Expand the Brooklyn Bridge Pedestrian Path For a Safer Shared Space!

Council Members Brad Lander, Margaret Chin and Stephen Levin
Tourism, biking and walking are dramatically increasing in the city. These users have filled the Brooklyn Bridge’s elevated path beyond capacity, making it difficult to traverse the bridge on foot or on bike comfortably and safely. The Bridge’s Pathway is Heavily Used. An average of 4,000 pedestrians and 3,100 bicyclists cross the Brooklyn Bridge every day according to DOT counts. A one-time 12 hour study from May 2010 conducted by DOT counted a total of 15,000 pedestrians using the pathway. The main portion of the pedestrian/bike path has a width that varies between eight and sixteen feet, and cannot comfortably handle these volumes even with better management of the space.

PHOTO CREDIT: SETH ULLMAN

The Brooklyn Bridge’s shared pedestrian/cycle path needs serious improvement. It is time to expand the path.
The city needs to expand the pedestrian/bike path out over the existing roadways. This requires creating a dedicated bike lane north of the current path, and creating additional pedestrian space on the south side of the path. This plan would triple the amount of pedestrian space and would not reduce the number of lanes for drivers. Proposed Changes to Improve Pedestrian Access

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Improve Safety by Tripling the Amount of Pedestrian Space

Benefits of Expanding the Pedestrian Path
 Improved pedestrian safety  Dramatically enhances the experience of crossing the bridge on foot  No reduction of car lanes and preserves ADA access while tripling amount of pedestrian space  Enhance the accessibility of a great NYC landmark  Improves connectivity between Downtown Brooklyn and Lower Manhattan
There are many challenges to address — creating a pathway design that complements the bridge’s historic character, seamlessly integrating the new paths with the existing one, resolving engineering issues, and finding sources of funding for the project. Engineering Issues: The weight of additional construction and capacity would have to be analyzed. Weight constraints currently ban trucks over three tons. Additional weight and the precise positioning of paths would require deeper analysis. Cost: The project would require significant capital funding and could necessitate temporary closure of portions of the roadway during construction. Historic Compatibility: The main span of the Brooklyn Bridge is a city-designated landmark (1967), a national historic landmark (1964) and a national historic civil engineering landmark (1972). The federal approval process is potentially challenging. Despite PHOTO CREDIT: DETROIT PUBLISHING CO., 1903 this, there have been significant changes to the bridge’s structure, such as the removal of transit in the 1950s, leading to a completely new design for the main platform. The picture at right shows that the walkway used to be enclosed by elevated train lines on top and trolley lines on the side. Additionally, the wooden slats on the path used to run parallel with traffic, but are now perpendicular.
Thanks to Seth Ullman of Council Member Brad Lander’s Office for his research and drafting of this proposal.

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