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Posts from the "Brooklyn Bridge" Category

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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

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

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.

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The Efficient Past and Wasteful Present of the Brooklyn Bridge

Swapping transit for car lanes has led to an enormous decrease in capacity across the East River bridges. Image: Sam Schwartz at NYC DOT via FHWA

In the headlines this morning, we linked to a great historical photo of the approach to the Brooklyn Bridge on Brownstoner, and it’s taking a closer look at the full implications of the shot. Not for nostalgia’s sake, but to make a cool, calculated appraisal of the efficiency of this piece of transportation infrastructure, as currently configured.


The Brooklyn Bridge in 1903 carried far more people than it does now. Top photo: Shorpy.com via Brownstoner. Bottom photo: Google Maps via Brownstoner.

The 1903 image shows the bridge with only one lane in each direction for private vehicles, which at the time were drawn by horses. The rest of the space is given over to tracks for streetcars, elevated railroads, and pedestrians. Now, of course, there’s still a shared bike-ped path through the middle of the bridge, but the rest of it is all for cars, with three lanes of automobile traffic running on either side. No buses or trucks run over the bridge.

If the job of the Brooklyn Bridge is to move people between the two boroughs, the reallocation of space from transit to cars has been disastrous. In 1902, one year before the photograph was taken, the Brooklyn Bridge moved roughly 341,000 people a day across all its modes, according to the Federal Highway Administration. It hit its peak capacity a few years later, with 426,000 people using it each day in 1907.

Today, 125,000 motor vehicles cross the Brooklyn Bridge each day [PDF], as do roughly 4,000 pedestrians and 2,600 cyclists. For the bridge to carry as many people as it did at its peak, each of those cars would need to carry more than three people, but they do not. In 1989, when the city counted around 132,000 motor vehicles crossing, the FHWA estimated that 178,000 people crossed the bridge daily.

More than a century has passed since this photo was taken, and the Brooklyn Bridge’s capacity has declined by an enormous amount, thanks to the elimination of transit across it. You just can’t fit enough bulky and mostly empty cars on the bridge for it to add up.

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Construction Narrows Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Path

Narrow.JPGDuring the Brooklyn Bridge rehab, stretches of the 14-foot-wide bike-ped path will be narrowed to 11 feet. Photo: Noah Kazis

Heads up if you bike or walk across the Brooklyn Bridge: Rehab work slated to last until 2014 is narrowing the promenade from 14 feet to 11 feet.

Right now, paint removal work has narrowed part of the bike path by a foot and a half. A similar "paint removal containment unit" will soon be installed on the pedestrian side. The narrowed section of the path, which will fluctuate between 600 and 1000 feet long, will shift as the paint removal work moves along the bridge. DOT has already installed signs telling cyclists to dismount.

For what it's worth, none of the cyclists I saw on the bridge dismounted and everything seemed to work fine. But that wasn't during peak commute hours, and the other side of the path hadn't been narrowed yet. It may be worth going even more out of your way to take the Manhattan Bridge, but that route will have its own construction headaches starting at the end of this year. 

If you have any suggestions for the Brooklyn Bridge construction managers about how to make the best of a tight space that's about to get even more cramped, email brooklynbridgeoutreach@gmail.com.

Dismount_1.JPGDismount signs are up in both directions. Photo: Noah Kazis

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Eyes on the Street: Gravelly Bike-Ped Path Through Brooklyn Bridge Park

Construction.JPGConstruction is still underway, but the bike-ped path through Brooklyn Bridge Park is open. Photo: Noah Kazis

A vital link in the Brooklyn Waterfront Greenway is open, as a path through Brooklyn Bridge Park for pedestrians and cyclists nears completion. Though the park is still far from complete, the path cuts straight through the construction, connecting Pier 1, just below the Brooklyn Bridge itself, and Pier 6, at Atlantic Avenue. 

One thing you should know about the path: It's covered with a thin layer of gravel. It isn't deep or loose, but it will definitely add a new element to your ride. "I don't know if it's the ideal surface for every biker, but we've been open for a week now and haven't had any complaints," said Ellen Ryan of the Brooklyn Bridge Park Corporation, noting that plenty of cyclists have already ridden the path. This type of surface, known as "chip seal," is planned for the entire park and was chosen for its durability, cost-effectiveness, and aesthetic qualities, she explained. 

Toward the south end of the park, the path turns into a short, two-way on-street bikeway on Furman Street, separated from traffic by jersey barriers. For cyclists heading to the Brooklyn or Manhattan Bridge, the gravelly path through the park probably won't be as attractive as continuing straight on Furman, with its smoother surface and shorter route. As things stand, however, that would take them into the path of oncoming traffic:

Furman_bike_lane5.jpgThe end of the bikeway on Furman Street, where the path takes a turn into Brooklyn Bridge Park. Straight ahead is the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: Dave "Paco" Abraham

More pictures after the jump: 

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Turn Out Tonight to Talk Street Safety With Brooklyn CB 2

A quick note about tonight's meeting on motorist-cyclist relations put on by Brooklyn Community Board 2. "Sharing the Road, Sharing the Responsibility" -- a panel discussion with NYCDOT, NYPD, Transportation Alternatives, and AAA -- is an important one for cyclists to attend.

