More safety needed around Kosciuszko: comptroller
by Benjamin Fang
Sep 03, 2019 | 2678 views | 0 0 comments | 305 305 recommendations | email to a friend | print
The newly opened second span of the Kosciuszko Bridge includes a 20-foot-wide walking and cycling path, creating a new way for pedestrians and cyclists to get from Maspeth to Greenpoint.

But cycling advocates, as well as a citywide elected official, believe the city should do more to improve safety leading up to the bridge.

Last Thursday, Comptroller Scott Stringer penned a letter to the Department of Transportation (DOT) requesting information about the infrastructure build-out and mitigation measures the agency plans to implement to protect pedestrians and cyclists.

A bike lane is “only as good as its surrounding networking,” he wrote in the letter.

“Without protected bike lanes, sufficient lighting and high-quality signage in the immediate vicinity, bicycle riders and pedestrians could be placed in harm’s way,” Stringer said.

He noted that 19 cyclists have already died on city streets this year, nearly doubling the total amount from last year.

Cyclist deaths have “disproportionately” taken place in industrial areas with an explosion of residential population, in neighborhoods like Greenpoint and Maspeth, the comptroller said.

Stringer called for “safe passage” of riders by introducing protected bike lanes on the streets leading up to the Kosciuszko Bridge, as well as traffic calming measures to reduce car speeds.

“Given the high volume of large trucks within the surrounding neighborhoods, sharrows and other half measures will simply not be sufficient,” he wrote.

Finally, the comptroller requested “a full accounting” of why the bike and pedestrian infrastructure wasn’t read for the bridge’s opening day.

“Just as no transportation department would open a highway before constructing the on- and off-ramps, I am confused as to how a new bike and pedestrian path could be introduced without sufficient connecting infrastructure on day one,” he said.

Juan Restrepo, the Queens organizer with Transportation Alternatives, said the Kosciuszko Bridge path is a great bike lane, and hopes it will be a model for bike lanes on other bridges.

The Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, for example, only has 12-feet-wide paths at its widest portion. According to DOT data, more than 5,400 cyclists crossed the Queensboro Bridge daily in 2017.

“The new bridge is pretty damn great at what it does, 20 feet with ample space for cyclists,” he said. “I don’t think we’re going to see too many overcrowding issues.”

But like Stringer, Restrepo said there should be more attention paid to safe access points. He said he hasn’t seen actual signage indicating an entrance to the bridge.

“They need to put the same amount of consideration into the access points as the bike lane,” Restrepo said.

A DOT spokesperson responded that the markings and signage work will begin this week.

The agency had been planning to implement it in the fall, but the state accelerated the opening of the bike and pedestrian path, the spokesperson said.

DOT added that most of the lanes will be “standard on-street,” though Laurel Hill Boulevard on the Queens side will be protected.

Additionally, the city is exploring protected bike lane connections on both sides for the future, the spokesperson added, as part of the “Green Wave” plan.

(Salvatore Isola contributed additional reporting to this story.)
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