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Van Bramer Calls For Separate Pedestrian and Cycling Paths on Queensboro Bridge

The narrow paths on the Queensboro bridge have become overcrowded with cyclists and pedestrians. (Flickr)

April 30, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan

City Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer has joined several local organizations in calling for separate pedestrian and cycling paths on the Queensboro Bridge after increasingly crowded conditions have led to serious injuries.

Van Bramer, along with Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, the Court Square Civic Association, and many community members, is asking the Department of Transportation to transform the bridge’s north outer roadway—the path currently shared by pedestrians and bikers—into a dedicated bike lane, while converting the south outer roadway—used only by cars—into an accessible pedestrian walkway.

“The Queensboro Bridge path is dangerously overcrowded and poses a safety hazard to the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists that rely on it to cross between Queens and Manhattan each day,” Van Bramer said. “There needs to be separate, exclusive lanes for pedestrians and cyclists on the Queensboro Bridge.”

The number of bicyclists using the bridge is on the rise, with 5,400 bikes crossing the bridge daily in 2017, according to DOT data.  That number is up 35 percent from 2012.

The civic groups began to increase their call for the redesign earlier this year, stating that the current shared path is too narrow to allow for the amount of bike and foot traffic it now has.

Bike New York sent a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg in March of this year, asking for the design changes to be made.

Earlier this week, it was reported by The City that a 49-year-old Jackson Heights man broke both his clavicle and elbow on the bridge after losing control of his bike while simultaneously trying to pass a pedestrian and avoid an oncoming cyclist.

The DOT says that the proposed design changes can not be implemented any time soon due to ongoing bridge work. The DOT said it needs the south outer roadway to be open for vehicle diversions.

The agency, however, hasn’t shunned the idea and will be reviewing it as a long term strategy.

“During construction, DOT will continue to look at the modifications that would be necessary to convert the South Outer Roadway to a pedestrian path and use the North Outer Roadway exclusively for cyclists,” the spokesperson said. “If we determine that it would be feasible, we could time the conversion to coincide with the completion of the construction work.”

Van Bramer responded to DOT’s position by calling for the city agency to speed up its timeline and implement the changes as quickly as possible.

“DOT cannot afford to wait until upcoming work on the bridge is completed to start planning to make this infrastructure more sustainable and accessible,” Van Bramer said. “More people are going to get seriously injured or worse. DOT must speed up repairs and start preparing for this necessary redesign immediately so that all people, regardless of their preferred transportation method, have the space they need to cross this vital pathway safely.”

Transportation Alternatives has set up a survey page to collect stories of cyclists and pedestrians who have been injured on the bridge.

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39 Comments

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Princess Vespa

Well, the dude who broke his clavicle was at fault for not stopping or slowing down when he saw the pedestrian he HAD to pass and the oncoming bicycle.

See? Bicyclists can be at fault, too!

I agree that the areas need to be separated, but at least you all have space. Thanks a look at the Brooklyn bridge walkway/bicycle path! Narrow as hell!

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biking_is_fun

YES, YES and do the same on the Triboro, Verrazano bridge as well.
With NYC drowning in its own subway and car subsystem, by giving the people freedom to choose their commute or leisure paths, it will open endless options making NYC more open, connected and much more enjoyable on weekdays and weekends .

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Gardens Watcher

More cyclists on ALL roads increases the chances of serious accidents, especially with the ever increasing numbers of motorized bikes, scooters, etc. — and not just on the QB bridge.

The presence of pedestrians on the North Outer Roadway is more likely a traffic calming factor, since cyclists are more likely to slow down to avoid hitting those pedestrians. Do you really think there won’t be more serious bike-on-bike accidents, or worse, if cyclists have no reason to slow down and cross the bridge safely?

The South Outer Roadway needs to stay open for vehicles and emergency response. All year round.

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VelvetKnight

Yes, I do think there won’t be “more serious bike-on-bike accidents,” and it’s based 100% on experience. That setup already exists on the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges and they’re both MUCH safer than either riding or walking on the Queensboro.

In fact the only times I’ve ever had even a whisper of fear on the Williamsburg bridge is when pedestrians ignored the rule and walked on the bike side.

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SuperWittySmitty

I agree with you. I’ve gone over this bridge numerous times on my bike and the scariest part was always the pedestrians who were oblivious to the fact that they’re sharing the space with bikers.

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gil

Yes, separating bikes and pedestrians is scientifically proven to be safer than putting them on the same path.

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Gerald

Makes lots of sense. But the car lovers are going to hate this as usual. Even though this city has more and more healthy people choosing to walk and bike, car lovers will never give up their toxic love affair with driving into the city, polluting and wasting time in their cars.