This community district includes the approaches to the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges. If you ride those bridges, you'll want to turn out for what promises to be a substantive discussion of street safety. We hear that the panel will field written questions from audience members. Here's where to go to speak up:

6:00 pm
St. Francis College - Founders Hall
180 Remsen St. (bet. Court & Clinton Sts.)
(2/3/4/5/M/R to Borough Hall)

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Streetfilms Shorties: The Brooklyn Bridge Bike-Ped Squeeze

A hot topic on Streetsblog the past few weeks has been the massive numbers of pedestrians and cyclists using the Brooklyn Bridge walkway during rush hours and weekends. Since many folks don't have the chance to experience the promenade day-in and day-out, I decided to capture the conditions on a recent ride home from work.

I shot all the footage you see here in about half an hour, starting at 4:15 p.m. -- it doesn't even show rush hour, when there are usually far more cyclists. I would say these scenes capture typical conditions on weekdays between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., as long as it's not rainy.

So, you can see the Brooklyn Bridge promenade is popular. Which is good! It's a wonderful place to experience the city and an important transportation link for many New Yorkers. But all those commutes, workouts, and sightseeing expeditions are increasingly uncomfortable for pedestrians and cyclists. Ten years ago I would have been amazed to see this many people using the walkway. Today, the Brooklyn Bridge promenade needs some relief.

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No Bike-Ped Overhaul in Brooklyn Bridge Reno Plans [Updated]

Editor's note: After we published this post, DOT contacted us to clarify the scope of the Brooklyn Bridge rehab and to clarify their statement on potential safety enhancements to the promenade. We have updated the post accordingly.

Cyclists and pedestrians have uneasily shared scarce space on the Brooklyn Bridge promenade for years. As people use the walkway in ever greater numbers, it only becomes more crowded for pedestrians, more stressful for cyclists, and more dangerous for everyone involved. Is there an end in sight? In a Times op-ed last month, Robert Sullivan suggested that the upcoming overhaul of the bridge would provide a good chance to disentangle the promenade by giving cyclists their own space. The rehab plan that's moving forward now, however, includes no such solution.

bbridge_crowds.jpgThe shared pedestrian-cyclist walkway on the Brooklyn Bridge. Photo: PIPERPILOT84.

New York City DOT is scheduled to begin a massive renovation project on the Brooklyn Bridge in December, with the contract awarded to Skanska Koch. The overhaul has been in the works since the state DOT listed the bridge in bad condition in 2007, and it will give the bridge some long-needed repairs, taking care of cracked concrete and other structural issues. But there's more to the project than just maintenance:

  • Arguing that the on- and off-ramps for car traffic are too narrow, the city will widen many of them from one lane to two.
  • Steel safety barriers will be added to the bridge's roadway, to prevent cars from crashing into the East River. These barriers are required for the project to receive federal stimulus funding.
  • A side project, set to start in 2012, will revamp the gateway to the Brooklyn Bridge on the Brooklyn side by reconstructing the entryway at the crossing of Tillary and Adams Streets.

Overall, the rehab project (which doesn't include the revamp of the Brooklyn-side gateway) is set to cost $365 million, of which about $30 million is coming from federal stimulus funding.

None of that money is slated to improve the bridge for the thousands of pedestrians and cyclists who use it every day. DOT has no plans right now to address the crowding on the promenade, but the agency does say it will act accordingly if a crash proves that safety enhancements need to be made. Update: DOT contacted us to clarify their statement, saying they were speaking about monitoring street safety in general, not the specific condition that exists on the promenade. "The agency is always looking for ways to improve safety," said spokesman Seth Solomonow. "We take appropriate actions no matter where they're needed in the city. We're not waiting for a crash to prove that improvements need to be made."

A walkway overhaul, he added, would not be a natural fit for the rehab project, which is limited to structural problems with the ramps, not the whole span. "We are not rehabbing the whole bridge," he said. "What you drive on and what you walk across is not going to change."

It's only a matter of time before some poor tourist gets hit and injured (or worse) by a cyclist trying to navigate through the crowds that the bridge attracts. And when the revamped Brooklyn-side gateway starts enticing more cyclists and pedestrians onto the bridge, the problem is only going to get worse.

There's no shortage of ideas to fix the problem. The city could, as Sullivan suggests, install a protected bike lane on the roadway. Or they could construct a bike path over one of the road beds. It is not out of the ordinary for New York City's bridge reconstruction projects to improve bike-ped infrastructure. One phase of the Williamsburg Bridge reconstruction, completed in 2002, included the addition of a new 18-foot wide footpath/bikeway in addition to structural repairs. With hundreds of millions of dollars now targeted for the Brooklyn Bridge, there's got to be a better way to allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely use it.