The big rollout: Brooklyn Bridge bike lane officially opens

Officials cut the ribbon on the new Brooklyn Bridge bike lane in Manhattan, Sept. 14.
Photo by Kevin Duggan

The long-awaited Brooklyn Bridge bike lane opened Tuesday, Sept. 14, providing a protected and permanent two-way path for cyclists on the iconic span, according to the city’s chief streets planner.

“Anybody who has ever questioned the role of cycling in this city, is it a big deal, is it just a pandemic thing,” said Department of Transportation Commissioner Hank Gutman, “the answer is pretty clear today: cycling is a big deal, it is here, and today one lane of the Brooklyn Bridge is being dedicated to cycling forever.”

The DOT, local politicians, and bike advocates cut the ribbon on the new path which replaced the innermost car lane on the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge.

The Brooklyn Bridge bike lane opened on Sept. 14.Photo by Kevin Duggan

The change will allow cyclists to cross the connector without having to fend for space on the wood boardwalk above, which is already crowded again with out-of-towners, noted one elected official.

“I can confirm there are tourists back in New York City now because riding over the Brooklyn Bridge on the boardwalk is as perilous as it ever was today,” said Councilmember Steve Levin, who represents areas on the Brooklyn side of the bridge. “Yelling out, ‘bike lane, bike lane, bike lane,’ every 10 seconds is not something I’m gonna miss.”

DOT workers started installing the barriers and fencing for the bike lane in June, and set up “No Bike” signs on the walkway Monday, which is now pedestrian-only.

One advocacy leader said it was refreshing to celebrate new bike infrastructure amid a rash of deadly crashes in the city, most recently when a driver killed a 3-month-old baby and critically injured her mother in Brooklyn over the weekend.

“Instead of going to vigil after vigil, this is where we need to be, groundbreaking after groundbreaking,” said Transportation Alternatives executive director Danny Harris.

The news bike lane’s official opening was first broken Monday by Brooklyn Paper’s sister publication amNewYork Metro, and Gutman said in a draft release obtained by the paper that DOT will set its sights on the Queensboro Bridge next.

“Bridges for the People is a step in the right direction towards a safer and more sustainable transportation future that puts people first – and we look forward to implementing similar changes to the Queensboro Bridge this year,” Gutman said.

The plans were previously first reported on by Brooklyn Paper in June 2020, months before DOT handed a release to the New York Times months later ahead Mayor Bill de Blasio’s official announcement during his State of the City speech in January.

Hizzoner was initially slated to show up at Tuesday’s presser but didn’t come.

The project was the first reconfiguration of the bridge since trolley tracks were permanently removed in 1950, according to DOT.

Cyclists hailed the new protected lanes, but some criticized it as being way too narrow — at only 8 feet wide. DOT officials told locals at a Brooklyn community board meeting earlier this year that it is the best they could get done before de Blasio leaves office at the end of the year.

Some pedal pushers tried out the new bike lane early before its official opening last week, but the city quickly closed off the entrances again until Tuesday’s opening.

This story first appeared on amNewYork.