Bike Lane Project Cycles Forward

Roosevelt Island’s bike ramp is coming! The ramp will offer an alternative route for cyclists to access the Roosevelt Island Bridge connecting us to Queens. Bicycle riders will no longer have to choose between sharing the steep, curvy Helix road with cars or squeezing their bikes into a Motorgate elevator.

The proposed Roosevelt Island Bike Ramp and Eastside Bike Lane Promenade project

aims to construct a bike ramp connecting bicyclists from the top of the Roosevelt Island Bridge down to Cornell Tech, via a two-way path away from Main Street vehicular traffic. The total budget for this project is approx. $14M with a project schedule of four years.

Site Map, Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation (RIOC) hosted a walk and talk last Saturday morning to gather community input. For those that couldn’t attend, RIOC still wants to hear from you.

In April 2017, RIOC was approved for a $2.96 million award from the New York State Department of Transportation’s Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP) – Congestion

Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (CMAQ) towards the estimated $4 million ramp construction.

In 2018, RIOC applied for a second TAP award - $5 million, to be applied to the potential $10 million in construction costs of the bike lane. These costs include infrastructure improvements, electrical equipment needed for lighting, stormwater/bio-infiltration management, as well as pavement, landscape, lighting and signage finishes. Potential award announcements are expected to come this December.

Plenty of Ideas

A bike ramp to the Island is not a new idea. The Western Queens Transportation Study, launched by the New York City Department of City Planning (DCP) in October 2014, made recommendations for improving access to Roosevelt Island via a protected two-way bike path on the Roosevelt Island Bridge and a redesigned Motorgate complex.

Rendering from the Western Queens Transportation Study that recommended adding retail uses that front Motorgate plaza and the new Bike Lane.

Their recommended design would direct cyclists and pedestrians to the East Road rather than Main Street, away from heavy bus and delivery truck use. According to the study, “It is safer, more direct, and provides a higher-quality streetscape.”

One reason to heed the DCP recommendation to keep cyclists off the helix and Main Street came in October of 2014 when 29-year old model and Octagon resident Anna Maria Mostrom collided with a southbound Red Bus after turning right and riding north off the helix. She was mortally wounded.


Alternate modes of access to and from the Island are always being discussed. Last year, multiple rush-hour MTA problems impacted the F train, leading to long lines for the Tram, sometimes extending all the way to Sportspark.

One possibility, raised in a 2017 Cornell Tech Construction meeting, investigated the feasibility of creating an elevator or stairwell to connect us back to the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge. Andrew Winters, then Cornell’s Director of Capital Planning, expressed support for the idea, saying Cornell Tech would certainly benefit from having as many options as possible to get here.

However, the Department of Transportation (DOT) has not been supportive of the idea in the past. DOT spokeswoman Kay Sarlin, in a 2007 New York Times article, raised doubts about a passageway that would have to be nearly 135 feet high, saying, “‘It’s not feasible. They’d have to remove a lane of traffic to put in an elevator.’’ Sarlin said a stairway could not be installed because people with disabilities could not use it. Further, she said, since the facade of the bridge has landmark status, altering it would present a problem. Winters said Cornell Tech had also gone to the DOT and received the same response.

RIOC has procured Dewberry Engineers and their team, including Mathews Nielsen Landscape Architects, to design the ramp and lane project. The group recently completed its existing conditions study and is seeking community input as they begin the design process.

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