New Solution for Williamsburg Bridge Bike-Pedestrian Ramp Will Only Make Things Worse

09/06/2011 1:14 PM |

(Courtesy DOT, via Gothamist)

Delancey Street in general, and near the Manhattan end of the Williamsburg Bridge in particular, is a deadly traffic nightmare, with cars and trucks going at highway speeds, pedestrians crossing the East River and the Lower East Side, and upwards of 4,000 cyclists passing through every day. But a new Department of Transportation plan to fortify the small traffic island at the bridge’s Manhattan end (rendered above) might only make things worse.

The revamped bridge ending at Delancey and Clinton streets, which The Villager reports won’t be finished until January 1, 2012, significantly shortens the amount of space in which cyclists and skaters may slow down—currently, a long median area that stretches an entire block doubles as a landing strip. The new design will enclose the raised island in three-foot thick concrete barriers, only allowing one bridge-bound bike lane on the median, and channeling Manhattan-bound cyclists through a sharply curving stainless steel fence towards the Clinton Street northbound bike lane. Cyclist hoping to go south, who can currently ride along the median to southbound Suffolk Street, will be S.O.L.

Bill di Paola, founder of Williamsburg bike activism group Time’s Up! tells The Villager:

DOT forgets it’s an exit and an entrance… But it’s more important for exiters, since they’re coming off at high speed. […] You’ll see a lot of near injuries, people hitting into each other, especially the skateboarders—they can’t stop. […] It’s going to be chaos.

His group proposed an alternative plan with new parks in place of a series of parking lots lining the south side of Delancey Street near the bridge, and a new entrance ramp for cyclists. Predictably, though, DOT spokesperson Montgomery Dean—who likens this new layout to the completely different Manhattan Bridge bike lane exit a few blocks south—says, “There are no plans at this time to consider alternative designs.”