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Gardens Watcher

Gerald, your comments about those who can’t bike the bridge are not only toxic, but ignorant of the various reasons why cars are the only viable option for many.

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gil

True, the comment is a little obtuse. But there is a very small fraction of people driving over the bridge because they are unable to walk, bike or take a train.

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Arron

READ THIS: “Jackson Heights man broke his clavicle and elbow on the bridge after losing control of his bike while simultaneously trying to pass a pedestrian and avoid an oncoming cyclist.” These bikers are bad news, this man caused his own injuries by trying to pass a pedestrian (who always has the right of way) –yet is Blaming the lack of roadway for causing it. Bikers should have to carry insurance, license plates, a bike license and pay for their bike lanes. READ: article of Man on Bike breaks the arm of 59 year old Woman in Ridgewood

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Skip Seglipse

You sound like someone who has never used the shared bike/pedestrian path on the bridge. Clueless.

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Cammi

Hey Skip why attack Arron with “never used the …bridge”? Why use blame back to avoid the pedestrian safety issue –because it is true that a biker injured & did flee the scene of the 59 yo Ridgewood woman. the police are looking for the biker, You can read about it in this newspaper, so go do that and let’s hear a mature response from you.

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Princess Vespa

I have and I agree with him. I have been on this bridge and Brooklyn bridge as pedestrians and the cyclists are even more out of control than in the car roadways.

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VelvetKnight

1. It’s curious that you say “these bikers” when obviously only one of the bikers could be at fault. Why do you think bikers are all some homogenous group and not individual human beings just like you?
2. The idea of “pedestrians always have the right of way” isn’t true, and anyone who says that has never read the actual law.
3. Even if it was true, the fact that the biker only injured himself proves WAS trying avoid hitting the pedestrian, and thus fulfills your “right of way” requirement.
4. If your concern is pedestrian safety, you should be cheering the idea of bikes and peds having completely different spaces. So why aren’t you?

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THANK you!

For real, he is injured because of himself and no one else! Passing a pedestrian is the same as passing another vehicle when in a one lane road but you have a dashed yellow divider line. You do it cautiously!!! Cautiously!!!!!!!! If you can’t, then you don’t!

Everyone is responsible to prevent a preventable accident from occurring. This was preventable. He could have slowed down or even stopped. Gotten off and walked.

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Alan

Better yet, station a police officer at the foot of the path to ticket all the illegal e-bike riders and confiscate their motorized vehicles

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gil

This is a good way to remove e-bikes. But it does not solve the safety issue that is inherent with having bikes and pedestrians on the same path. The bike half of the path is BARELY wide enough for two bike to pass one another safely. Separating bikes and pedestrians is just safer. There is no arguing that point. Using the guy who broke his clavicle is not a good way to argue for separating the two paths. Evidence based science proves that this is a smart move.

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Princess Vespa

One? And when he is dealing with confiscating that monstrosity all the others behind him will go on their merry way.

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David

One of the main issues with you argument is that the majority of ebikes are not illegal. If they use a throttle, yes, pedal assist up to 750 watts, no.

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Edward

JVB advocating for bike lanes what a shock how about you concentrate on the actual issues facing your constituents!!! Increase in crime, homeless shelters, the LIC Library and or how about the jobs that were suppose to come to LIC how about you try to find somehow to replace those 50K jobs. This is why JVB will not win his bid for borough president.

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rgs sunnyside

about time with all the rambo bike people! truly dangerous! nothing leisure about walking over that bridge! leave the headphones at home!

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VelvetKnight

See, folks? Even rabid bike-haters are in favor! Just like if Trumpers and BernieBros agreed on something, that proves it’s a good idea. Doesn’t matter why, we all like it, so make it happen!

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Martin

Volume isn’t the only problem there. Speaking as a pedestrian who also bikes (elsewhere), the ped/bike lane markings on the bridge are woeful to nonexistent. No signage grabs bicyclist’s attention and makes them understand the arrangement and so a great number of them assume the protocol is stay-to-the-right no matter which way they’re going. (The almost unreadable painted markers say it’s supposed to be pedestrians in both directions on the north side and bikes in both directions on the south side, which makes sense but is not what our culture is used to.) That causes real problems for walkers going TO Manhattan. And many two-wheelers are hostile to us walkers, thinking we’re in THEIR way. Thanks to JVB and others for working on this.

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VelvetKnight

It doesn’t help that the line is in the wrong place. When you factor in the grates and handrail there is barely enough space for two bikers to pass safely, which doesn’t allow for ANY margin of error. And forget trying to safely pass a slower bike with oncoming bikes and pedestrians constantly crossing the line already. The “bike side” needs to be wider than the pedestrian side.

