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Posts from the Brooklyn Bridge Category

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Tolling Opens Up Possibilities for Better Brooklyn Bridge Walking and Biking

Tolls-will-shrink-East-River-bridge-traffic-_-better-heading-_10-Aug-2016

With crowding on the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path in a state of near constant low-level emergency, this week NYC DOT announced a feasibility study of widening the bridge’s promenade. A path with sufficient space for the thousands of commuters, exercisers, and tourists who walk and bike across the bridge each day would be an immensely valuable improvement. But what if the same benefits could be derived at less cost by claiming space on the Brooklyn Bridge roadway?

At the heart of the issue is space. If motorists see a big new bike lane on the bridge while they stew in rush-hour traffic, the configuration might not last. Could tolls liberate enough space to turn over a Brooklyn Bridge car lane to bikes?

The answer depends on the toll levels as well as on assumptions about traffic redistribution from equalizing tolls with other crossings nearby, and the degree to which investing toll revenues would lead to improved transit service. Let’s look at some numbers.

The number of motor vehicles on the East River bridges averaged 235,000 per day in each direction in 2014, the last year for which data is available. (It makes more sense to look at the four East River bridges as one entity since they likely would be tolled together.)

Tolling the bridges would reduce that figure in three ways: by pricing some vehicle trips off the roads; by redistributing some trips from the free bridges to the Brooklyn Battery and Queens Midtown Tunnels and the Triborough Bridge, which already have tolls; and by expediting transit improvements that would attract some trips in and out of Manhattan that are now made by car.

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Brooklyn Bridge Promenade Expansion Could Start in 2019

DOT's hypothetical concept for expanding pedestrian and bike access on the Brooklyn Bridge would build new paths over the steel girders that run above the main roadways. Image: DOT

DOT’s concept for expanding the walking and biking path on the Brooklyn Bridge would build new paths over the steel girders that run above the main roadways. Image: DOT

An expansion of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path could get underway by 2019 if it’s folded into a rehab project that’s already in the pipeline, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said this afternoon.

The path is as narrow as 10 feet at pinch points and cannot comfortably accommodate the thousands of people who use it each day.

For now, the next step is a $370,000 feasibility study slated to wrap up in seven months. DOT has already conducted a preliminary assessment of conditions on the bridge path and posted a working concept for the expansion [PDF].

The idea is to widen the pathway by building on top of the steel girders that run over the bridge’s main roadways. Most of the wooden deck for walking and biking is four feet below the girders, so the expansions would be at a higher grade than the current path. Trottenberg said DOT will also explore expanding the concrete approaches to the wooden deck on both the Brooklyn and Manhattan sides.

If the concept proves unfeasible for whatever reason, Trottenberg said DOT’s attention could turn to the main roadway. “I think if the study finds out that it’s not feasible, there is going to be interest in seeing what we would do next in terms of potential traffic,” she said. “Look, the Brooklyn Bridge carries a lot of traffic… But I think certainly we’re seeing a lot of enthusiasm about the idea of making more of the bridge available for cyclists and pedestrians.”

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DOT Will Study Widening the Brooklyn Bridge Walking and Biking Path

Rendering: NYC DOT

What a wider Brooklyn Bridge promenade might look like. Rendering: NYC DOT

The days of pedestrians and cyclists fighting for scraps of space on the Brooklyn Bridge may be numbered.

NYC DOT has initiated a study of expanding the narrow promenade, which is too crowded to work well for pedestrians or cyclists for most of the year. The Times reports that the city has retained engineering firm AECOM to study the feasibility of widening the pathway, which has not been expanded since the bridge opened in 1883.

Stories about conflict between walkers and bikers on the cramped promenade have become a rite of spring in New York City. As soon as the city thaws out from winter, people head out to walk or bike across the Brooklyn Bridge in numbers that the path, which is as narrow as 10 feet on some sections, cannot comfortably support.

Pedestrian counts on peak days tripled between 2008 and 2015, and bike counts nearly doubled, according to the Times. Typical weekday traffic is now 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 cyclists. Still, those numbers probably don’t come close to capturing how many people would bike or walk across the bridge if the path were not so cramped.

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Get Ready For a Very Uncomfortable Year on the Brooklyn Bridge

There’s crowded, and then there’s the Brooklyn Bridge on a nice warm day with construction fencing off half the walking and biking path. Image: DOT

Just as the weather warms and tourists once again mob the Brooklyn Bridge to admire the skyline and snap some photos, DOT has announced that construction work will narrow the one place on the bridge path that’s even remotely close to comfortably wide.

The maintenance work involves “steel improvements at tower locations as well as structural joint repair on the Brooklyn approach.” For people walking and biking on the bridge path, that will mean squeezing around construction fences blocking off one side of each tower.

