DOT Testing Out Fix for ‘Cheese Grater’ Bike Lane on Roosevelt I. Bridge

Panels covering the metal deck surface of the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge. Photo: Conor Lyman
Panels covering the metal deck surface of the Roosevelt Avenue Bridge. Photo: Conor Lyman

It’s a bridge to the future.

The Department of Transportation confirmed that it is ditching the dangerous and slippery “cheese grater” metal surface on the Roosevelt Island Bridge bike lane, covering it with panels that allow for a smooth and safe ride.

“As DOT continues to expand bike lanes throughout the five boroughs, we are actively exploring and testing various materials that will improve safety and the overall cycling experience for all its users,” said agency spokesperson Tomas Garita.

The new panels were spotted by keen-eyed cyclist Conor Lyman, who said that the paneling is a welcome change to the bridge, which has grated surface so that it can still be lifted for boat traffic.

“I’m very excited about the update to the bike lane,” he said. “I’ve been commuting from Queens to Roosevelt Island for a while now and that bridge is pretty awful. I have friends that want to commute by bike but won’t because they didn’t feel safe going over the bridge.”

According to the DOT, the bike lane project is a pilot project that involves installing 300 individual metal panels on each side of the bridge, and will also come with new flexible delineators. The work, which began at the beginning of October, is expected to be finished by Thanksgiving.

The pilot, if successful, will be the end to a decade-long struggle to make the bridge’s bike lane safer to ride. Back in 2011, Roosevelt Islander Online began sounding the alarm that local cyclists felt unsafe on the slick porous metal, which was left in place even after a multimillion dollar refurbishment project. Over the years, cyclists continued to tell any media outlet that would listen that the metal grates were slippery and unsafe.

Among the Roosevelt Island residents who’ve taken up the cause of fixing the grate was Paul Krikler, who’s also been seen advocating for a better Third Avenue in Manhattan. Krikler credited former Council Members Ben Kallos (D-Manhattan) and Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Queens) and current Council Member Julie Menin (D-Manhattan) for getting money for the pilot program, and said that he’s ridden his bike over the existing panels so far and that he considers the new material a much more pleasant ride.

“The cheese grater bridge is going, long live the covered cheese grater,” the British expat quipped.