Concrete barriers being built on Williamsburg Bridge; Bikers worry barricades could be ‘deadly’
The New York Daily News
September 9, 2011
By Simone Weichselbaum
Concrete barriers are being built on the Manhattan side of the Williamsburg Bridge’s bike lane to prevent potential terrorists from driving onto the path – a deadly addition for cyclists, bikers said.
The city’s Department of Transportation has started digging holes along the Delancey St. bike lane, getting ready to put in a half dozen blockades so cars can’t go through.
But Manhattan-bound cyclists said they won’t be able to slow down when zooming down the bridge’s mile-long hill that takes pedestrians and bikers into the lower East Side.
“If the city is going to put up the barricades, they should be made of softer material. Like plastic. So if someone hits it, they are less likely to be seriously injured,” said Bill DiPaola, director of advocacy group Times Up!
The bridge is the city’s busiest for bikers, drawing thousands of two-wheelers a day, said Transportation Alternatives, the cyclists’ advocacy group.
Many of the bikers new to the city who aren’t familiar with the bridge can become confused on how to exit the bridge and smack into the barricades, activists said.
“The fear of terrorism, once again, overrides the needs of New Yorkers’ safety,” said Williamsburg biker advocate Baruch Herzfeld. “You shouldn’t have to be a veteran rider to bike safely in this city.”
The DOT said the barricades will be up by early 2012, along with metal railings that will guide cyclists to Clinton St.
“We are right in the middle of implementing this. If there are any issues, we will take a look,” a DOT spokesman said.
Similar car blockades are in use at both the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges’ bike paths, DOT officials said.
But the Manhattan Bridge’s exit ramp curves, forcing cyclists to slow down, and the Brooklyn Bridge is usually packed with tourists, making it too crowded to bike fast.
Some cyclists on the Williamsburg Bridge said the barriers are a death wish.
“When you are coming down that hill you forget how fast you are going. I don’t know if there is time to stop,” said Anthony Herrera, 45, pedaling his mountain bike onto the bridge. “It’s very dangerous.”
Mayim Fedotov, 30, who was biking to see his mom in Williamsburg, said bikers should just ride slowly.
“You shouldn’t be going down the bridge as fast as you can,” said Fedotov.
“People should start braking high up on the bridge. People are overconfident when they bike. That’s how people get hurt.”