But either way, totally separating the two groups just like on the Williamsburg or Manhattan bridges is the best solution for everyone.

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Gardens Watcher

This is election season. Anything is promisable, especially to the loudest lobbies.

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Reality of City Living

This is another ludicrous idea in an major urban area already suffering from traffic congestion and a lack of bridge capacity. NYC is a urban island and to feed and remain viable relies on fleets of trucks, cars and vans to deliver its food and other vital supplies green fantasies aside. Reflecting that reality instead try to better optimize the existing shared bike and pedestrian lane rather than stupidly squander the capacity of another invaluable bridge lane that cannot be replaced if reallocated to bikes or pedestrians. These sort of silly knee-jerk “fashionable” policies will only spurn more traffic which is exactly what that the congestion pricing is supposed to combat and make city living more expensive and hellish!! Realistically if we are seeing growing bike traffic and safety than on the bridges with limited why aren’t we introducing bike congestion charges on that Queensboro bridge lane too?

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Gardens Watcher

Absolutely right! Congestion pricing should include anything on wheels.

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What?

Are you kidding me!? Anything on wheels? So not just bikes and cars… so this anything include strollers and those in wheelchairs and those shopping carts ?? God forbid we have to move out of the way for those with wheels, not only on the sidewalk but the street too…. give me a break. Your comment is ridiculous. It’s your choice to walk or bike. Be COGNIZANT and look out for bikers on the shared pathway instead of keeping your eyes glued on the damn phone like every other person!

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Gardens Watcher

Jesus, What? Lighten up. The stress of biking the bridge is already taking its toll on you 🙂

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Will SOMEONE address the unicycle congestion?!

Well put, a 3-ton Escalade causes as much congestion as a 3-speed Schwinn lmao

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Gardens Watcher

Just wait 3-speed Schwinn. E-bikes, e-scooters and other battery-powered personal transporters will all become legal, cheaper and more popular.

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VelvetKnight

No, the ludicrous idea is that a major urban city should cater to cars above all else. If all those drivers who didn’t NEED to drive into the city stopped there’d be more than enough room for buses, delivery vehicles, and all the other people who actually do need it. Same would go for parking. If you want to be angry at someone, be angry at them.

And if you want to talk about limited bridge capacity, let’s talk about how bikes and pedestrians can’t use the Verazanno, Brooklyn/Battery tunnel, Midtown tunnel, Triboro (you can only get to Randall’s island on it), Lincoln Tunnel, Holland Tunnel, Throg’s Neck, and Whitestone. Literally the only way for a pedestrian to get from Manhattan to NJ is the GWB, and you’re complaining about a single lane that only goes one way and is closed at night?

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your_neighbor

As someone who rides across the bridge a couple hundred times a year, I admit that there are some problems but most are easy to rectify. (1) Gas powered motor scooters racing across the bridge; (2) Electric bike delivery guys weaving between bikes and pedestrians at high speed; (3) Bikers pedaling downhill – coasting down the hill gives you much more speed than most bike brakes can handle; (4) Idiots riding with no hands on the handlebars, feet on their handlebars, or on their cell phones.

Many of these gas powered bikers, e-bikers and general idiots seem to have gotten much more aggressive this year.

Plenty of room for everybody if there is just some consideration and hopefully some enforcement of reasonable rules.

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gil

I agree with all your points except the last one. There is not plenty of room for everyone. As more cyclists and pedestrians use this bridge, the narrow lanes just aren’t cutting it anymore.

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your_neighbor

Beautiful day today, lots of people out and about. I crossed the bridge twice.

On the downhill side of the bridge I had to use my brakes a couple of times when meeting an oncoming uphill biker and pedestrian to make sure everyone got through safely (and being courteous to the rider going uphill who was working much harder than me).

My only issue was almost being taken out by an e-biking delivery guy who decided there was just enough time to zip between me and an approaching bike.

While I would love to have an extra 5 or 6 feet of width for biking, I think there is enough room now if people acted with some courtesy (especially when going downhill).

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Jason

Agree with this. I’ve biked the Queensboro bridge many times during evening rush hour. Is there really THAT much volume to justify opening up another lane? I’m not sure that there is. I agree that the bike path is narrow. I just never felt like I was close to having an accident due to lack of space. Unless the crowd situation is different during the day compared to evening rush hour, I don’t think dedicated paths for bikes and peds are necessary.

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VelvetKnight

YES, PLEASE! Anyone who either walks or bikes over the bridge knows this should have been done years ago for the safety of both groups of people.

The south roadway is already closed at night because cars couldn’t drive on it safely. It’s time to make it permanent and put it to better use.

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