New Yorkers looking to cross the Harlem River via bridges on foot or bike might have got their wish granted. In a plan unveiled on Friday, the Transportation Department detailed an initiative to install dedicated bike lanes and pedestrian crossings onto many of the area’s bridges in an effort to better serve the community. By connecting communities in northern Manhattan and the Bronx, officials hope to make the area more friendly to cyclists and pedestrians. Because New York is a city of islands, coming up with inventive ways to cross the numerous bodies of water is a continuous challenge for transportation officials.
The initiative plans to install dedicated bike lanes on six of the crossings over the Harlem River: Madison Avenue, Washington, Broadway, 145th Street, Macombs Dam, University Heights bridges. The plan will also re-engineer the Third Avenue Bridge into a pedestrian-only crossing, still allowing cars, but not bicyclists. To further encourage walking and cycling, the plan includes a myriad of safety improvements to the roads leading to and from all of the area’s bridges by adding more bike lanes and crosswalks and widening walkways.
As the city experiences an upswing in bicycling, officials recognize the need for these capital improvements. Previous efforts to make the Brooklyn Bridge more pedestrian and cycling friendly led to a significant increase in foot traffic in that area, lessening traffic issues. That bridge alone now sees an average of over 13,000 pedestrian and 3,000 cyclists using the crossing each weekday. The city has also rolled out a new fleet of Citi Bikes in an effort to encourage cycling as a legitimate means of transportation, and not just a recreational opportunity.
The initiative will come with a price tag of more than $90 million. Travelers can expect to see the bike lanes on the Broadway and 145th Street bridges by the year 2021, with additional lane construction to follow. Proponents of the expansion of biking lanes point to the savings in commuting costs as well as the positive effect to the environment as reasons to encourage the plan.