Construction on the hotly anticipated Brooklyn Bridge bike lane will begin this weekend and wrap up by the fall, according to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
Work on the road-level cycle path will start at 9 p.m. on Monday, June 21, with the closure of the left lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the bridge, according to City Hall.
“When that lane opens up it will be brand new, it will be for bikes only,” de Blasio said. “It will be a beautiful and radical reimagining of a New York City icon.”
The existing Brooklyn Bridge bike lane has long been a mess, with cyclists and pedestrians jammed onto the same narrow wooden walkway where tourists pose for photos, creating endless conflict between commuting cyclists.
City Hall intends to ease that conflict with the introduction of the roadbed level bike lane, but some cyclists worry the lane is too narrow and will only create further conflicts between cyclists when they are jammed into the 8-foot-wide, two-way lane.
The Department of Transportation has maintained that an 8-foot-wide path is the only possibility, and has rejected the premise of closing down another lane on the Brooklyn-bound side of the bridge within the current timeline because of their need for at least one inner lane for bridge maintenance and the need for further traffic studies.
The de Blasio administration has pushed the lane as one of the mayor’s signature safe-streets achievements as he prepares to leave office and as his signature Vision Zero program falters, with 2021 on track to be the deadliest year for road fatalities since the program was launched.
News of the bike lane was first broken by Brooklyn Paper when a Department of Transportation staffer let slip the plan during a Brooklyn Community Board 2 meeting in June of 2020. Mayor de Blasio and former Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg denied Brooklyn Paper’s reporting at the time — before making the announcement ahead of de Blasio’s final state of the city address in January.
The installation of the lane coincides with an ongoing boom in bike commuting in New York spurred by the pandemic, which inspired some New Yorkers to ditch the subway in favor of more open-air methods of transport.
Recent Department of Transportation data shows that an average of 21,872 cyclists pedaled over one of the city’s four East River bridges on weekdays this past May — 4,715 more than in May 2019 when thousands more people were commuting into Manhattan for work.
“As we recover from the pandemic we look forward to more New Yorkers getting back to work and commuting,” said State Senator Brain Kavanagh, who represents Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn Heights. “We also get back a longer term trend which is more and more New Yorkers taking bicycles as an important and healthy and environmentally friendly way of getting around.”