ASTORIA – Council Member Costa Constantinides wants the New York City Department of Transportation (DOT) to close the southern outer roadway of the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge to car traffic, which would enable separate travel lanes for cyclists and pedestrians. This would better allow western Queens residents who rely on the bridge to practice social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic, Constantinides noted in a news release dated April 16.
“Many Astoria residents rely on the Queensboro Bridge as a safer alternative to get to their jobs on the frontline of the coronavirus battle,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides, District 22, who formally made the request in a letter to DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg. “But they often find it’s a nightmare to cross as a pedestrian or cyclists, especially as we try to keep a safe distance. The City can help flatten the curve by closing the southern outer roadway to cars, which would give them more space to travel in a healthy manner.”
The northern outer roadway of the Queensboro Bridge is the only Queens-Manhattan crossing that legally allows cycling. Many District 22 residents rely on the lower-level roadway, either as pedestrians or cyclists, to get to work in Manhattan. Along with its proximity to Midtown, the bridge is a preferred route because it is fully fenced — compared with the Triboro Bridge, where the MTA has refused to install protective measures along the Queens-to-Randall's Island pedestrian span.
More commuters have relied on the roadway since the DOT, which controls the bridge, opened the northern outer roadway to pedestrians and cyclists in 2000. A population boom and an increase in bike infrastructure have helped drive cycle traffic to an average 5,000 daily rides across the bridge in 2016, according to City data. That’s also led to almost daily crashes along the 3,275-foot bridge, as the span narrows to barely nine feet in width at one point. It’s also made adequate social distancing on the bridge impossible, even as health and government officials advise anyone outside to remain at least six feet away from other people.
Transit advocates have long called for the Queens-bound southern outer roadway, an equally narrow lane that’s led to car crashes in the past, to be closed to motor vehicles. That in turn would allow separate roads for cyclists and pedestrians — a practice already in place on the DOT-controlled Williamsburg and Manhattan bridges. While this was already a common sense need before the COVID-19 crisis, it is absolutely necessary right now to keep western Queens residents healthy on their way to work.
Council Member Costa Constantinides represents the New York City Council’s 22nd District, which includes his native Astoria along with parts of Woodside, East Elmhurst, and Jackson Heights. He serves as the chair of the City Council’s Environmental Protection Committee and sits on three additional committees: Sanitation, Resiliency, and Technology.
For more information, visit council.nyc.gov/costa.