There’s a Great New Entryway to NYC’s Most Uncomfortable Bike-Ped Path

Getting to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade from Downtown Brooklyn has never been better. But most of the walking and biking path over the bridge is still crowded enough to induce open-air claustrophobia.

Photos: Ben Fried
Photos: Ben Fried

The new and improved entry path to the Brooklyn Bridge Promenade from Downtown Brooklyn is finally rideable. If the rest of the bridge path ever gets a widening and makeover to match this one, it will become one of the great walking and biking connections in New York.

The city first showed a concept for the wider entry path at Tillary Street and Adams Street in 2009 (and the idea for a median bikeway on Adams goes back to 1998). Eight years later, work on this capital project is about to wrap up.

A bit more construction remains to be done at the intersection of Tillary and Adams, but you can tell the new path will be a vast improvement over the old cattle chute, where concrete walls hemmed people in and there was scarcely enough room for someone on a bike to comfortably pass two people walking hand in hand.

The old cattle chute in 2013
The end of the old cattle chute at Adams and Tillary Street, circa 2013. Note the narrow, awkward curb cuts. Image: Google Maps

The new path consists of an eight-foot walkway and an eight-foot, two-way bikeway. It can comfortably handle three or four people walking abreast and one lane of bike traffic in each direction. One cyclist can overtake another without causing much stress, though it feels a little tight if someone is biking in the other direction.

Here’s the view from a bike saddle heading toward Manhattan:

At this point in the trip across the bridge, I had to stop taping and steer with both hands for my own safety and that of everyone around me. If I’d been using a frame-mounted camera, the next 10 or so minutes of video would have captured bridge crowding so wretched it’s impossible to convey in words.

I estimate that I passed a hundred people in the bike lane taking pictures of the Manhattan skyline, while biking at about 4-6 mph, depending on conditions, ringing the bell constantly. On a clear but cool Saturday afternoon in May, there were about two or three times as many people on the path as in this Gothamist video of the bridge from last August.

I don’t blame anyone on the path for this mess, except for NYPD, which has stationed four cops in motorized “Interceptors” on the promenade — ostensibly to guard against terror after German artists scaled the bridge towers a few years ago and replaced the Stars and Stripes with white flags. There was a pair of Interceptors on the ascent and another pair on the descent, and all four officers inside had nodded off.

The bridge path needs more space and more separation between people on foot and people on bikes. Last August, DOT announced a feasibility study to determine if the promenade can be widened as part of an upcoming rehab project. The results of that study are due to come out any day, if DOT sticks to its schedule.

For now, these improvements at the base of the promenade are going to whet appetites for more generous walking and biking conditions on the full length of the bridge. Here are a few more shots of the foot of the bridge path and the approaches from Adams Street and Tillary Street.

The foot of the path at Tillary Street is still under construction but it’s already a much more spacious transition for walking and biking than what was there before.
The Adams Street median looking toward Tillary from Johnson Street. The stamped sidewalk pavers mark the bike path here, which will let cyclists get to and from the bridge without dodging all the turning traffic at Tillary Street.
Tillary Street looking toward the bridge path from the east.
A sidewalk and raised bike lane on Tillary Street, looking toward the bridge entrance from the east.