Brooklyn Bridge too narrow, pols say

Cyclists on Brooklyn Bridge’s bike lane must dodge oblivious tourists.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

Brooklyn’s most recognizable landmark should get a major makeover to appease the crowds of speeding cyclists and ambling tourists who frequent it every day, politicians say.

Councilmen Steve Levin (D–Downtown) and Brad Lander (D–Park Slope) want to make the Brooklyn Bridge’s bustling elevated walking and biking path wider — and they’re soliciting designs that they hope will reduce congestion and increase safety by giving pedestrians more room to move and keeping cyclists on the north side of the span.

“This proposal is a win-win-win, tripling the pedestrian space and giving bicyclists a dedicated lane, all without impacting car lanes,” Lander said.

The councilmen aren’t the only Brooklynites who say the current configuration is a recipe for disaster.

Every day, some 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 cyclists share the tight path — which Brooklyn Paper readers say is the second scariest bike lane in the borough.

“It’s too crowded right now,” said Kenny Brooks, who was walking across the bridge shortly after the politicians announced their plan on Tuesday. “There are too many people — and it’s dangerous.”

The proposal quickly won fans among cyclists and pedestrians, but any change to the walkway faces significant hurdles.

The project currently has no funding, and altering the historic bridge will require the approval of city preservationists. Plus history experts hold the Brooklyn Bridge in high regard — meaning a redesign is sure to spark debate.

“The walkway is essentially how it was in the original plan for the bridge,” said Julie Golia, the Brooklyn Historical Society’s public historian. “It was one of the many smart plans in John Augustus Roebling’s original plan that imagined it as not just a place of utility, but something that could enhance New Yorkers’ lives.”

The Department of Transportation promised to seriously consider any proposals collected as part of the project.

“We share the interest in enhancing safety and accommodating the growing number of people crossing this iconic transportation hub,” said agency spokesman Seth Solomonow. “The designs that come from this process would be part of a long-term look at improving bridge access and safety.”

The call for new walkway and bike lane designs comes after well-documented collisions between cyclists and pedestrians on the path — and after the city put full-time traffic monitors on patrol for two months last fall to keep bikers and tourists from crossing the thin strip of paint intended keep them apart.

Reach reporter Eli Rosenberg at erosenberg@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at twitter.com/emrosenberg.

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