Nowhere to pause for photos, nowhere to not be in the way of other people. Image: DOT

Image: DOT

During overnight hours, part of the Brooklyn side of the path will also be halved.  The closures, which are more intrusive than previous construction barriers, will be in place through December. Additionally, between April 6 and April 20 DOT will close half the Manhattan approach during overnight hours.

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Eyes on the Street: NYPD Does Its Part to Fuel Brooklyn Bridge Tensions

nypd-blocks-ped-lane-on-bb

Embarrassed by two German artists who reached the top of the Brooklyn Bridge’s west tower this summer (or was it the All-Powerful Bike Lobby?), NYPD has adopted an ingenious solution: Put a motor vehicle on it!

A reader who wishes to remain anonymous sends these observations about the new NYPD security theater at NYC’s most crowded pinch point for pedestrians and cyclists:

There were three (count ’em) NYPD vehicles (Interceptors) parked on the promenade all day [Sunday]. In each one was a cop, sitting quietly. I was wondering why they weren’t outside of their vehicle helping manage the chaos of tourists and bikes trying to squeeze past them, and then it occured to me – the three vehicles, midspan and one on each approach, were in position to watch the cables leading up to the towers in case someone else tries that “white American Flag” art stunt.

According to someone I met on the bridge who is a frequent visitor there, those posts were there when the crazed Russian tourist climbed to the top, a couple of weeks after the art stunt, but apparently the cops didn’t notice him until he was up there for a while.

I can understand how the cops might have missed something like that, as all three that I passed were busy looking down at their smartphones.

Of course the NYPD found a way to make their positions as obnoxious as possible, bringing up their enclosed motor vehicles and parking them on the promenade, causing tourists to swell around them and create yet another crowding hazard for bicyclists.

On surface streets, the Interceptors are a step up from squad cars in terms of spatial efficiency. But on a narrow, crowded pathway for walking and biking, there’s really no place for them.

StreetFilms
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Need to Add a Bike Lane to a Bridge? Experiment Like Pittsburgh Did

The Pro Walk Pro Bike Pro Place 2014 conference took place this week in Pittsburgh. Even though the Andy Warhol Bridge already has a nice shared bike-ped path on it, for one week the city decided to put bike lanes on its roadway. It’s the simplest design you can imagine, just two rows of small traffic barriers and a little bit of signage. I compiled a few moments of footage while walking to an event one night.

In New York City, the Brooklyn Bridge is just packed with pedestrians and cyclists. For about the last ten years or so, the crowding gets so intense at peak hours that it can be perilous. There have been many solutions suggested over the years, including converting one of the roadway’s car lanes to a two-way protected bike lane so cyclists and pedestrians don’t have to jostle for space on the narrow promenade they currently share.

Of course the Brooklyn Bridge has more traffic of all types than the Andy Warhol Bridge. But keep this Pittsburgh experiment in mind for the future. Something has to be done on the Brooklyn Bridge. Maybe a trial bike lane during the summer would be a good place to start.

It wouldn’t be an unprecedented decision. There are many other examples throughout the world — here’s our video of Vancouver giving road space to bikes on the Burrard Bridge:

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Safer, Saner Brooklyn Bridge Entrance on Track for Next Year

The Downtown Brooklyn entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge is set for some major upgrades. Image: DDC [PDF]

After years of planning and advocacy, an effort to improve the dangerous, ugly asphalt expanse on the Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge is set to take a big step forward tonight. Community Board 2 is meeting to vote on a resolution in support of a plan to expand space for walking and biking, realign car lanes, and add trees [PDF] that cleared its transportation committee with a unanimous 7-0 vote last month. Construction on the first phase is on track to begin as soon as the end of this year.

The Brooklyn side of the Brooklyn Bridge walking and biking path consists of a long, narrow concrete chute, sandwiched between the exhaust-choked car lanes of the Adams Street bridge approach. At the intersection of Adams and Tillary Street — both very wide streets dominated by motor vehicle traffic heading to and from free bridges — pedestrians and cyclists have to navigate a chaotic mess of traffic lanes, poorly coordinated signals, and narrow curb cuts to get to or from the bridge path.

The current design isn’t just unappealing, it’s dangerous for bike riders, walkers, and drivers alike: From 2008 to 2010, according to DOT, 339 people — including 24 cyclists and 32 pedestrians — were injured at nine intersections along the stretches of Tillary and Adams near the bridge.

The heart of the redesign is the intersection of these two streets, where the widened, tree-lined Brooklyn Bridge path entrance will have much more generous proportions for pedestrians and cyclists. South of Tillary Street, a center-running two-way bike lane would continue along Adams briefly before directing cyclists to striped bike lanes next to the parking lane on the next block, as Adams approaches Fulton Street. To make room for this wider median between Tillary and Johnson Streets, the service lanes on either side of this block of Adams will be eliminated.

