NEW YORK – A proposal by transportation experts for a new bridge between Queens and Manhattan for pedestrians and cyclists only, no cars allowed, was featured in a New York Times article on June 25.
As cycling has surged, “New York City has taken street space away from cars for dozens of pedestrian plazas and for hundreds of miles of bike lanes that make up the largest urban bike network in the nation,” the Times reported, adding that “it has significantly expanded those efforts during the coronavirus pandemic, adding more than 40 miles of open streets for pedestrians and cyclists, some of which may become permanent.”
The new “car-free bridge would connect Midtown Manhattan to Long Island City in Queens, near the site that Amazon had planned to build a headquarters before pulling out under intense community opposition,” the Times reported, noting that “the bridge would also link to Roosevelt Island, where Cornell Tech is nurturing a new generation of tech entrepreneurs.”
The “Queens Ribbon,” as the bridge is called, would cost $100 million and “would be narrower than one designed for cars and would resemble a relatively thin line across the East River, according to the proposal, which was developed by a group of transportation engineers led by Samuel I. Schwartz, a former city traffic commissioner,” the Times reported.
Other cities, including London, Paris, and Singapore, have built such bridges and New York already has many car-free bridges like the High Bridge which links Manhattan’s Washington Heights with Highbridge in the Bronx, the Times reported, adding that “as New York City has begun reopening after a three-month shutdown, city officials have warned that the streets could be jammed by cars, and have urged commuters to take mass transit or alternatives, such as bikes.”
Efforts have also been made to help make cycling safer in the city, especially “as people have traded in the potential health perils of subway and bus rides for those of bike lanes, the Times reported, noting that “Citi Bike, the city’s bike-share program, averaged 63,481 daily rides for June 15-17, up 45 percent from June 1-3, according to Citi Bike data.”
“Bike rides over four East River crossings — the Ed Koch Queensboro, the Brooklyn, the Manhattan, and the Williamsburg Bridges — that are popular bike routes for commuters, increased to an average of 21,033 trips per weekday in 2018 from 12,206 in 2008, according to city data,” the Times reported.
Schwartz told the Times that “COVID-19 has drawn tremendous attention to walking and biking as increasingly safe modes of transportation. We know there will be future epidemics, superstorms, blackouts, and transit strikes.”
“The Regional Plan Association, an influential planning group, recently unveiled a master plan for a Five Borough Bikeway: a 425-mile continuous network of protected, priority bike lanes,” the Times reported, adding that “it would build upon the city’s current bike network, which includes sections that are not connected and do not have physical barriers separating cyclists from drivers.”
The bridge proposal “would require city and state approvals, and a hefty investment at a time when the pandemic has plunged the city into its most dire fiscal crisis in generations, which may require other transportation infrastructure projects to be put on hold,” the Times reported, noting that “city and state officials said they would review the bridge proposal,” and “city officials added that they had made expanding cycling and mobility options a priority.”
“We appreciate the engineers’ hard work in crafting a proposal to reimagine mobility in our city,” a spokesman for the mayor told the Times.
Andrew Rein, the president of the Citizens Budget Commission, a nonprofit watchdog group, told the Times, “There are trade offs. When you weigh these projects, something has to give. If the city were to do this, what project would it decide not to do?”
Schwartz told the Times that “the new bridge could potentially be funded with private money through a public-private partnership,” and “his group sees the Queens Ribbon as the first of three pedestrian-and-bike bridges. The other two, which are still being developed, would link Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, and Manhattan with New Jersey across the Hudson River. Each bridge would be 20 feet wide, and could carry up to 20,000 people a day.”
T.Y. Lin International, an engineering firm, designed the Queens Ribbon, the Times reported, noting that “it would be a slender, flexible suspension bridge modeled after industrial bridges that carry pipes for gas or electrical power,” according to Michael Horodniceanu, a professor of civil engineering at New York University who helped develop the proposal.
Dr. Horodniceanu told the Times that “the bridge would expand biking and walking options, and would also help the city’s economy recover by creating new construction jobs.”
Polly Trottenberg, the city’s transportation commissioner, said at a news conference this week that the Koch Bridge and Brooklyn Bridge had been “pinch points for cycling in and out of Manhattan,” the Times reported.