July 1’s Opening of the Manhattan Bridge’s fully-ramped bicycle path is a cause for celebration. Like other bike project openings, such as the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway, it’s a significant demonstration that the City of New York believes that bicycling is good for New Yorkers and good for New York City.
What’s sweeter about the Manhattan Bridge’s new bike path is that the Department of Transportation, prior to opening the path, created and implemented bridge access plans that provide safe (though not necessarily direct) access to both sides of the new path. Now that the DOT has opened the new bridge path and striped many good bike lanes around it, the bittersweet aftertaste is that the most dangerous and popular route to the bridge, northbound Jay Street in Brooklyn, has changed very little. Given the City’s enthusiasm and hard work to open the bridge hopefully it will continue with equal vigor to improve bicyclist safety and access on both sides.
Sweet: Safe New Lanes
Brooklyn access to the
Manhattan Bridge is on the southeast corner of Sands and Jay Streets. The DOT
striped a southbound bike lane on Jay Street, from Sands to Tillary, for
cyclists exiting the bridge and installed one “Share the Road” sign with a
bicycle symbol on the northbound side of Jay between the bridge’s off-ramp and
Sands Street to alert motorists to the presence of cyclists. There is also a new
westbound bike lane on Sands Street from Navy Street to Jay Street, connecting
the bridge path to the Navy Street and Ashland Place bike lanes, Vinegar Hill
and the Navy Yards.
Bitter: Dangerous Access Must Be Better
Jay Street in Brooklyn is by
far the most popular cycling route to the Manhattan Bridge, but cyclists must
contend with drivers barrelling off the bridge onto Jay Street. T.A.’s 2003
“Manhattan Bridge Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Study” found that 80% of
bicyclists and pedestrians use Jay Street to get to and from the path. Yet,
after twelve years of requests from T.A. and three years of requests from
elected officials and community groups, the DOT has done almost nothing to
improve safety there. The agency installed a “Shared the Road” sign and erected
barricades to limit bicyclist access. Rather than barricades, the DOT should
improve the safety of bridge-bound bikers on Jay and install more signs,
flashing traffic lights and a northbound colored bike lane at the foot of the
bridge’s motor vehicle off-ramp.
Commissioner Iris Weinshall
DOT’s Fencing Team Thwarts Bridge Users
Conjuring outdated and erroneous notions of bicyclist and pedestrian safety, the DOT recently installed barricades on Jay Street’s east sidewalk in Brooklyn to block off a ramp many people use to access the Manhattan Bridge path. Path user safety would be better served by slowing motorists and alerting them to the presence of bikers and walkers. The barricades do not improve the safety of the 80% of path users who bike on Jay Street each day to access the new path, but most certainly inconveniences them. Instead, the DOT should install signs, flashing traffic lights and a northbound colored bike lane at the foot of the bridge’s motor vehicle off-ramp that would more safely and effectively lead cyclists to the fine new path on the other side of the bridge.