For Transportation Alternatives’ Noah Budnick, along with citywide transportation activists and the thousands of cyclists who commute to work every day, it has been four years in the making: the Sands Street bike lane is officially open.
The protected lane bisects a highway at the edge of the Manhattan Bridge and has proven popular, with cyclists – almost 1,000 a day, according to Department of Transportation (DOT)officials – who are already utilizing the lane before city workers have finished the landscaping of the nearby median.
“It’s extremely important to provide a connection to our bridges, which are the backbone of our system,” said DOT Assistant Commissioner Ryan Russo.“Cyclists have had to contend with truck and vehicular traffic on these ramps without adequate protections.We’ve changed this experience from challenging to pleasant.”
The number of recreational and commuting cyclists has increased nearly 80 percent over the past four years, according to DOT figures. Budnick and other advocates point to the appointment of DOT Commissioner Janette Sadik Khan in 2007 – a bike enthusiast – as a significant moment in pushing for more bike lanes.
“It’s was a big deal,” said TA member and Brooklyn resident Mike Epstein. “We’ve been working towards safe access to the Manhattan Bridge and it’s been under design and construction for years.The city bureaucracy works very slowly but when it gets around to your project, it does a good job.”
While Transportation Alternatives has advocated for expanding a network of bicycle lanes throughout the city, the Sands Street project held particular resonance for Budnick, TA’s senior policy advisor. In March 2005, Budnick crashed while attempting to cycle onto the Manhattan Bridge.
“It’s a happy ending to a really scary story.It’s a great reflection of the unity and perseverance of the cycling community and the responsiveness of the new DOT,” said Budnick.
Brooklyn cyclists Daniel Latore and Noel Hidaldgo came out to the official ribbon-cutting on Friday, August 7, because they are part of the growing cycling community, that is also rapidly expanding its presence online.Both were Tweeting about their experience cycling through the virgin lane.
“It’s great.Over the past year, it’s great to see more cycling-friendly streets that is a huge addition for Brooklynites to commute into Manhattan and for Manattanites to vacation in Brooklyn,” said Hidalgo.