Dubbed the “Times Square in the Sky,” the Brooklyn Bridge promenade remains the borough’s most popular attraction, experiencing an increase in pedestrian volume by 275 percent between 2008 and 2015. The New York City Department of Transportation released a report on Friday that details ways to reduce the growing congestion of cyclists, pedestrians and vendors on the promenade. After hiring the consulting term AECOM over a year ago to conduct an engineering study aimed at improving safety, DOT has finally outlined steps to be taken in order to limit crowds. As the New York Times reported, the city is exploring ideas like building a separate bike-only entrance to the Manhattan side of the bridge, possibly expanding the width of the promenade and reducing the number of vendors allowed to sell goods, while restricting where they can sell them.
For 134 years, the Brooklyn Bridge has remained a beloved and iconic piece of New York City’s infrastructure. However, over the years its popularity has soared, creating unsafe, overcrowded conditions for walkers, bikers and selfie-takers. The Times found 32,453 pedestrians cross the bridge on average every weekend, compared to just 14,145 in 2011. Cyclist crossings have also increased, jumping from 2,981 in 2011 to 3,147 on average each weekday.
After AECOM studied the structural feasibility of expanding the promenade deck between the tower towers, they found the expansion would add additional weight, with the heaviest coming from an increase in pedestrians. As a result of their study, AECOM recommends the cables be inspected before considering a deck expansion. This could take about two years to fully inspect.
While the inspection of the cables is underway, DOT will begin to enforce vending regulations on the promenade. According to the report, vendors located at the entrances create bottlenecks that cause pedestrian traffic to spill over into the bike lane. New rules from DOT, which will go under a public review process and are subject to change, aim to curb the number of vendors near the bridge.
As part of a 2018 street improvement project, Park Row will be re-opened to pedestrians and bikes, with a two-way protected lane and 12,000-square-foot pathway for walkers. Graphics to help navigate will be placed on the stairs of the bridge and at Frankfort Street for pedestrians. DOT is also exploring the conversion of a closed Park Row exit ramp into a bike lane, designated for bikes only.
The report dismissed an idea to turn an existing lane into a bike lane, finding the inbound lane reduction cuts vehicle capacity in half for both entrances. The study found this would actually create a mile-long line of traffic and affect the street network of downtown Brooklyn.
The executive director of Transportation Alternatives, Paul Steely White, told the Times he hopes DOT reassess its dismissal of the new bike lane. “Improving the entrances is welcome, but you’re not doing enough to address the core problem that there is not enough space for pedestrians and bikers on the bridge itself,” White said. “Generally, cars are still coming first and bikers and pedestrians are left to fight over the leftovers.”