Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pedestrians vs Bikers On the Brooklyn Bridge

We love bikes. We ride bikes. But we also like to walk on the Brooklyn Bridge, along with thousands of other pedestrians. We try to stay in the half of the walkway reserved for walkers but at rush hours, midday or on weekends there are so many pedestrians you feel like you're in a cattle chute.

Why should half the bridge walkway be reserved for bikers? There are hundreds of times more walkers. Pedestrians can't get around each other. If a tourist stops to take a photo, walkers have to take their lives into their hands and duck into the bike lane, risking injury or worse.

It's dangerous for bikers, too. Pedestrians in the wrong lane cause bike crashes, and bikers have been having collisions for years in their narrow lane.

Though most bikers are civil, a sizable minority treat the bridge like a race track. They ride in a hunched over position to gain speed as they blast their way along. If tourists wander blithely into the bike lane this type of biker waits until they are almost upon them, then lets out a rude and frightening roar. They smugly tell themselves that the tourists are stupid idiots and deserve to be terrified.

Not all bikers do this. Most are just nice people out for a ride. But during one walk over the bridge about five will.

Runners often have to run in the bike lane because there's no room in the pedestrian lane. Children dart out into the bike lane. Why wouldn't they? It's a scenic bridge walkway, for goodness sake. If a child gets hit by one of these speeding bikers the result will be tragic.


Bikers have a hard time in this city. People open car doors on them without looking. Police give them tickets for things that aren't even against the law. Cars park in the bike lanes all the time.

Riding a bike is healthy and more people should do it. But the resources on the Brooklyn Bridge are not adequate for the sheer numbers of pedestrians and bikers.

Is there a solution to this problem?

- What if the city installed rubber speed bumps on the walkway?

- Or removed bikes from the walkway and gave them a lane on the bridge roadway? (Gothamist held a vote on this possibility.)

- Or made bikers dismount and walk their bikes when the bridge was crowded.

- A Streetsblog biker suggests limiting biking to the hours of 5 - 10 a.m. Another suggested closing the bridge to cars on weekends. Another suggested a new deck for bikes above the cars.

The walkway wasn't always a continuous, smooth racetrack. Years ago the walkway had steps in several places -- you had to carry your bike up and down several levels at least twice along the way, and again at the entrance and exit. This certainly slowed traffic down! (And built up your arm muscles.)

It was inconvenient but much safer.

Photos by MK Metz

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Anonymous said...

Not one bicycle rider observes all of the rules and regulations of the road which they are subject to.

Chicken Underwear said...

First, Mr Anonymnous, I do and so does my family. The same can be said for walkers and drivers.

Second, speed bumps wont work. The Brooklyn Bridge needs a staff.

Peter said...

I would like to see a 'serpentine' kind of thing put in by either tower. that would force the bikers to dismount.

That would slow the reckless speeding.

CobHill said...

Peter -- The old stairs used to have that function. You'd get to the tower, get off your bike, stand in line for the stairway, throw it on your shoulder and carry it up a flight. Then get back on and ride to the next tower. Then get off the bike and do the same thing in reverse to go down to the lower deck level. It discouraged a lot of not-so-serious bikers, and the bridge walkway was a lot emptier. Good old days!

Anonymous said...

I'd say a chain separating the two lanes. Tourists are unaware of their surroundings a lot in this busy city & that will always frustrate NYers. If someone let their child wander into the bike lane, it would be utter negligence on the parent's behalf. Until there's separation, STAY OUT OF THE BIKE LANE & we won't think you're an idiot.

Anonymous said...

There's a very simple solution: Reserve the Manhattan Bridge for bikers and the Brooklyn Bridge for walkers.

Anonymous said...

You're missing the point a little bit, McBrooklyn. It's a bridge. It connects. People use it to commute.

I bike everyday over the BK Bridge to and from work, and I've come to recognize at least a dozen other people who do the same. If you extrapolate out my 5 minutes to the whole morning and evening commute, you're talking hundreds of people biking over the bridge - not for scenic rides or strolls - but for the same reason cars and pedestrians are going over the Brooklyn Bridge.

The only viable option you've suggested is to take away a lane of traffic for bike use. Everything else is a punishment to the 95 out of a hundred cyclists who ride responsibly.