Roosevelt Island Bridge Hazardous for Bikes

December 16, 2017

[Editor’s note: This letter was sent to Council member Ben Kallos]


Dear Ben:


Here’s a problem that might benefit from your attention, please!


Several years ago, when the surface of the Roosevelt Island Bridge was changed by the Bridges and Tunnels division of NYC Department of Transportation, the bicycles were banned from the sidewalk, and a bike lane was provided on the metal-mesh roadway.


What wasn’t provided was a safe way to cross the bridge on a bike.


The biking surface is the same as the automobile roadway – fine for cars and their wide tires, but hazardous for bikes.


Balancing on a bicycle requires continuous minor steering adjustments, which are almost impossible on the bridge, because the metal roadway captures and channels a bike wheel. Make a minor steering change, and a well-inflated wheel will not climb over the side of the channel. A more gross adjustment will be over-large, requiring immediate compensation by turning back. The result is serious instability. Normal riding is impossible, especially at the lower speeds involved after climbing up the hill onto the bridge. And if it’s wet, lateral traction for steering adjustments is totally absent. The overall result is hazardous biking and, too easily, a fall.


Furthermore, the metal roadway is a very dangerous surface on which to fall. The blunt metal protrusions make it likely that skin will be broken or a skull fractured.


Bike riders therefore have a difficult choice – ride on a dangerous surface and hope to be successful in coping with the channeling effect of the metal roadway – or disobey the signs and use the narrow sidewalk where passing a wheelchair, a stroller, or a person of size can be hazardous to all concerned. The only other way is the unlikely choice of walking a bike. That defeats the purpose of choosing to bike, especially for a short trip.


One might respond: if you don’t like the bridge bikeway, don’t use it. But a bikeway has been provided at taxpayer expense, so why not just do it right, or, now that it’s been done badly, fix it?


Dick Lutz


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