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Queensboro Bridge Bike Path 'Dangerously Overcrowded,' Commuters Say

 Cyclists say the bridge's current path is too narrow to share between bikes and pedestrians.
Cyclists say the bridge's current path is too narrow to share between bikes and pedestrians.
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DNAinfo/Mary Johnson

LONG ISLAND CITY — It's getting crowded on the Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge.

Cyclists and transportation advocates say the span needs a standalone path just for bikes, citing a jump in the number of riders who rely on the bridge for their commutes in recent years.

They say the current bike path, which is located on the north side of the bridge and is shared with pedestrians, is "dangerously overcrowded" — or too narrow to accommodate the number of cyclists who use it as well as those crossing the bridge on foot.

"It's dangerous — I think it's flat-out dangerous," said Nasha Schrape, who rides her bike across the bridge everyday between her home in Astoria and her job on the east side of Manhattan.

In the last five years, the number of cyclists crossing the Queensboro on an average weekday has grown by more than 27 percent — jumping from 2,549 in 2010 to 3,239 last year, according to Department of Transportation statistics.

And bike traffic will likely increase in the coming years as CitiBike expands into more Queens neighborhoods like Astoria, said Angela Stach, an advocate with Transportation Alternatives, which recently launched a petition calling for an exclusive bike lane on the bridge.

In addition to crowding, the Queensboro's bike lane woes have been exacerbated in recent weeks because of Con Edison construction that's shuttered the cyclist and pedestrian path overnight, work that's expected to continue through the end of the year.

Cyclists who need to cross between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. have to wait instead for a shuttle bus to take them, and their bikes, over the bridge — a process that some says adds as much as an hour to their commute.

"It's outrageous," said Schrape, who said she's started detouring to the Williamsburg Bridge instead in order to avoid taking the nighttime shuttle, which took her more than an hour last Friday for a ride across the bridge that normally takes her about seven minutes.

A Con Edison spokesman said the shuttles, which are free, were delayed last week because of traffic, but are otherwise scheduled to run every 15 minutes.

The situation on the bridge is unfair to both bikes and pedestrians, advocates say.

Though the path has markings to indicate that one side is for cyclists and the other for pedestrians, not everyone stays in their lane, and the side for cyclists is too narrow to fit two bikes going in opposite directions, according to Schrape.

"It's contentious, because you have people walking in the middle of the pathway or running," she said. "The bike lane is technically not enough space for two bikes to pass each other."

Transportation Alternatives wants the DOT to convert the bridge's south outer roadway into a permanent lane just for cyclists, leaving the current shared path on the north side for pedestrian-use only.

The south outer roadway was used as a bike path years ago, and is currently only open to cars during the day. The DOT began closing the lane overnight in 2013 after a series of crashes on the Queens side of the bridge.

"It's really a no-brainer to use that lane permanently as a bike lane," Stach said.

The DOT has studied the possibility of converting the south outer roadway into a bike path as recently as last year, but found that the amount of traffic on the bridge during its busiest hours requires that the lane remain open to cars, a spokeswoman said.