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Roosevelt Island Bridge Bike Lanes Too Dangerous to Use, Cyclists Say

 Residents say that the bridge's metal grating and gravel in bike lanes could cause an accident.
Gravel and Slippery Conditions Make Roosevelt Island Bridge Bike Lane Dangerous, Cyclists Say
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ROOSEVELT ISLAND — Roosevelt Island cyclists are sick of the wet and rocky ride on the Roosevelt Island Bridge — and they want the city to do something about it.

The bike lanes on the Roosevelt Island Bridge into Queens —the only way for cyclists to ride on or off the island — are often filled with gravel and debris and has residents fearing they'll fall into traffic, they said.

“It’s almost spring weather. More people will be riding their bikes over the bridge, and it’s a safety hazard,” said Janet Falk, a cyclist who lives on Roosevelt Island. “You can stick your wheel on loose gravel and lose control.”

Falk started to notice a buildup of gravel in the eastbound bike lane more than a year ago. She periodically reported the problem to the state-run RI 311, a website where residents can lodge concerns, but said she never received any response and didn’t notice improvements.  

There was so much gravel in the bridge's bike lanes last week that Falk resorted to riding in the heavily trafficked automobile lane, she said. She wrote to Charlene Indelicato, president of the Roosevelt Island Operation Corporation, the nonprofit agency that oversees services on the island, and her letter was published by local blog the Roosevelt Islander.

A spokeswoman for RIOC said that the agency is aware of the issue and has presented residents' concerns to the city Department of Transportation because it is responsbile for the bridge. 

After lodging a complaint with the citywide 311 system, Falk received a prompt response from the DOT saying the bridge was regularly cleaned.

But that doesn’t jibe with her experience.

“This has been going on for more than a year,” she said. “If anything, it’s only gotten worse.”

Other residents said the grated metal in the bike lanes is slippery when wet.

Cyclist Jonathan Clements, 51, said he fears biking on the bridge near his home on the island after suffering a bad fall on a similar metal grate bridge in New Jersey.

“When I hit the bridge, it was like a sheet of ice. My bike flew out from under me," he said about the March 2011 crash that broke his left shoulder blade, cut his face and injured his left hand so badly it required surgery.

Clements moved to Roosevelt Island shortly after his accident and was sorry to see a metal grate on the bike paths into Queens.

“It’s dangerous, even if it’s just a little bit wet," he said.

Clements contacted the DOT in 2011 to suggest they install anti-slip plates in the bike lanes, but no such coverings were installed.

A DOT spokesman said the agency had not received any recent requests about bike lane maintenance or safety concerns on the bridge — which is a frequent route of restaurant workers delivering food from Queens — but it would send someone to inspect the conditions.

Caitlin Goodspeed, a Bike NY employee who oversees programming on Roosevelt Island, said the bridge poses a safety concern, particularly as her group tries to get more locals cycling. 

“We’re trying to raise the profile of biking on the island, to get more people involved,” she said. “My main job is to make Roosevelt Island a more bike-friendly community.”

Goodspeed plans to take residents’ concerns to the Community Board 8 transportation committee next week to try to find solutions.

In the meantime, cyclists are forced to find their own way around the problem.

David Thorpe, 30, rides his bike from his home on Roosevelt Island across the bridge into Queens several times a week. He uses the pedestrian-only sidewalk on the bridge to avoid the rough conditions of the bike lanes.

“It’s very slippery, especially if you have a bike with thin tires,” he said. “The gravel doesn’t help.”

Thorpe said he hopes to see some positive changes soon.

“I’d love for them to fix it,” he said. “I’d love to take my mom out for a bike ride, but right now, it’s just not safe.”