Image: DDC

The plan for the western blocks of Tillary Street. Click to enlarge. Image: DDC

To make the whole area feel less like a highway, the city proposes reducing the amount of overhead signage and the presence of concrete barriers. Instead of the cattle chute, for example, pedestrians and cyclists on the bridge approach north of Tillary will be separated from car traffic by vegetation and a low chain barrier.

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Council Members Propose Widening Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Path

The council members' proposal would triple the width for pedestrians and create a separated, two-way bikeway on the bridge. Image: Office of Council Member Brad Lander

Council Members Brad Lander, Margaret Chin, and Stephen Levin — along with advocates from Transportation Alternatives — stood at the Manhattan entrance to the Brooklyn Bridge this morning and put forth a proposal to expand the bridge’s increasingly popular and exceedingly cramped bike and pedestrian path.

“It’s about time, in 2012, that we update it a little bit,” said Lander.

This announcement comes as a response to several years of rising pedestrian and bike traffic on the bridge. As the number of cyclists crossing the Brooklyn Bridge surpasses an average of 3,000 daily, and the number of tourists and walk-to-work commuters exceeds 4,000, according to NYC DOT, the potential for conflict and collisions has grown. While the daily tabloids have sensationalized the competition for space, there’s no doubt that it’s real and that something must be done about it.

The most recent efforts to address this issue have been the “pedestrian safety managers” that were hired by the city to ensure safety on the bridge. But as Levin said, “there is a limit to what can be done with management of the path.”

Currently the path ranges from eight feet to 16 feet wide, not including wider sections where the path passes the bridge buttresses. (It was also narrowed by three feet in some places due to reconstruction work that began in 2010.) The proposal unveiled today would widen the path to 34 feet, providing significantly more space for both pedestrians and cyclists.

The crux of the proposal is to expand the path so that the entire length is as wide as the sections that extend out and over the roadway in order to pass the buttresses. Extending the more generous width to the whole length of the bridge would allow for the creation of a two-way, separated bike path and a tripling of the space dedicated to pedestrians.

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Shocking Video From the Brooklyn Bridge “War Path”

Earlier this week we showed Doug Gordon’s incredibly dull video from our ride over the Manhattan Bridge with a member of the Daily News editorial board, a mind-numbingly mundane scene that the paper nevertheless characterized as a “battleground.”

The same day, the Post ran a story about the Brooklyn Bridge promenade under the headline “Look out! It’s B’klyn Bridge’s war path” with the requisite descriptions of hostile confrontations between cyclists and pedestrians and quotes from tourists saying bikes don’t belong on the path. (On the Post’s website, they also ran a much more measured and reasonable video alongside the print story, to their credit. Yes, the Post’s bike coverage is actually less sensational than the Daily News right now.)

Unlike the Manhattan Bridge, which is going through an extended construction headache at the moment and normally has plenty of space, the Brooklyn Bridge can be a pretty uncomfortable place to walk or bike during peak hours, even when the path isn’t narrowed by construction work, as it is now. But what happens when you ask people what should be done about the tight squeeze? Turns out most of them are pretty reasonable and gracious to those on the other side of the path.

Watch as no one takes the bait from reporter Lauren Hawker of BreakThru Radio when she asks if bikes should be banned from the promenade:

Lauren tells us that what you see here is what she got. No one she spoke to said they thought bikes should be banned. Conflict sells papers. Empathy for people getting around a different way than you? Not so much, I suppose.

Now, how about converting a car lane in the off-peak direction into a contraflow bike lane during rush hours on the bridge?

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Eyes on the Street: A Clearer Path for the Adams Street Bike Lane?

The bike lane on Adams Street used to be located on the right side of the street, but it looks like it might be switching to the left, where drivers may be less inclined to block it.

A reader sends this shot of the freshly paved surface of Adams Street, heading toward the Brooklyn Bridge just south of Johnson Street. The parking regulations have switched sides, so it looks like the old curbside bike lane on the right side of the street — a notorious double-parking zone — will be shifting over, either all the way to the left curb or between the parking lane and the moving lane. We have a request in with DOT to find out what the plan is.

A left-curb placement might make this bike lane somewhat less susceptible to chronic blockage by illegal parkers, nicely captured by Brownstoner today on a stretch of Adams closer to Tillary Street and the bridge entrance:

DOT is in the process of fleshing out a substantial redesign of the Tillary and Adams approaches to the Brooklyn Bridge, currently scheduled for construction sometime next year. An early concept for the project included a center median, two-way protected bike lane on one block of Adams south of Tillary. Word is that Council Member Steve Levin’s traffic task force wants to see the protected path extend all the way south to Atlantic, but funding remains less than certain.