Brooklyn Bridge should get wider pedestrian path and bike lane, pols say

The Brooklyn Paper
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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 or by calling (718) 260-2531. And follow him at
Updated 5:35 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

marsha rimler from concord village says:
Thanks Stephen for listening and doing something about this
Aug. 8, 2012, 6:26 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
The original design wasn't 6 lanes for motor vehicles either. I think the bridge can be changed a bit.
Aug. 8, 2012, 8:02 am
ty from pps says:
Also -- the peak usage (# of people per day) was 1907. Long before cars. It was a mix of various trains and mixed-use lanes. The upper deck was for pedestrians.

Oh, it originally had tolls too! Even for pedestrians (1 cent) and cyclists (3 cents). Wagons, horses, and carts were 3 to 10 cents.
Aug. 8, 2012, 8:43 am
Eric McClure from Park Slope says:
Thanks to Council Members Brad Lander, Steve Levin and Margaret Chin for taking this up. If too many people are opposed to altering the bridge, one lane of the roadbed should be given over to cyclists as an alternative. Implementing a toll on the bridge would reduce some of the car volume, making reallocation of the lanes an easier lift.
Aug. 8, 2012, 8:46 am
Scott from Park Slope says:
This is a great idea. Thanks to Steve and Brad for pushing for it. The bike lane and pedestrian lane need to be physically separate. It's too dangerous the way it is. Even when you're riding your brakes on the downhill your speed and the micro-second warning you get before pedestrians dart into the lane is a recipe for disaster.
Aug. 8, 2012, 12:05 pm
Big V from Park Slope says:
The bridge simply cannot be left the way it is. There are just too many people on it paying no attention to anyone else. It has become a safety hazard and a strong disincentive to commuting by bike into Manhattan. Thank you Council Members Lander, Levin and Chin for this excellent proposal!
Aug. 8, 2012, 12:08 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I got a better idea for this. How about the cyclists just walk their bikes through the walkway instead? Better yet, just use the Manhattan Bridge since there aren't a lot walking there, plus it's not that far away from the Brooklyn Bridge. As for the tolls, they were stopped long ago, because the whole purpose was to use them to pay off the costs and then remove them. After that, the taxes for infrastructure would take over from there. In other words, it is still being paid for, just in a different way. As a matter of fact, the tolls on some of the more later bridges and tunnels were supposed to removed decades ago, but were kept in the claim that there would be a revenue stream from there, which made them even more expensive than ever. Either way, when the idea for tolling all free NYC crossings came again in both the 1970's and more recently, it was highly opposed and defeated greatly, so don't count on pushing it again.
Aug. 8, 2012, 1:27 pm
Twyla from BH says:
Give bikers a lane of traffic on the bridge and put up barriers to protect them from cars!
Aug. 8, 2012, 2:30 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
In the original walkway, there were stairs. You can see many photographs documenting that. It was never intended for cyclists and can not accommodate them. Bikes are never as bad as the artarded artard tourists that can't stay on their side of the line, but to make this work, they have to go.
Aug. 8, 2012, 3:34 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
As usual, our friend Tal always tries to push the blame on cyclists even when others break the rules.

Cars parking in a bike lane? Get rid of the bike lane.

Tourists standing in a bike path? Get rid of the bike path.

Just reminding everyone that this guy from the suburbs adds absolutely nothing constructive to any debate on cycling and does not deserve our attention.
Aug. 8, 2012, 3:51 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I think only the Brooklyn side of the bridge as a special entrance leading to the walkway, because a few years ago the one on the Manhattan side, located around Pace University, was closed up making the only entrance by City Hall Park, and I don't know why. Nevertheless, the walkway is pretty crowded, and I think that both cyclists and pedestrians should play their part. To widen the walkway or place it on the travel lanes themselves, it won't be a cheap idea. Also, who will be paying for it? Then again, I have a feeling that it will be the motorists, who are already paying to maintain the bridge through gas taxes and so many others involving infrastructure. Still, just use the Manhattan Bridge, because less walk there or even the Williamsbug Bridge for the same reason. If you really have to use the Brooklyn Bridge, then just either bike slowly or just walk the bike, because it's not that long of a stretch. I don't see what is wrong with that rather than spending so much money to rearrange it in a way that it might never be used and seen as just another boondoggle.
Aug. 8, 2012, 3:55 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
"Then again, I have a feeling that it will be the motorists, who are already paying to maintain the bridge through gas taxes and so many others involving infrastructure."

