Summer 2001, p.5

You Can Take Manhattan

A dangerous four-lane crossing on the Brooklyn side needs a crosswalk and signal.It was a day cyclists and pedestrians will tell their grandchildren about: the first time in nearly two generations that they could pick any east river bridge to cross between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens. The opening of the Manhattan Bridge path at 7 a.m. on June 25, 2001 marked the first time in 40 years that cyclists and pedestrians could use all East River bridges as they were originally intended - to carry both motorized and non-motorized traffic between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens. T.A. commends DOT for sticking to their (extended) deadline and opening this welcome addition to the bicycle network.

As cyclists and pedestrians increasingly turn to the Manhattan Bridge as an important and efficient link between downtown Brooklyn and lower Manhattan (leaving the romance of the Brooklyn Bridge path to the kissing lovers and photographing tourists), several safety issues need attention in order to bring the Manhattan path up to par.

Twenty-three stairs is too many to climb for most path users.1. Reduce the Stairs
Right now bicyclists and pedestrians must climb 23 stairs on the Brooklyn end of the path. In three years, after contractors finish rehabilitating the bridge, DOT promises a return to fully ramped access. Providing ramped access now would place path users in the middle of the contactor's staging area (for trucks and heavy machinery). Therefore T.A. proposes that the DOT extend the existing path a few more feet to a shorter set of stairs just south of the current path exit on Jay St. That staircase has only 5 steps, and would be much more manageable for cyclists, parents with strollers, and people that have trouble climbing stairs. Fewer stairs would mean more people using the bridge making it safer for everyone.

2. Improve the approaches
Street access on both ends of the path must be re-designed to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. On the Manhattan side the madness of the Bowery and Canal intersection demands a crosswalk and 'walk' signal for pedestrians to use getting on and off the bridge. Forty years of motorists-only traffic on the Brooklyn side makes the approach dangerous for pedestrians and cyclists. The intersection of Jay St. and Sands St. has no crosswalk or 'walk' signals and needs both. Additionally, without a signal where cars and trucks exit the bridge onto Jay Street, accidents are bound to happen. Without improvements, there are no truly safe ways to reach the bridge from Jay St.

3. On the Path
There are no emergency call boxes on the new path. The absence of phones is a major security problem. Users must be able to contact help in case of an emergency on the bridge. Unlike the Brooklyn Bridge where there are throngs of users, the Manhattan path can be a bit lonely - all the more reason for security measures including emergency phones, good lighting and frequent police patrols.

Write to Iris Weinshall at NYC DOT and commend her on the opening of the Manhattan bridge path, but let her know that access to the path must be improved.

Write to:
Iris Weinshall
NYC Department of Transportation
40 Worth St.
New York, NY 10013

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