The bad idea of a new Queens-Manhattan bike bridge pops up

The bad idea of a new Queens-Manhattan bike bridge pops up

Last year, we reported on a Queens-Manhattan bike bridge – the Queens Ribbon – threatening Roosevelt Island. The pandemic brought the idea to a slow crawl, but a city master plan, released last week, showed it still breathing.

By David Stone

A Queens-Manhattan Bike Bridge Looming Over What’s Left of Southpoint Park

Queens-Manhattan bike bridge rendering
Rendering for Queens Ribbon

Former traffic commissioner Sam Schwartz proposed the Queens-Manhattan bike bridge in 2020. The elitist feel of a plan ignoring Roosevelt Island while parking a giant footprint on it was ominous. A 300 foot tall, 200 foot wide clunker planted in a narrow strip of Southpoint Park sounds like a deathknell, especially after RIOC and soulmate Langan decimated the shorelines, this year.

Imagine the height of a thirty story building throwing shadows across the park while its base, more than half the size of a football field, makes useless a chunk of meadows. How many more trees gone? And don’t forget the mechanical space required for an elevator for dropping bikers off on Roosevelt Island.

It’s a vision so grisly you’d think the light of day would make it too ugly for survival. But, so far, it isn’t. Mayor de Blasio and Council Speaker Corey Johnson are leaving it as a parting gift for Roosevelt Island.

New Cycling Connections Master Plan

DOT will identify locations with significant demand for new cycling/pedestrian bridges that could provide safer, more direct routes (such as Newtown Creek, Coney Island Creek, Hunters Point/Roosevelt Island), and initiate concept design studies.

Master Plan for City Streets

As a wrap up on the mayor’s mostly failed Vision Zero effort, he and Johnson released an aggressive plan. It covers “…development of bus, bicycle, and pedestrian infrastructure over the next five years.” And most of it’s good stuff.

“Community engagement will guide all of DOT’s street redesign projects, including vehicle, pedestrian, cyclist, and bus infrastructure,” it pledges. But which community makes the call? Biking or residents affected? Who stands up for Roosevelt Island? Tallying that total with the current, ultra passive version of RIOC brings us to… zero.

We certainly need more and better mass transit, and bike lanes must expand, making them really effective. But some plans so dazzled the planners, it blinded them to the downside. That’s certainly true with the Queens-Manhattan bike bridge.

Why a Queens-Manhattan bike bridge is a bad idea

Let’s count the ways;

  • The massive intrusion on the now badly damaged Southpoint Park might render it unrecognizable.
  • RIOC Public Safety can’t handle the bike traffic we have already. Do we need more bikes racing through crosswalks and stop signs? Scattering pedestrians on sidewalks and promenades?
  • Keeping in mind that we’re talking a mix that’s not all pedalers, more delivery by eBikes is inevitable. Picture an influx entering and leaving Southpoint along now hazardous paths, never pausing for stop signs, pedestrians and intersections.

Although exaggerated, the value of increasing bike traffic is certain as is anything that reduces cars. But Southpoint Park is the wrong place. Already losing identity as a quiet patch of retreat for residents footing all the bills, the park grows more vulnerable with easier access for outsiders.

Don’t mistake what a Queens-Manhattan bike bridge delivers for the casual, respectful visitors Four Freedoms State Park brings. Some bike riders are model citizens, but for too many others, entitlement means owning streets and parks supposedly shared with the rest of us.

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