Penny-Farthing Lane: New Bike Path on Brooklyn Bridge Opens

Matthew Fenton

Originally published in The Broadsheet

Two Wheels, Four Paws: A canine cyclist hitches a ride with his human companion.

On Tuesday, Mayor Bill de Blasio, kept a promise made in his January State of the City address, by opening a dedicated bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge, separated from both the pedestrian deck above and vehicle traffic with which it shares the roadbed. “A lot of people worked a long time for this day, and everyone knows that the bike lanes that existed on the Brooklyn Bridge really weren't working,” he said. “As it got more and more crowded, we had to do something different. Here it is.”

Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said, “finally, cyclists and tourists—and cyclists who are tourists—are getting the protected biking lane they deserve. Diverting bikes to this path will make the bridge's pedestrian paths even more popular and make everyone, whether on two legs or two wheels, feel safer.”

City Council member Margaret Chin added, “this is a bold step towards creating a more efficient transportation system, which is exactly what our City needs. Bicycling is a great emissions-free way to access Lower Manhattan and it’s also a lot of fun! Creating a bicycle lane on Brooklyn Bridge is an example of how we can better use our existing infrastructure and this change should be the first of many. Our City needs more dedicated bicycle lanes so that any New Yorker can ride a bicycle as safely as they can drive a car on our streets.”

State Senator Brian Kavanagh observed that, “New Yorkers have increasingly taken up bicycles as a healthy and environmentally friendly way to travel. Bikes have been a growing part of our response to climate change and a big part of what makes New York work for many people. There’s no better place to create a safe, efficient bikeway than the Brooklyn Bridge, historically one of the first great bridges that unified our city and still a critical connector, as well as an icon of New York around the world.”

He also commended the Mayor for finishing the project ahead of schedule (Mr. de Blasio originally promised to open it by year’s end), but in one sense, all of the public officials who attended the Tuesday ribbon-cutting ceremony were late to the party: The new bike lane was finished more than a week ago, but remained closed to await its “official” debut. During that time, hundreds of cyclists jumped the fence and made unauthorized trips across the bridge.

The debut of the eight-foot wide bike path on the Manhattan-bound side of the road marks the transformation is the first reconfiguration of the Brooklyn Bridge since trolley tracks were permanently removed in 1950.

Moving cyclists to the lower deck will also free up space for pedestrians on the existing walkway, located above the roadbed, which was previously shared by pedalers and people traveling on foot.