Car lanes crossing two of New York City’s major bridges are set to be transformed into bike-only lanes in an attempt to boost cycling in the city.
Lanes on both the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges will now be reserved for cyclists as part of the mayor’s “Bridges for the People” plan.
The city’s mayor, Bill de Blasio, announced the development in his final State of the City plan on Thursday.
“The Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensboro Bridge are iconic and deeply intertwined in the daily lives of countless New Yorkers,” he said.
“Now, it’s time to bring them into the 21st century and embrace the future with a radical new plan.”
On the Brooklyn Bridge, cars from the innermost lane of the Manhattan-bound side will be banned and the lane will be transformed into a two-way protected bike lane.
The existing shared promenade space will be converted into a space just for pedestrians.
On the Queensboro Bridge, the north outer roadway will be transformed into a two-way bike-only lane and the south outer roadway will be made into a two-way pedestrian-only lane.
The lanes are the result of decades of lobbying by cyclists and transportation advocates for more space on the often jam-packed pedestrian lanes.
“Converting car lanes into bike lanes on two of our most important bridges is a giant leap forward for New York City,” Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, told The New York Times.
“We look forward to working with the de Blasio administration on this vital new project and other efforts to improve infrastructure for cyclists and pedestrians on bridges and streets across the five boroughs,” he added.
State assemblyman David I Weprin, a Democrat from Queens who is running for city comptroller, warned the newspaper that the new developments could cause issues down the line.
“There are still plenty of people who drive into Manhattan as well as small businesses who rely on those bridges,” Mr Weprin said. “It certainly will be an issue once the city comes back.”
Alongside the new lanes, Mr de Blasio announced that five new Bike Boulevards, streets that are designed to give bicycles travel priority and put cyclist safety first, will be built in the city.
“These boulevards will have unique design elements to slow vehicle speeds and reduce volume with traffic diverters, signal timing changes, shared streets, Open Streets and gateway treatments,” he said.
The mayor also announced that Open Streets will become a permanent part of the city’s landscape, with many of the streets included last year to be repeated in 2021.
The changes come as the demand for open outdoor space in the dense city has only intensified amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has infected over 590,000 in the city.