• September 19, 2019
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Queens Chronicle

A call for a more bike-friendly bridge

Councilman seeks higher fencing, open cycling lane on RFK-Triborough

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Posted: Thursday, September 12, 2019 10:30 am | Updated: 11:58 am, Thu Sep 19, 2019.

The chairman of the City Council’s Committee on Environmental Protection is asking the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to make the RFK-Triborough Bridge more accessible to cyclists and safer for them.

In an Aug. 30 letter to Daniel DeCrescenzo, acting president of MTA Bridges & Tunnels, Councilman Costa Constantinides (D-Astoria) called on the agency to extend protective fencing along the entire length of a pedestrian path along the north side of the bridge to a uniform 10 feet high.

He also wants the MTA to consider reopening a now-closed path on the south side of the bridge in order to create dedicated lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. They now share one pathway.

Under present regulations, cyclists crossing the Triborough are required to walk their bikes across the bridge. Queens access and egress are made via a staircase at 27th Street in Astoria.

“Crossing the Triborough Bridge shouldn’t be a life-or-death situation, yet that’s sadly what pedestrians and cyclists face the second they enter this crossing,” Constantinides said in a statement issued by his office.

The councilman said 10-foot-high mesh fencing is in place only along lengths of the bridge over land. The remainder has a 4-foot barrier. He said higher fencing also might prevent suicides, four of which he said have taken place from the span since 2015.

“Fencing along the entire pedestrian path will ensure simply tripping doesn’t lead to a tragic accident and deters anyone thinking about taking their life until help can arrive.”

Constantinides said reopening the bridge’s southern crossing would allow for “separate, safer crossings for cyclists and pedestrians.”

The existing path is 5 feet wide. Though cycling is banned, many continue to ride along it to and from Queens. Those who are caught can be issued tickets.

Juan Restrepo of Transportation Alternatives backed Constantinides.

“Protective fencing is a no-brainer solution to prevent unnecessary death from strong winds or foul play on the pathway,” he said in the councilman’s press release. “We also should not be punishing Queens and Bronx cyclists with tickets for electing to take a five minute bike ride over the bridge — the only bridge connecting Queens and the Bronx with a pedestrian and cyclist pathway — when walking would take five times as long, and detouring through Manhattan would take an additional half hour. Every other East River bike and pedestrian path allows for cyclist use.”

During two informal checks by the Chronicle this week, all of the cyclists electing to get on the bridge at the 27th Street staircase in Astoria mounted their bikes and began pedaling across once they reached the top. Security regulations prevented the Chronicle from taking photographs on the bridge.

In an email to the paper, an MTA spokesman said the councilman’s request will be taken under advisement.

“Providing a safe environment on and around our facilities is an essential priority at MTA Bridges and Tunnels,” he wrote. “As we constantly review our practices and procedures, we appreciate the Council Member’s concerns and will review the proposals he has put forth.”

All could prove easier said than done, particularly when it comes to the possibility of green-lighting both walking and bicycle riding in the north lane.

While the RFK-Triborough, Marine Parkway, Cross Bay and Henry Hudson bridges all have pedestrian walkways, the pedestrian paths at the RFK do not comply with modern standards for shared use. Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority regulations, therefore, make it necessary for cyclists to dismount and walk their bikes between Queens and the Bronx.

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