Mayor wants to give Brooklyn Bridge car lane to bikes

BKBr concept – no dims
The mayor wants to turn the innermost car lane on the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge into a two-way bike lane.
Mayor’s Office

We told you so!

Mayor Bill de Blasio confirmed the city’s plan to turn a car lane on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway into a two-way protected bike lane Thursday.

The mayor plans to turn the innermost of three car lanes on the Manhattan-bound side of the 138-year-old span over to bicycles by the end of this year, while restricting the wooden walkway above to pedestrians only, as part of his new cycling plan dubbed “Bridges for the People” which he will officially announce at his final State of the City speech later today.

“Now, it’s time to bring them into the 21st century and embrace the future with a radical new plan. On the Brooklyn Bridge, we will ban cars from the innermost lane of the Manhattan-bound side to transform it into a two-way protected bike lane and turn the existing shared promenade space into a space just for pedestrians,” de Blasio said in a statement on Jan. 28.

The Queensborough Bridge connecting Queens to Manhattan will also see a roadway turned into a bike lane, according to the mayor, who first revealed his plans exclusively to the New York Times.

The scheme comes seven months after the Brooklyn Paper first reported that officials at the Department of Transportation were in talks with the de Blasio administration about the plans for Brooklyn’s iconic namesake span, which a agency rep let slip to local Community Board 2’s Transportation Committee back in June. 

However, when pressed for further details, then-DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg and her press officers accused their rep of “misspeaking,” while trying to discredit this paper’s reporting in the process — despite video evidence backing up the story.

“Somehow I think between maybe what the staffer said and what was in that article, it wasn’t quite accurate,” said Trottenberg at the time, who has since been nominated to serve as the number two at the US DOT under President Joe Biden.

Back then, de Blasio claimed he hadn’t heard of the proposal, and said he was skeptical of giving a lane to bikes on the heavily-trafficked inter-borough connector.

“The Brooklyn Bridge, that one’s a sensitive one, because it’s such a crucial artery,” the mayor said at a daily press briefing June 22. “I had not heard that, I’m not sure how workable that is.”

The current shared bike and pedestrian path across the Brooklyn Bridge is often a dangerous squeeze for all involved, especially prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, when tourists crowded onto the narrow space. 

In September, a group of bike advocates launched the campaign Bridges4People, calling on the city to repurpose two car lanes for bikes on each of the three East River bridges between Brooklyn Manhattan amid a cycling boom during the pandemic.