DOT aims to ease crossing Harlem River for pedestrians, bicyclists

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Friday, May 4, 2018
DOT aims to ease crossing Harlem River for pedestrians, bicyclists
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Stacey Sager reports on the future of the Harlem River bridges.

EAST HARLEM, Manhattan (WABC) -- Northern Manhattan might not be that far from the Bronx, but for pedestrians and bicyclists, getting there can be tricky.

The Harlem River separates the boroughs, and while the river crossings are good for cars, it's a different experience for folks using other means of transportation. But that might change.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Polly Trottenberg on Friday released a report, called Connecting Communities: A Vision for the Harlem River Bridges, outlining the DOT's vision for increased pedestrian and cyclist accessibility on bridges over the Harlem River.

The Madison Avenue Bridge, which connects Mott Haven to East Harlem, has in the last few months received major upgrades to adjacent pedestrian and cyclist access, including a new protected bike lane and new crosswalks along East 138th Street.

"The 2015 re-opening of the High Bridge illustrated the enormous demand for walkable and bikeable crossings over the Harlem River and also demonstrated just how much work we have to do to better connect Manhattan and the Bronx," Trottenberg said. "That beautiful bridge also served as something of an inspiration for this new report, which captures our ambitious commitment to expanding access over the Harlem River."

Beginning in the spring of 2015, the DOT's Office of Bicycle and Pedestrian Programs led a community-driven planning process to increase pedestrian and bicycle mobility between the Bronx and Manhattan across the Harlem River, and the 13 spans that connect Manhattan and the Bronx. Nine of those spans are controlled by New York City DOT, and the vision of Connecting Communities is to knit together vibrant communities in both boroughs, improve safety, and provide additional options for people to access the different jobs, schools, parks, and transit options separated by the Harlem River.

In addition to improving vehicular traffic flow and traffic safety for pedestrians, the report identifies the goal of a feasible new bicycle crossing roughly every 1 mile -- so that no detour would require more than a 10-minute ride on a bicycle.

When bicycle lanes were successfully installed on the East River bridges in the late 1990s and early 2000s, DOT achieved this detour goal, and in the years since, bicycle traffic between Brooklyn and Manhattan has increased from 3,000 daily cyclists in 2000 to 22,000 in 2017.

In multiple efforts over the last two years -- from workshops and surveys to mobile outreach -- DOT compiled community preferences for short and long-term transportation improvements that incorporate bridge paths, approaches, wayfinding and lighting. With growing demand for cycling, Connecting Communities also recommends further study to consider new, exclusive bicycle and pedestrian crossings, proposing to create a safe and continuous inter-borough experience for New Yorkers who walk and bike.


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