Roosevelt Island Bridge bike lane now covered for a safer, smoother ride

Roosevelt Island Bridge
From left: Paul Krikler, a cyclist and co-chair of Roosevelt Island Community Board 8 Committee; DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar; Council Member Julie Menin (D-Manhattan); Council Member Julie Won (D-Queens); Lynne Shinozaki, co-chair of Roosevelt Island Community Board 8 Committee.
Courtesy of Council Member Julie Menin

Biking across the Roosevelt Island Bridge just got a whole lot easier and safer, thanks to the completion of a DOT pilot project to install a weather-resistant bike lane covering the span that connects Roosevelt Island in Manhattan to Astoria in Queens.

“I hated riding across the bridge so much that I thought it was time to do something about it,” said Paul Krikler, a cyclist and co-chair of the Roosevelt Island Community Board 8 Committee. Speaking at a news conference on Friday on the Manhattan side of the bridge, Krikler said that safety was a key reason for the project.

“Cyclists were getting punctured tires all the time from riding on the metal grating,” he said, adding “I’m thrilled that the cheese grater has been covered in the bike lanes…no slipping. Thank you, DOT.”

The “cheese grater-like” material that Krikler spoke of was the very same metal grating that vehicles drove over across the drawbridge and before the completion of this project, bike riders also had to navigate the metal grating which could be particularly hazardous in bad weather.

Constituents and transportation leaders alike had been asking Council Member Julie Menin (D-Manhattan) to address the unsafe conditions for bike riders across the bridge.

As part of a pilot program, the city’s department of transportation, working with both Council Members Menin and Julie Won (D-Queens), used new materials to cover the metal grating of the bike lane, thereby improving both safety and rideability.

The materials, never before used in the city, were ordered from England at a cost of about $100,000 and comprised of more than 300 panels made of a fiber-reinforced polymer complete with flexible delineators to separate the bike lane from vehicular traffic.

The DOT said that the bike lane’s surface had to be durable enough to stand up to weather and construction loading while providing enough grip on the surface adequate for cyclists in inclement weather.

The agency installed the panels in October and recently completed testing in a variety of conditions.

DOT Manhattan Borough Commissioner Ed Pincar called the project an “engineering challenge,” to figure out both what type of material to use and also how to fasten the panels to the bridge. “We are grateful both for the creative collaboration with Council Members Menin and Won–as well as the hard work of the DOT Bridges team who got this done.”

Menin, who had just finished a ride across the bridge’s new bike lane with Won, said the DOT had been “very responsive,” in seeing the project to completion.

“We’re very thankful to DOT for getting the job done,” she said. “It was a great collaborative effort and enormous win for NYC,” she said, adding that her ride over the bridge was “fantastic.”

Roosevelt Island Bridge
Photo: Alan Krawitz

Won noted, “It was very important for people to have access to greenspace, especially during the pandemic…this project will allow bikers to ride in ease and comfort,” she said, joking, “You no longer have to worry that you might slip off the bridge and fall into the river.”

Lynne Shinozaki, co-chair of Roosevelt Island Community Board 8 Committee, called the project’s two-year completion “very quick for NYC standards.”

Praising Council Members Won and Menin, she said the legislators “knocked it out of the ballpark.”

“It will encourage more people to come bike-riding on Roosevelt Island and encourage more people overall to use bikes,” she said. “Hopefully, NYC will be the first city in the country to become a major bike-riding city…and this is how it starts.”

Melody Bryant, a biking advocate was also pleased to see the project’s completion. “To have a welcoming way for people to get to Roosevelt Island is phenomenal. I’m so glad DOT did this.”

NYC bike commuter Thane Terrill shared his thoughts on the bike lane project on Twitter: “Thank you. That metal grate was scary — even for experienced riders. The idea of possibly falling over into a car lane was not a pleasant one. I’m glad it’s being addressed!”

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