City officials have hesitated to repurpose a car lane on the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge for pedestrians due to fears of stalling traffic amid repairs — but were quick to close the only shared path for bikers and walkers with less than 24 hours’ notice to accommodate the rehab work.
The Department of Transportation will completely close the bike and pedestrian path on the span for “intermittent” 15-minute stretches Thursday and Friday, officials announced Wednesday afternoon.
The agency sent out a notice on Twitter and to local politicians that the lanes will not be accessible for quarter-hour intervals between 10 a.m.-3 p.m. on April 7 and 8 to allow workers to lift steel over the bikeway.
Work on the #QueenboroBridge will require FULL intermittent 15-minute closures of the #BikeNYC & pedestrian path on 4/7 & 4/8, 10AM-3PM. Flaggers will be present. Work is weather dependent. pic.twitter.com/JsUxmKlARJ
— NYC DOT (@NYC_DOT) April 6, 2022
The path is a key connector for thousands of pedal pushers a day who will now have to wait for workers to let them cross or find another way to travel between Queens and Manhattan.
The city has delayed giving more space to bikes and pedestrians on the bridge for years because officials wanted to keep at least seven lanes open for cars at all times during the overhaul of the ancient piece of infrastructure, but local pols slammed the agency for now taking the only path non-drivers can use.
“Closing off the bridge to everyone who is not in a car for any period of time is completely unacceptable, and is the inevitable result of delaying the pedestrianization of the South Outer Roadway for an extra two years,” said Councilmember Julie Won, who represents the Queens side of the bridge.
“If the possibility of further closures exists, DOT must open the south outer roadway now to ensure free and unobstructed passage for pedestrians and people on bikes at all times,” the pol added.
DOT pushed back the project to late 2023 of converting the bridge’s south outer roadway from car lane to pedestrian-only, while making the northern outer roadway currently shared by walkers and bikers into a bicycle path, mirroring the setup on the Manhattan Bridge.
The current split path is notoriously narrow but carries tens of thousands of people even during the colder months, with more than 77,000 cyclists crossing in January, according to DOT’s latest bike counts for the bridge.
The revamp was first announced by former Mayor Bill de Blasio in early 2021, and was supposed to be done by late 2022, but DOT punted it until a year later because of road closures from repairs to the 120-year-old bridge’s upper level.
Won and her fellow Councilmember Julie Menin, who reps the Manhattan side, asked DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez to fast-track the bike and pedestrian expansion in a Feb. 3 letter, but the politicians said the Transportation chief has yet to respond.
A DOT spokesperson said that the agency has discussed the project with the pols since then, adding that these kinds of closures are necessary and common for such repair schemes.
“These brief, 15-minute closures are needed to facilitate the bridge’s upper deck replacement,” said Vin Barone in a statement. “We are carefully considering the needs of cyclists and pedestrians during our work and have limited the hours of these closures to ensure the path remains safe and accessible during rush hours.”