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CM Julie Won Calls on DOT to Convert Car Lane Into Pedestrian Pathway Immediately

Councilmember Julie Won has called on the DOT to immediately implement its plan of converting a car lane on the Queensboro Bridge into a pedestrian pathway (Photo: Julie Won via Twitter)

Sept, 15, 2022 By Michael Dorgan

Councilmember Julie Won has called on the DOT to immediately implement its plan of converting a car lane on the Queensboro Bridge into a pedestrian pathway, citing ongoing safety concerns.

The DOT plan, which continues to face long delays, calls for repurposing a car lane on the southern outer roadway into a pedestrian pathway in order to free up space on the northern outer roadway of the bridge for bikes only.

The narrow northern outer roadway is currently shared by pedestrians and cyclists but safety advocates, including Won, say the strip is dangerous for users in its current format.

Queensboro bridge bike lane (Photo by Michael Dorgan, Queens Post, taken on March 16, 2022)

The Queensboro Bridge pedestrian/bike pathway is located on the northern outer roadway (Photo by Michael Dorgan, Queens Post, taken on March 16, 2022)

The DOT’s plan was initially expected to go into operation this year, but it has been delayed until at least 2024 while the DOT replaces the bridge’s upper deck. The agency says it needs to keep the southern outer roadway open to vehicular traffic during repairs.

However, Won says the delays are unacceptable and is calling on the agency to implement its plan straight away.

She toured the bridge Monday with DOT Commissioner Ydanis Rodriguez and other DOT officials.

“The last 8 months, residents have called our office to report violent crashes on the north outer roadway,” Won tweeted late on Monday.

“The city MUST open the south outer roadway now to make the bridge safer for our neighbors.”

Won also tweeted that the northern outer roadway is overcrowded, and its bike lane is not wide enough for two cyclists to pass one another when going in opposite directions. The strip’s layout consists of a two-way bike lane and a two-way pedestrian strip.

Won, who represents western Queens, was joined on Monday’s walking tour with representatives from Councilmember Julie Menin of Manhattan. Both lawmakers’ districts are served by the bridge.

The Queens lawmaker said she was not satisfied with the DOT’s explanation for delaying the plan.

The DOT has said it needs to keep the southern outer roadway open to vehicular traffic during construction to ease congestion since at least one car lane on the upper deck has to be closed at all times to store construction materials and equipment. Additionally, the bridge has two traffic lanes closed during off-peak periods.

“It was like talking to a wall,” Won told Streetsblog after touring the bridge and speaking to the DOT. “They kept saying they can’t give the south outer roadway to pedestrians because there would be traffic.”

“Well, I don’t care about the congestion, in fact, congestion is the point,” Won told the outlet. “If we want climate justice, we need to redesign the infrastructure to make it harder to drive in the city, especially in the most transit-rich areas. Take the train, take the bus, ride a bicycle, walk, rollerblade.”

The existing pathway on the northern outer roadway, pictured, was scheduled to be repurposed for bicycles this year (Photo by Michael Dorgan, Queens Post)

On Wednesday, Won penned a letter to DOT Deputy Commissioner of Bridges Paul Schwartz and Rodriquez asking for a detailed explanation as to why the DOT was delaying the plan. The letter was also signed by Menin and Queens Councilmember Selvena Brooks-Powers, who is chair of the Council’s Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

“The Department of Transportation must share their justification for prioritizing one of the multiple motor vehicle lanes over the lives and bodies of our constituents,” the letter reads.

The lawmakers wrote that usership of the northern outer roadway is up 35 percent since pre-pandemic levels which, given the tight nature of the strip, puts users in harm’s way.

“Constituent complaints indicate a growing number of increasingly bloody crashes as more people and faster vehicles try to use the exceptionally narrow bike lane,” the letter reads.

“The current situation puts people walking and on bikes in real danger,” they wrote.

The Queens Post reached out to the DOT for comment on the letter but has yet to receive a response.

Unlike Won’s tweet on Monday, the letter did not call for an immediate implementation of the city’s repurposing plan.

However, the lawmakers called for the DOT to provide a timeline as to when the conversion of the southern outer roadway will commence and when it will open to the public.

Furthermore, the narrow width of the current two-way bike lane is understood not to meet the 12 feet wide minimum recommended by the National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), a coalition of Departments of Transportation bodies from across north American cities.

The legislators asked the DOT to explain whether the bike lane was granted an exemption from the national minimum standards for a two-way lane.

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18 Comments

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B

I’ve been walking/running over the bridge for 15 years. It’s never been more crowded. Cyclists of ALL kinds are always in the pedestrian lane in both directions. I walk home 3 days a week over the bridge and it is actually nerve racking. Especially, if you need to pass a slow walker I’m always afraid I’m going to get hit from behind by someone on a bike. I saw a guy last week swerve into the pedestrian lane and kick a lady because she was too close to the line between the lanes. I mean it’s ridiculous.

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sunnysiderisback

I get it, save the environment, ride bikes.. but seriously people have to get to work. we don’t sit around like her, have all the time in the world, and have people to drive us around to places. the construction on the bridge is bad already (2 lanes into 1), but even before this construction, the traffic was horrible. Now the plan is to get rid of the outer lane? Doesn’t she have anything better to do?

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Sick of Progressive's BS

Fix bridges, subways, sewers, y’know, the stuff we need, and start enforcement against motorized scooters, gas moped and turbo two wheel anything. Stop wasting public money on schemes that no one asked for. The pedestrian lane was fine until the unregulated deliveristas, bike bros and other idiots made it unsafe.

