The Metropolitan Transportation Authority should allow bike access to some of its bridges right away, according to advocates who urged transit leaders to rethink their bans against two-wheelers on their spans.
Cyclists already routinely flout the rules to dismount their bikes when crossing the footpaths on some of the MTA-operated bridges, but the organization Bike New York argued in a letter to transit chiefs that some of the walkways are wide enough for both pedalers and pedestrians.
“Many improvements for bike transportation and bike/transit links can be achieved relatively quickly and cost-effectively. They need not wait for New York’s lengthy public construction timelines to play out,” reads the letter by the organization’s advocacy director Jon Orcutt to MTA Chairperson and CEO Janno Lieber.
While cyclists can cross city-run bridges like the Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queensborough bridges, the seven spans run by the MTA all ban bikes.
There’s no bike or pedestrian paths at all on its three busiest spans, the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, and Throgs Neck Bridge.
“I’ve been working on this kind of stuff for 35 years, and the MTA has never had a legal bike trip over one of its bridges in that entire time — except for the Five Boro [Bike] Tour on the Verrazzano once a year,” Orcutt told amNewYork Metro in an interview.
The state last year passed a bill requiring the agency to come up with a plan for better bike access, similar to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which has had a “bicycle master plan” for years.
MTA leaders began working on their so-called Bike, Pedestrian, and Micromobility Strategic Action Plan last month and will release it sometime this year.
“The MTA is way behind, it’s the 21st century, climate crisis, the bike boom — let’s get with the times here,” said Orcutt.
Rather than wait for MTA-hired consultants to study recommendations, transit honchos could make life easier for cyclists right now at some connectors that already have separated paths.
For example, the Cross Bay Veterans Memorial Bridge between the Rockaway Peninsula and the Queens mainland has a roughly 12-foot pedestrian pathway that is wide enough for cyclists too, the letter argues, but the entrances are littered with signs telling cyclists not to ride across it.
Similarly, the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge should also allow cyclists on its walkway this summer, but MTA must raise the low fencing along its edge.
In the longer term, the agency could take a page out of the book from the city’s Department of Transportation by converting vehicle lanes into bike lanes on some of its busier bridges, like DOT did with the Pulaski Bridge between Brooklyn and Queens, and the Brooklyn Bridge last year.
The Brooklyn Bridge had similar average daily crossings of just over 100,000 as the Throggs Neck and Whitestone bridges, according to the latest comparable stats from 2016, while the Verrazzano had closer to 200,000.
Bike boosters in southern Brooklyn have for years been lobbying the MTA to repurpose one of the Verrazzano’s 13 motor vehicle lanes into a shared bike and walking path.
“The MTA works closely with Bike New York on improving cyclist and pedestrian connections to the transit system and we are carefully reviewing the letter,” said agency spokesperson Aaron Donovan in a statement. “As it acknowledges, the MTA seeks to increase accessibility for bicycle users, particularly as it pursues a Bicycle, Pedestrian, Micromobility Strategic Action Plan.”