Gas taxes aren't paying for maintenance of the Brooklyn Bridge, Tal. It's under the jurisdiction of the NYCDOT, which receives most of its funding from city income, sales, and property tax revenue - not gas taxes.
Aug. 8, 2012, 4:34 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- WHY o' WHY do you persist on showing us how ignorant and mentally challenged you are??! It's really getting sad.

By the way, the Brooklyn Bridge is almost a MILE long. Why are all of those cars driving across it? They should just walk -- it's not that far. And the Brooklyn Bridge and Manhattan Bridge are 3/4 of a mile apart in Manhattan.

Oh yeah, one other thing. Shut the F*ck up, Tal from Pleasantville. When you start commuting and living in New York City, you can then voice your stupid opinions. In the meantime, your uninformed and ridiculous comments that your post from your mom's basement in Pleasantville are Not Welcome! You are FORTY miles away from the Brooklyn Bridge and you've NEVER EVER worked or lived here. Your handful of trips here by car to whine about the Atlantic Yards do not make you a resident of Brooklyn. SHUT UP and GO AWAY.
Aug. 8, 2012, 5:31 pm
Stef from Ft. Greene says:
I'd like to see a car lane closed and walled off for usage by cyclists. Car traffic has occupied the city space long enough.
Aug. 8, 2012, 6:55 pm
S from PPW says:
Make a real bike lane on the bridge and get rid of a car lane. The tourists can enjoy the view above on both sides! Much cheaper to do too.
Aug. 8, 2012, 7:39 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The bottom line is that the Brooklyn Bridge has as much traffic on the travel lanes right now. Giving up one of them on either side will just make it worse than ever, and I know this because I have driven on it recently with one already blocked off for road work. Then again, it would help Bloomberg in promoting congestion pricing by creating the very gridlock. I don't see what is wrong with either walking your bicycle through the place or just using one of the other bridges. BTW, the opposition to reinstating a toll on that bridge is actually homegrown as it was not just opposed back in 1970's, but was also defeated more recently. On a side note, Bloomberg and JSK already have made a lot of enemies, and this idea might just give them even more.
Aug. 8, 2012, 10:04 pm
ty from pps says:
Tal -- SHUT UP. "I don't see what is wrong with either walking your bicycle through the place or just using one of the other bridges." Guess why? Because you're stupid. If you weren't so dumb, maybe you could see why... hmm?

Why do you keep inflicting your ignorance on us? Why don't you focus on the issues of Pleasantville and doing the chores your mom has been pestering you about for days now.
Aug. 8, 2012, 10:39 pm
Not Tal from Not Pleasantville says:
Ty, Tal is like the Phelps Family of the livable streets community. He wants to instigate a fight by using provocative, irrational vitriol so he can be attacked and play the victim card. He's like a virus that won't go away, so like all trolls, the best we can do is ignore him.

Just like how the Phelpses are still waiting for the wrath of God to rain down on America, Tal is still waiting for someone to dig up all the bike lanes. Thankfully, neither will ever happen.
Aug. 8, 2012, 10:43 pm
ty from pps says:
Not Tal -- I seriously think I'm going to call Tal's mom. He needs help. Even though he lives in their basement, I don't think his parents know how troubled he is.
Aug. 8, 2012, 10:45 pm
Just Curious from Park Slope says:
Just curious, why is walking a bicycle through a busy thoroughfare such a "stupid" idea? By reducing a car lane, the area around the bridge would get more backed up and spew even more pollution into the air.

Just curious, why do bicyclists have the right to ride their bicycles through a crowd of people when automobiles can't? Aren't bicycles supposed to abide by the rules of the road (e.g. red lights, right of way, etc...

Just curious.
Aug. 9, 2012, 7:17 am
ty from pps says:
Just Curious,

So, you don't want bicycles on the roadway... but bicycles should abide by the same rules. Wouldn't that be a valid assertion if they were allowed to be on the road?

If traffic is so "backed up" -- why don't the drivers walk too?

