Sept. 9, 2019 By Ryanne Salzano
A stretch of the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge’s pedestrian lane leaves bicyclists susceptible to tumbling into the East River below and now Council Member Costa Constantinides is calling on the MTA to do something to prevent just that.
Constantinides wrote a letter to the MTA on Aug. 30 calling on the agency to fix the dangerous pedestrian lane by installing protective fencing along the entire length of the bridge. He also asked the MTA to look into creating separate biking and pedestrian lanes.
“Crossing the Triborough Bridge shouldn’t be a life-or-death situation, yet that’s sadly what pedestrians and cyclists face the second they enter this crossing,” Council Member Constantinides said.
The dangerous stretch is the crossing between Astoria and Randall’s Island, where the railing is only about four feet high. The strip sits 150 feet over the East River and a cycling advocate told the City that when mounted on his bicycle, his hip was just inches from the top of the rail.
“It literally feels like one mistake and you’re going into the East River,” Juan Restrepo, Queens Organizer of Transportation Alternatives, told the publication.
“Fencing along the entire pedestrian path will ensure simply tripping doesn’t lead to a tragic accident and deters anyone thinking about taking their life until help can arrive,” Constantinides said.
In addition, the pedestrian path spans five feet wide and is too narrow for bikers and pedestrians to safely share, the council member said. He urged the MTA to re-open the bridge’s southern pathway “which would allow separate, safer crossings for cyclists and pedestrians,” he said.
Biking is theoretically prohibited in the lane, and punishable by fine. However, commuters still use this path to get to Manhattan.
“Every other East River…path allows for cyclist use. It’s time the MTA needs to legalize — and make safer — biking on the Triborough Bridge,” Restrepo said.
Constantinides penned the letter to Daniel DeCrescenzo, the acting president of MTA Bridges and Tunnels. MTA Bridges and Tunnels owns and operates the bridge.
He called on DeCrescenzo to install fencing along the entire pedestrian path. The northern pedestrian crossing on the bridge has 10-feet-high protective fences, but only where the bridge is above land.
There is an unused walkway on the southern side of the bridge that could be reopened to create separate bike-pedestrian lanes, the council member also suggested.
The council member added that protective fencing can also act as a suicide prevention measure. Four people have died by suicide from the RFK Bridge since 2015.
In the letter, the council member stated the bridge needs to be conducive to other forms of transportation, not just cars.
The Robert F. Kennedy Bridge, also known as the Triborough Bridge, crosses the East River and connects Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, as well as Randall’s Island.