The project is the first reconfiguration of the bridge since trolley tracks were removed in 1950, and replaces one Manhattan-bound lane of traffic with a two-way cycling path.
“Anybody who has ever questioned the role of cycling in this city should know that this is a permanent and growing part of how New Yorkers are going to get around for the rest of our lives,” said said Department of Transportation (DOT) Commissioner Hank Gutman. “Today, we are dedicating one lane of the Brooklyn Bridge to cycling forever.”
DOT began work on the new bike lane last June. In the year since, DOT has added lane markings to the cycling path and constructed a new connecting bike lane on Centre Street in Manhattan.
The current bike crossing on the Brooklyn Bridge occupies space on the pedestrian boardwalk, creating dangerous situations for tourists and cyclists alike. According to DOT data, the bridge previously peaked at 60,000 bike crossings and 10,000 pedestrian crossings per day.
“This isn’t only a great day for cyclists, it is also a great day for pedestrians,” Gutman said. “Those who have tried to share the boardwalk on the Brooklyn Bridge where pedestrians and cyclists compete for space, especially now with tourists returning, know that it was not safe.”
Councilman Steve Levin, who arrived at the press event on his bike, echoed a similar sentiment.
“I rode my bike to City Hall today over the Brooklyn Bridge today, and I can confirm that the tourists are back and that the boardwalk is just as crowded as it’s ever been,” he said. “I will not miss calling out ‘bike lane’ every time I try to ride over.”
Other elected officials discussed the ways the new bridge design will hopefully decrease vehicle traffic by making other forms of transportation more accessible.
“Every time I walk over the Brooklyn Bridge, it has become harder and harder to know where the pedestrians go and where the cyclists should go,” said Assemblywoman Jo Anne Simon. “This is a really smart way to do it. It will reduce traffic on the bridge, improve air quality, and give cyclists and pedestrians a safer way to get across the bridge.”
Danny Harris of Transportation Alternatives said substantial investments into cycling can decrease traffic accidents and fatalities citywide. Harris urged DOT to also create a dedicated bike lane on the Queensboro Bridge, a project that has been discussed for years.
“We don’t want vigil after vigil anymore,” Harris said. “What we want is bike lane after bike lane, groundbreaking after groundbreaking.”