Why do pedestrians have the right to encroach on bicycle lanes forcing a cyclist to become a pedestrian? Why do motor vehicles have the right to not share the road with anyone? (i.e., an unfettered 'right' to spew pollution into the air... while cyclists have to dismount and walk a mile?????)
Aug. 9, 2012, 7:28 am
Just Curious from Park Slope says:
From the Daily News:

The Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges have been outfitted for pedestrian and bicycle crossings. Both spans have limited space for movement. At many times, especially on the Brooklyn Bridge, the confines are too limited to accommodate the crush of strollers and rolling bicycles.
So bicyclists have to give, never mind that large numbers of the walkers are tourists and most of the cyclists are New Yorkers. The rule is that pedestrians have the right of way over moving vehicles, including bikes. Additionally, by public acclamation, the bridge’s pedestrian path has become, in effect, just another sidewalk.

As for the practicalities of the scheme broached by Lander, Levin and Chin, they haven’t a clue how much the project would cost. Rest assured it would be big bucks, especially because the job would require building over moving traffic.

It is nuts even to contemplate such an expenditure when the city hasn’t the funding to renovate deteriorating public housing or build schools to relieve overcrowding. The three officials should take a lesson in common sense from Martin Brahms of Brooklyn, whose letter on the subject appears in the Voice of the People.
He asks, “ Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply require cyclists to walk their bikes across the bridge, with penalties for those who do not?”

Read more:
Aug. 9, 2012, 7:55 am
Just Curious from Park Slope says:
@ Ty

The first issue is that when bicyclists and pedestrians share the same space, the pedestrians have the right of way.

The unintended consequence of reducing a lane from the motorists and creating a bike lane is a lot more traffic and pollution.

As for the driver's walking in lieu of driving across the bridge, yes, I agree if they resided close to the bridge. However if a person commutes from an area not served by public transportation (lots of south and central Brooklyn comes to mind) why should they be penalized?

My anecdotal guess (sorry, I don't have the numbers available) the Brooklyn Bridge is used the most by motorists, then pedestrians and lastly bicyclists. And yes, having dedicated bicycle lane is an excellent idea worth pursuing. How about having that lane built on the underutilized Manhattan Bridge?
Aug. 9, 2012, 8:05 am
ty from pps says:
Just Curious,

There is a bike lane on the Manhattan Bridge -- a very nice one. And is the second busiest bridge for bicycle commuting (5,000 per day). But guess what? The Manhattan Bridge goes to a different part of the city! The BB and MB are 3/4 of a mile apart in Manhattan.

Why is there a subway station at Herald Square? There's a perfectly good subway station at Times Square and another at Union Square. Do you see how that works?

We're not going to have sidewalks on this street because the next street has a sidewalk that is already there and is underutilized. What's the big deal? It's only a block away. Why are cars using the Brooklyn Bridge? They can just use the Williamsburg Bridge or the Midtown Tunnel... right?
Aug. 9, 2012, 8:43 am
Ollie from Sunset Park says:
Cyclists have just as much right to use the Brooklyn bridge as any other form of transportation, without having to dismount and walk across the nearly 1 mile span. I used to commute across the Brooklyn bridge daily (by bicycle) and honestly, I would have used the Manhattan bridge if it were even remotely convenient, but it wasn't.

The fact of the matter is that it is very crowded for both pedestrians and cyclists, and both pedestrians and cyclists deserve a safe crossing, but why does this mean that cyclists, who are just as legitimate as cars or pedestrians, be banned?

A solution needs to be made, either expand the walkway so that it can better accommodate the crowds, or give the cyclists a car lane to use. It is unfair to suggest that cyclists alone need to be forced to accommodate both pedestrians and cars. Everyone has a right to use the roads.
Aug. 9, 2012, 8:52 am
ty from pps says:
By the way -- 923,683 car drive into Manhattan every day. A MILLION cars driving *into* Manhattan.
Aug. 9, 2012, 8:54 am
Chris from Bushwick says:
Just Curious,

I think the point here is that most people proposing that cyclists walk their bikes across the bridge ignore the fact that most people using the bridge are doing so to get somewhere for work or errands... not just to joyride.

A cyclist who has to walk their bike across the bridge both ways each day would be tacking on nearly a half-hour to their commute. What if I told you that from now on, just because of the mode of transit you chose, you would have to spend an extra 30 minutes commuting each day?

Most people crossing the bridge on bikes aren't doing it for fun. And let's remember that the problem here is that pedestrians wander into the way of cyclists in the bike lane. Why should the solution be to penalize cyclists?
Aug. 9, 2012, 9:17 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
923,683 car drive into Manhattan every day. A MILLION cars driving *into* Manhattan.

None of them are joy riding.