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Lela

When are you going to do something to help seniors and disabled people who can only travel by car? Your narrow focus on the ablest of your constituents disgusts many of us, whether we voted for you or not.

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Julie

I agree that something must be done. The whole point of having a separated bike/pedestrian lane is to protect slow-moving people. Most of the traffic on this lane consists of mopeds and scooters that go faster than cars. I commute daily on this route using my old-lady-legs to slowly power my vintage bicycle across. Leg-powered bikes are not the problem. Motorized other things are. Maybe a car lane could be designated for small motor vehicles (e-bikes, scooters, one-wheel things)?

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George

Simple- For every bridge in NYC build two tiny bridges. One for pedestrians and one for electric vehicles. Leave the large bridges for regular vehicles since they were constructed like that for that purpose. For climate purposes phase out gas powered vehicles slowly over the years by the model year of the vehicles. Start now.

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Truth

“Climate justice.” I hate the self righteousness of the woke people. We all know the reason the pedestrian lane is screwed up is because of the scooters and e-bikes. It’s barely usable for actual cyclists and extremely dangerous for pedestrians. The same will happen if they close the other side of the bridge.

Stop wasting time on this nonsense. Do something about crime!!!

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Republican bullies believe in myths, fairytales, invisible gods and conspiracy theories

Truth – Please provide a list of everyone you know who has been victimized by crime and we will run it by my list of everybody I know affected by transportation issues.

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maybe this?

install permanent barriers on each end of the pathway with two narrow openings, one for pedestrians & one for bikes. Put a tall curb on the bottom so cyclists have to lift their bikes through the opening, hopefully mopeds and motorbikes are too heavy for that. Put the same curb on the pedestrian side to be stepped over. Will slow down the cyclists too which isn’t all bad.

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biking in Queens

Speaking of narrow bike paths, the one on the RFK Bridge to Randall’s Island is barely wide enough for two bikes to pass. I realize there probably is no way to widen it, but I think it’s dangerous. When I see another bike heading toward me, I always stop and hug the side rail and let them pass.

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JoeBama Magoo

those crashes are from illegally speeding ebikes, e-motorbikes, and e-scooters THAT SHE ALLOWED. they should have been banned and those perpetrators responsible that crashed into people should have been arrested for assault. that’s a walkway for pedestrians and regular peddle bikes, not for motorized vehicles. these accidents are on her. and just like every progressive socialist liberal, they try to blame someone else for their own complete and utter failures. i cant wait for November!

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Run, bike, ride, and drive.

The southern outer roadway has been closed at night for over 10 years now following 2 serious accidents after the redesign of QBP. Shortly after that the southern outer road was planned to be converted to pedestrian path with no target date.
The Northern roadway was busy but usable. Since the rise in mopeds, and electric bikes & scooters the northern road way has become dangerously crowded.
If DeBlasio was able to leave us with the heinous destruction of 39th ave to a “bike boulevard” in less than a month, then dot should be able to covert a road into a bike path by next summer. It has been being planing for almost 10 years now.

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jc4749

As someone who has been bike commuting over the QBB for a decade now, I’m disappointed with the misrepresentation of the situation in this article, in Ms. Won’s tweets, and in the proposals for improvement. What has made the situation dangerous is the abundance of motor vehicles in the “bike” lane, a fact that no one seems to mention. By my estimate, at least half the traffic on the northern strip is mopeds, scooters, e bikes, that one-wheel thing, etc.—many of these motor vehicles go very fast (35 mph is not uncommon) and they not infrequently carry multiple passengers. The signs stating “no scooters” and the very occasional police enforcement have done nearly nothing to improve this situation. Calling all these motor vehicles ”bikers” is the first step to a wrong solution.

Maybe a better idea than the current proposal would be to devote a current car lane to “small motor vehicles,” (assuming the drivers of those vehicles would cooperate and use it)—another alternative might be to permanently reposition some of the numerous traffic police in that area at the foot of the bridge to prevent motor vehicles from using the lane. When the police have been there to do that, the lane has been much safer—it just needs to be done regularly/permanently, rather than sporadically; it would also be a better use of the traffic police than having them stand under traffic lights and reiterate the stop/go signals. Just a thought…

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Gardens Watcher

jc, You are correct in pointing out the crux of the problem is the explosion of “motor vehicles” on the northern outer roadway. I drive my car over the QB bridge at various times of the day, and witness the dangerous speed of the e-bikes, scooters and mopeds you describe.

I frequently drive on the southern outer roadway to travel back to Queens. It is an essential route for car traffic, especially with the upper roadway construction, and the minimal amount of pedestrian traffic does not warrant this drastic change.

Traffic on the bridge is already a mess and no way could it function with only one lane in EITHER direction.

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stopping the mopeds and motor bikes would be a good start

It’s crazy dangerous on that bridge especially if you’re walking. I don’t know if taking a car lane is a good idea, but I guess when that congestion pricing kicks in there will be less cars???

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Gardens Watcher

There’s tons of commercial truck traffic that will continue to use the “car lanes” on the bridge even after congestion pricing goes into effect. Cutting out an inbound lane would be crazy stupid.

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Immediately?

Have you ever overtaken something massive that effects many other people and finished ten minutes later without holding anyone else up?

No.

Cause you can’t turn things like this on a dime.

You’d know that if you did anything.

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