Narrow bridges

MTA launches plan to improve bicycle and pedestrian access across bridges and transit systems

To support its work, the MTA hired Sam Schwartz Engineering as a consultant on the project to achieve five primary goals: improve bicycle, pedestrian, and micromobility access to subway stations and bus stops; improve access to Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North Railroad stops; integrate trip planning and payments with bike and e-scooter sharing services; strengthen coordination with municipalities on these efforts; and create pedestrian and cycle access to the infrastructures operated by the authority’s bridges and tunnels department.

According to MTA rules, cyclists are not allowed to ride bikes on the agency’s seven bridges and two tunnels. Pedestrian paths are accessible on four of the spans, but the Bronx-Whitestone Bridge, Throgs Neck Bridge, and Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge all lack access for pedestrians and bicycles. Instead, some MTA buses equipped with bike racks can guide cyclists over bridges.

Particularly in Staten Island and South Brooklyn, transportation advocates strongly pushed the MTA to install bike lanes on the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge—a bike lane was even pioneered by the bridge’s original designers. Transit experts say the new plan may be the first step toward the MTA ushering in new cycling and pedestrian infrastructure to the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge and beyond.

“I certainly hope they take a look,” said Kate Slevin, executive vice president of the Regional Plan Association. “There has been a lot of interest in making this connection. We’re seeing a citywide bicycle boom, and part of the adaptation is improving connections between boroughs and allowing people to travel outside of Manhattan.

The Department of Transportation has already shown that it’s possible to successfully and cost-effectively reuse road space for bike lanes, such as with the Brooklyn Bridge and the Pulsaki Bridge, said Jon Orcutt, former policy director at the DOT who works with Vélo New York.

Orcutt said the MTA’s planning efforts could benefit from a meeting of minds between bridge officials from both agencies. The authority must be creative in implementing short-term solutions while developing a longer-term roadmap, he said. For example, this could include partnering with the DOT to install bicycle parking on municipal lands just outside subway stations to make it more attractive for cyclists to get to stations by bike.

“As you move further out of town, walking distances to subways can increase dramatically, and bike access is a good way to solve that problem,” Orcutt said. ” I hope that [the MTA is] find fruit at hand where they can do things quickly – like this year – and not wait for the planning process to work its way through the MTA world.

Recent steps the MTA has taken toward a more bike-friendly transit system include in August eliminating a rule that riders on its commuter railroads obtain permits to board bicycles. The agency also added new bike lockers at six Metro-North stations and 18 LIRR stops, and it launched a secure bike storage pilot program at Grand Central Terminal with Oonee, a Brooklyn-based startup whose mini- pod offers six bicycle parking spaces.

To submit public comments on the MTA’s Bicycle, Pedestrian and Micromobility Strategic Action Plan, visit the agency’s website here.