says the strength of the bridge’s cables has to be checked before DOT can begin expanding the pathway.
Whatever the circumstances are, I’m 100 percent in favor of expanding the Brooklyn Bridge’s shared walkway and bikeway, and I hope it gets done as soon as possible. We owe it to local residents and tourists alike.
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