January/February 1997, p.8-9

T.A. Mounts Campaign To Save QBB Bike Path

Rally, Fax/Postcard Blitz, and Lawsuit All Part of Effort

Read the latest news about this issue.

Over 200 people rallied at a November 12 T.A. action to restore the bicycle and pedestrian path of the Queensboro Bridge (QBB). In late October, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a partial ban on cyclists and pedestrians from the Queensboro Bridge. The decision by Commissioner Chris Lynn to open the bike lane to cars from 3-8 pm weekdays was prompted by the general uproar caused by DOT'S disastrous attempt to reroute bridge traffic. The South Outer Roadway of the bridge, the dedicated cyclist and pedestrian lane since mid-1993, is supposed to become the permanent bike/ped lane in late 1999, when reconstruction is done. Given DOT'S history of reneging on its promises, however, we must keep the pressure on to assure the lane is not given over to cars. In 1990, T.A. members successfully fought a City attempt to deny full-time cyclist and pedestrian access, staging 30 T.A. demonstrations and winning a landmark lawsuit.

Since the rally, T.A. has mounted a grassroots campaign to persuade the city to reinstate the bike and pedestrian lane. Thanks go out to all the people who have written letters, sent postcards, handed out flyers and stood in the cold counting cars, bikes and pedestrians using the bridge. Numerous people in Queens and Manhattan have begun to act as liaisons to their local elected officials and community boards. Deputy Mayor Rudy Washington recently asked T.A. why he was getting so many postcards about the bridge. Keep 'em coming!

T.A.'s efforts have already persuaded Borough Presidents Claire Shulman (Queens) and Ruth Messinger (Manhattan), Manhattan Community Boards 6 and 8, and City Council member Gifford Miller to ask for restoration of the bridge path. 

Mayor Giuliani: The Grinch Who Stole the Bike Lane

Rather than address the problem of too many cars, the city has bent over backwards to accommodate more driving and more traffic. Are Giuliani and Lynn suffering from some kind of delusion in which they believe that by expanding the auto-carrying capacity of roads and bridges they will reduce traffic? Or, is it all pure politics in which the Mayor is pandering to his increasingly car-dependent supporters outside of Manhattan? 

Either way, the result is the same: bicyclists and pedestrians who are part of the solution to car congestion and pollution get punished, while motorists flocking to free crossings like the Queensboro Bridge are rewarded with more pavement and more space.

Broken Promises and Distortions

  • DOT has reneged on three years' worth of written and verbal promises that the Queensboro Bridge would have a full-time bike and pedestrian lane during all phases of construction:
    • February 22, 1995
      • "...The construction of the outer roadways (in the current project) will be achieved in two stages.  Due to an alternating construction scheme, bridge accessibility for bicyclists and pedestrians will be maintained during the entire construction period.  After completion of the construction, the south outer roadway will be dedicated to bicyclists and pedestrians..."
        -Peter Pizzuco, P.E., Assistant Commissioner
    • June 17, 1996
      • "Queensboro Bridge: Reconstruction of the norht outer roadway is scheduled to begin this September and is anticipated to be completed in December 1997.  Bicyclists will be provided with continuous 24-hour access on the south outer roadway during this time.  Following completion of the north outer roadway, the south outer roadway is scheduled for reconstruction through December 1999.  Cyclists will have 24-hour access on the north outer roadway during this time..."
        -Peter Pennica, Chief, Plans and Surveys
  • Both the Mayor and Commissioner Lynn repeatedly misled reporters by claiming that only 50 bicyclists and pedestrians an hour would be affected and that the lane would carry 1100 cars in their stead. In reality, the lane was carrying up to 140 bicyclists and pedestrians an hour (even in November) and well over 1,000 a day. Now, thanks to the ban, about 400 cars an hour are using the bike lane. Clearly, the Mayor's claims were hugely inflated: instead of 22 times more cars than bikes and peds, as the Mayor claimed, not even three times as many cars are using the lane per hour than bikes and peds were before the ban.
  • T.A. has sued the NYC Department of Transportation over its actions banning bikes and pedestrians from the Queensboro Bridge weekdays from 3 PM to 8 PM. The lawsuit, filed by T.A. attorney Rick Muller, cites a violation of the City Charter, which requires agencies to hold public hearings before making substantial policy changes. The city is flouting the law by its failure to notify the public or hold hearings on the decision.
  • The case is being heard in NY State Supreme court. T.A. is seeking a preliminary injunction against the city, which would force it to restore 24-hour bike and pedestrian access until a full hearing is held in mid-January. The substance of the lawsuit is based on the successful 1987 T.A. suit against the city when then-Mayor Ed Koch banned cyclists from midtown Manhattan.

Act Now to Restore Your Path

T.A. and the cyclists and pedestrians unjustly robbed of their path need you to write, fax and call your city council member. Just a short note asking " what are you doing to restore the Queensboro Bridge bike lane?" is extremely helpful-especially if you live on the East Side of Manhattan or anywhere in Queens. If you need contact information for your representatives, call T.A. Anyone who can help out T.A.'s Queens Committee should also call the T.A. office at (212) 475-4600 so we can put you in touch with Committee Chair Michael Pomanakis.

Contact your city council member, plus Speaker Vallone and Borough President Shulman:

Peter Vallone
Speaker, NYC City Council
City Hall, NY, NY 10007
Tel: (718) 599-3658

Claire Shulman
Queens Borough President
120-55 Kew Gardens, NY 11424
Tel: (718) 286-2870

Remember to Ask Them: What Are You Doing Right Now to Restore the QBB Bike and Pedestrian Lane?