Sept. 12, 2019 By Allie Griffin
Elected officials and cycling advocates called on the MTA–yet again–to make the RFK Triborough Bridge safer for biking and walking at a rally at the foot of the bridge in Astoria on Thursday.
A stretch of the bridge’s pathway is protected by just a four-foot barrier, leaving bicyclists susceptible to tumbling into the East River below, they said.
The rally follows a letter Council Member Costa Constantinides sent to the MTA President of Bridges and Tunnels on Aug. 30 asking the MTA to install protective fencing and create separate bike and pedestrian lanes along the bridge.
The MTA has not yet directly indicated whether it will implement these requests and in the meantime the bridge’s pathway remains dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians to use, Constantinides’ office said.
“Biking in New York should not require taking your life into your hands,” said State Sen. Michael Gianaris, who was also at the rally. “Additional protections along the Triborough Bridge are absolutely necessary to protect the safety of cyclists and pedestrians alike.”
The lawmakers’ second concern is that the existing pathway is too narrow and that it is shared by bicyclists and pedestrians.
The closure of the southern pedestrian path a generation ago means those crossing on foot or by bike must share a five-foot wide walkway. As a result, cyclists are required to dismount their bikes and walk across the span or face a fine. They are not permitted to ride across.
Members of Transportation Alternatives helped bring the dangers of the bridge to the lawmakers’ attention and were also present at the rally and asked that the bridge’s cycling ban be lifted.
Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer with Transportation Alternatives, said the practice of ticketing cyclists riding over the span must end and that it must be made safer.
“The implementation of protective fencing is a no brainer and would ensure safe passage for all pedestrians and cyclists crossing the bridge, especially during times of intense winds and disorientation,” Restrepo added.
The fencing would also prevent suicides, the lawmakers said. City data shows four people have taken their lives by jumping from the bridge since 2015.
“Every other East River bike and pedestrian path has a safe enclosed route and allows for cyclist use,” Restrepo said. “It’s time, the MTA needs to legalize — and make safer — biking and walking on the Triborough Bridge.”