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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