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Cyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge bike lane ahead of official opening

Brooklyn Bridge bike lane
The Brooklyn Bridge bike lane.
Department of Transportation

Some pedal pushers got an early taste of the long-awaited Brooklyn Bridge bike lane, which will officially open in the coming weeks — allowing cyclists to finally cross the East River without competing for space with pedestrians. 

“It’s a little narrow, a little stinky,” said Twitter user @_streeter in a video he posted from the bike lane, in conversation with his dog Karloff, who was riding in a specially-made backpack. “But man, it’s nice not having to climb, right.”

Karloff, a “Sato” mixed-breed pooch from Puerto Rico, gave the new bike lane 3-and-a-half paws out of 5, according to his owner.

Karloff’s owner was just one of a batch of cyclists who got onto the new bike path before it officially opens. 

Speaking with Brooklyn Paper, _streeter, who declined to provide his real name, said that the lane was open on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan ends on Sunday and Monday, with barriers to entry appearing to have been moved. 

He even said that at one point on Monday, the pedestrian path, where cyclists have historically ridden on the bridge, was blocked off, in order to discourage bikers from using the notorious pathway.

The biker gave a generally positive review of the lane, but nonetheless had some issues.

“The path is great,” he said. “Width is more of an issue at the entry on both sides, and I worry more about flow when you get off in Manhattan. There’s going to be a line of bikes every day, and I’m concerned about the lack of [a] protected bike path there further down. Brooklyn-bound, the lights from oncoming vehicles are going to be an issue at night.”

By Tuesday, the lane was closed off again, though _streeter said that the path was once again open on Tuesday night.

Scott Gastel, a spokesperson for the city Department of Transportation, said in a statement that the bike path is not open yet despite the efforts of intrepid cyclists to move the barriers and venture onto the bridge. He said that the work is almost complete and an opening date will be announced soon.

“The bike lane is not yet open, and while parts appear finished there is still critical work that needs to be done to ensure it is safe for use,” Gastel said. “It will be completed soon and we look forward to joining in the excitement of our fellow New Yorkers for this sustainable transportation option.”

Gastel said that work on the bike path is ahead of schedule, but that “critical work” remains that necessitates keeping the lane closed to the public, including markings, painting, work on the Manhattan access point including signal installation, and installation of jersey barriers along the route to separate the path from automobile traffic. Painting has already commenced on the Manhattan-bound side.

The new bike lane is an 8-foot-wide, two-way thoroughfare on the bridge’s Manhattan-bound roadbed, and takes the place of an existing lane of vehicular traffic. It’s intended to replace the notorious existing cycling path, which is also the pedestrian path used by throngs of tourists taking selfies, couples taking wedding photos, and average New Yorkers commuting to or from work, or just taking in the breeze and view.

Brooklyn Paper was the first to report that the city was considering installing the new bike lane on the roadbed, but officials denied the news at the time it was let slip at a community board meeting in June 2020. Mayor Bill de Blasio officially announced the city’s plan for the new bike path in January of this year as part of his State of the City.

While the mayor has touted the path as a key plank of his Vision Zero program, cyclists have criticized the lane as too narrow, with only four feet of space in each direction; the city considered installing a separate lane on the Brooklyn-bound side but ultimately decided to put both directions of traffic on the Manhattan-bound side.

Construction on the bike lane began in June and is expected to be completed “soon.”

As for _streeter and his trusty sidekick Karloff, the human said he’s purchased a “special K9 dog backpack” specifically so his pup could securely ride with him on his bike, and he plans to take his four-legged friend across the East River several more times. 

“He hates getting into it and it’s a pretty elaborate process,” he said. “But once he’s riding, he loves it.”

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