They are bringing money into town.
Aug. 9, 2012, 11:17 am
Chris from Bushwick says:
Or: Actually, quite a few of them are looking for a cheap trip to New Jersey by cutting through Manhattan to avoid the Verrazano. I guess it depends on your definition of "joyriding."

Then again, driving in Manhattan is never a joy.

But that's beside the point... I'm not suggesting, nor are the councilmen and women, removing a lane of car traffic from the bridge. I don't think that's a viable solution, and it would be plenty costly if you consider the logistics of allowing cyclists to access the roadbed.

But doing nothing and suggesting cyclists walk their bikes for a mile isn't a viable solution, either. Something needs to be done for everyone's safety.
Aug. 9, 2012, Noon
ty from pps says:
Or -- I never suggested that *most* of the million cars have no purpose. Did I? Or are you just being a crank?
Aug. 9, 2012, 12:05 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
"Actually, quite a few of them are looking for a cheap trip to New Jersey by cutting through Manhattan to avoid the Verrazano. I guess it depends on your definition of "joyriding."

You can't repeal the law of unintended consequences.

Aug. 9, 2012, 12:21 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
"Actually, quite a few of them are looking for a cheap trip to New Jersey by cutting through Manhattan to avoid the Verrazano. I guess it depends on your definition of "joyriding."

You can't repeal the law of unintended consequences.

Aug. 9, 2012, 12:21 pm
ty from pps says:
"You can't repeal the law of unintended consequences."

Yes you can. It's called congestion pricing.
Aug. 9, 2012, 12:23 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
"You can't repeal the law of unintended consequences."

True! But you can repeal the now decades-old law that forced us into that mess in the first place.
Aug. 9, 2012, 12:25 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Yes you can. It's called congestion pricing.

Ha ha ha ha ha! The true reason Mayor for Life Mike and his 'traffic commish' love bike lanes!

Taxing the tax you pay on goods and services!

Hello Sunbelt!
Aug. 9, 2012, 12:30 pm
ty from pps says:
Fine. I have absolutely no problem exempting commercial vehicles from congestion pricing. If you are delivering goods or providing services (in a properly registered commercial vehicle), drive away.

Of the 1 million vehicles driving into Manhattan every day, what percentage DO NOT fall into that category?

But Or, I think you're hilarious. Do you not think the cost of delivery trucks and service technicians sitting in gridlock (i.e., not working and not delivering things) finds its way into the price we pay for goods and services?!? The fact is, the folks that *prefer* to drive but have no real *need* to drive are costing all of us money.

I suppose you can point to an example of how cyclists are *causing* congestion?
Aug. 9, 2012, 12:41 pm
Or from Yellow Hook says:
. Do you not think the cost of delivery trucks and service technicians sitting in gridlock


People waste time waiting for subways that never come.

People waste time in any commute, and have so since 1860, when "congestion" was so great that they put a pedestrian walkway over Fulton Street in Manhattan.

Congestion = $$$ = prosperity

Cyclists don't cause congetion, but poorly planned bike lanes do.
Aug. 9, 2012, 1:01 pm
ty from pps says:
How is this a strawman?!?!? Oh lord.

It's not a binary issue of -- wasted time, yes or no?

It's the MAGNITUDE of the wasted time. If a delivery truck is stuck in traffic for 45 mins of a day... that's a certain amount of cost (45 mins X hourly rate plus fuel). If a truck is stuck in traffic for 3 hours of a day.... that a different cost (180 mins X hourly rate plus fuel).

How is that a "strawman" argument? Such a douchebag.
Aug. 9, 2012, 1:08 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I highly doubt that walking a bicycle on the Brooklyn Bridge will take that long. I have done it, and it only took me about ten minutes to do so. I once remembered when I called for jury duty where I parked my car in Brooklyn near the bridge and walked it both ways, though I did dodge a bullet in getting a parking ticket for some reason, but that's besides the point. If a slightly, overweight person such as myself can do it, I don't see why the rest can't. It's not as if a bicycle is that heavy. Then again, the Manhattan Bridge isn't that far away and can always be used seeing that its walkway is less used.
Aug. 9, 2012, 3:11 pm
Chris from Bushwick says:
BREAKING NEWS, EVERYONE! Tal just claimed he can walk one and half miles (the exact length of the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade from Tillary Street to Park Row) in ten minutes.

Congrats, Tal! You just found a way to WALK at a speed of 9 mph! You must have super-human legs!

