UPPER EAST SIDE — Joggers rejoiced, dog walkers and stroller pushers were elated, and good vibes abounded last month when the city cut the ribbon for the sleek $11.9 million East 78th Street pedestrian bridge, reopening a section of the East River esplanade that had been closed for more than a year.
But already there's a fight brewing, as some residents say they don't want to share the space with bicyclists.
The Department of Transportation designed the 80-ton steel bridge to replace a decrepit, outmoded concrete one from the 1940s, as well as meet the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and be high enough to provide clearance for emergency vehicles passing underneath on the FDR Drive. It was also created to be wide enough for bikers and walkers to travel side-by-side.
"The same rule that forbids biking on sidewalks should be followed on our pedestrian bridges," Susan Siskind, a longtime area resident and representative of the Eastside Coalition for Pedestrian Safety, told the community board.
Siskind worried that bikers would race down the bridge's ramp, which has an 8 percent grade. She said she feared bikes will reach speeds of more than 30 mph and that pedestrians will hardly be able to hear them approaching because of the "deafening noise" from the FDR Drive below.
"We desperately need a responsible bike culture, and it is not unreasonable to ask a biker to dismount for a two-minute walk that could prevent an accident," she said. "We have way too many children, parents with baby carriages, elderly and pedestrians walking [their] dogs across our pedestrian bridges."
A DOT spokeswoman said the agency plans to add more "Yield to Pedestrians" signs on the bridge and its approaches to educate cyclists and build awareness about sharing the space.
Siskind didn't know of any accidents on the bridge but said that foot and bike traffic has been light because of the season. She said she hoped "Walk Bike" signs would be installed before anyone gets injured.
Unsurprisingly, cyclists didn't like the idea of dismounting.
"I believe this is a solution in search of a problem," said Steve Vaccaro, chairman of Transportation Alternatives' East Side Volunteer Committee.
"It's a crowded city," he added, "and the greenway is a shared space for both pedestrians and cyclists. People need to try to get along first before declaring war."