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DOT to Study Expansion of Brooklyn Bridge's Pedestrian and Cycle Paths

By Nikhita Venugopal | August 8, 2016 7:13pm | Updated on August 9, 2016 8:48am
 Pedestrians and cyclists traverse the Brooklyn Bridge Monday afternoon.
Pedestrians and cyclists traverse the Brooklyn Bridge Monday afternoon.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

BROOKLYN — The often-crowded Brooklyn Bridge pedestrian and bike lanes could be widened to ease congestion on the paths, the Department of Transportation said Monday. 

A $370,000 engineering study, which starts this month, will look into design options for expanding the lanes as well as an estimated cost, DOT officials said. The study — conducted by firm Aecom — will also analyze the bridge's structural issues and is expected to continue for roughly seven months, the New York Times first reported.  

On a typical weekday, the Brooklyn Bridge sees about 10,000 pedestrians and 3,500 cyclists cross it, according to a DOT presentation released Monday. Crowds of pedestrians — many of whom are tourists stopping to enjoy the view — on the promenade often spill over onto the lanes of cyclists traversing between Brooklyn and Manhattan.

The promenade varies in width from 17 feet at its widest point to 10 feet at the narrowest. 

Though 16 feet is generally considered an acceptable size for shared lanes, conflicts between pedestrians and cyclists arise in part due to "pinch points" along the promenade created by people stopping to take pictures, the DOT said.

"It gets really crowded," said Mikael King, one of several vendors that sell water and soft drinks on the path. "I'm a fast walker and [tourists] take their time walking up."

The bike and pedestrian lanes on the bridge are only demarcated by a thick white line that runs through the center of the crossing. 

Even though NYPD data shows only a small number of pedestrian-related injuries on the bridge, DOT Commissioner Polly Trottenberg said she thinks there's more unreported incidents.

"I don't doubt there are near misses and other things that happen on the bridge that aren't reported," she said.  

The DOT has already performed an initial assessment of the bridge's existing conditions, issues and opportunities for the expansion, according to the presentation. 

If the study proves that the work is feasible, a capital contract may be planned in the next few years, Trottenberg said. 

One possible expansion plan would involve building more lanes onto girders alongside existing ones to provide additional space, DOT Deputy Commissioner Ryan Russo said. 


The girders onto which the promenade could be expanded, according to the DOT. (DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal)

Trottenberg declined to provide a possible cost for the project.

Ralph Papa, an artist who lives in Florida but grew up in New York, was painting a scene of the Manhattan skyline Monday afternoon and said it would be nice to have more room on the bridge.

"It would be nice to have an area where you can paint," he said.

Papa recently visited the bridge with his granddaughter and said the crowds added to the excitement of the scene. 

"[But] for me I need to paint. So I need a little room," he said.