I can see Brooklyn Paper's headline tomorrow: SUPER-WALKER! PLEASANTVILLE MAN HAS SUPER-HUMAN LIMBS!

Or, it could just be that the lengths at which Tal will go to lie to form his argument know no bounds.
Aug. 9, 2012, 11:26 pm
Scott from Park Slope says:
SwampYankee claims he can drive from Bay Ridge to the Bronx in 20 minutes, and Tal claims he can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in 10 minutes. Hmm, I think we're onto something here--they share the same mental illness. Now if we can only determine what it is about the Brooklyn Paper that attracts people with their syndrome we'll be handing a powerful tool to epidemiologists that they can use to identify and help these poor, tortured (torturous?) souls.
Aug. 10, 2012, 8:22 am
Everyman from The Stuy says:
Tal, does a grit absorb water faster on your stove than anywhere else in the grit cooking world as well? The laws of physics cease to exist on your stove?
Aug. 10, 2012, 10:31 am
Chris from Bushwick says:
^ Best comment of the day. Everyman, you win.
Aug. 10, 2012, 10:46 am
BrianVan from Gramercy says:
1. I don't care what this indicates about how I live my life, but if one Googles aggressively enough they can find evidence on the Internet that you are about the size of a planet, and that if you ever attempt to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge you might be directed to use the vehicle lanes. So, you can't walk the bridge in 10 minutes.

2. No one else can walk across the Brooklyn Bridge in 10 minutes.

3. But, on a bike, not only could I cross the Brooklyn Bridge in less than 10 minutes, but I could likely get from Battery Park to 14th Street on the West Side. A fit cyclist moves as fast as an express subway train through the city if unencumbered by red lights. How long would anyone walk that far? You're ridiculous for suggesting it as a realistic alternative.

Just admit it, you're an irrational bike hater because of cultural habit and you have no right to tell anyone how they should or shouldn't commute because you're swinging around Brooklyn all the time from all the way upstate, with your big SUV causing the most urban toxicity of anyone. Just admit it. I'll gain a little respect for you if you do.
Aug. 10, 2012, 10:58 am
BrianVan from Gramercy says:
Hmmm, where did that first line go where I said, "Tal:"

Oh well, who else would I be talking to from Pleasantville? I look forward to his astute response.
Aug. 10, 2012, 11:03 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
How nice to see the bike zealots, especially those from Streetsblog, respond with nothing but personal attacks showing that they once again use their own computers to attack while feeling safe at home. As a matter of fact, some of you probably have no jobs or lives seeing that you comment in the middle of a work day. The amount of time it takes to walk the Brooklyn Bridge depends on how much you walk, but I am not a tourist, so I don't stop to look at the views. Honestly, the time it took me to walk I was actually estimating, because I did that years ago when I did it when getting to jury duty that day. Seriously, this idea is pretty much a boondoggle, and this letter from the Daily News explains it well.
Aug. 10, 2012, 4:13 pm
Chuck from South Brooklyn says:
Has anyone though to prohibit cycling across the bridge only on certain times of the day and prohibit pedestrians on others?

I'd suggest, as an example, prohibiting Brooklyn-bound walkers during the morning rush, Manhattan-bound walkers during the evening rush, and cyclists during midday, and (this will get objection) on weekends.

This would hopefully serve to keep tourists off the bridge at the times when cyclists need it most.

I'm not a commuter by bike or foot (beholden to the MTA), but I much prefer crossing the Manhattan Bridge on bicycle and don't really understand why any cyclist who wouldn't unless their destination or origin is the small amount of Manhattan south of Worth Street.

Hey, it's just a suggestion, and it's a lot less costly than widening the path and a lot less stupid than forcing cyclists to walk their bikes across the bridge.
Aug. 12, 2012, 6:42 am
old time brooklyn from slope says:
common sense and manners (but pedalphyles can do no wrong cuz dey is pwecious)* - tyvm
Aug. 13, 2012, 1:45 am
Tom from Ft Greene says:
This is a problem that is only going to get more pressing. Do an RFP and get some designs done to address the problem, and take it out of this "public forum". I never knew what "nattering nabobs" meant before reading these self important ping pong discussions!
Aug. 13, 2012, 9:21 am
Daquan13 from East Boston says:
That cancer-causing puke Tal Barzilai is at it again. Maybe they should make all bridges for bikes only and restrict cars to tunnels. This way, Tal can still drive from work to his Mom's basement.
Aug. 17, 2012, 1:28 pm

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