Advocates call for Bike Path on Verrazano Bridge

Cyclists gather at 86th Street bus station on October 15, calling for a bike and pedestrian path on Verrazano Bridge. The two bike racks on the S53 bus cannot accommodate so many bikes at once.

On the sunny afternoon of October 15, 75 cyclists rallied at the S53 bus station on 86th Street in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. They held placards with slogans like “Build the path for generations to come.” When the bus came, only two cyclists could put their bikes on the bike racks in front of the bus. The others chanted “Verrazano” and rode off to the waterfront near Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.

The event was organized by Transportation Alternatives, an advocacy group for cyclists and pedestrians, and Harbor Ring, an advocacy group that promotes a 50-mile recreational route around New York Harbor, calling for a bike and pedestrian path on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) launched a yearlong Bike & Ride pilot program in September 2015 for cyclists to travel between Brooklyn and Staten Island. Advocates say the program is yet to be made permanent and cannot satisfy cyclists’ needs compared to a bike path.

In September 2015, MTA started a one-year pilot program to put bike racks on two Staten Island bus routes, S53 and S93, which travel across the Verrazano Bridge. According to MTA press release, a total of 38 racks were bought at a cost of $42,000. With two racks on each bus, it provides a faster way for cyclists to travel from Brooklyn to Staten Island.

“It cuts like 4 hours of time spent going to work,” said Ian McPhillips, a coast guard who lives in Bay Ridge and works on Staten Island. “I used to ride all the way to South Ferry, take the ferry then ride down to Fort Wordsworth.”

Mihailovich, Staten Island Organizer of Transportation Alternatives said bike racks are a great addition to the transit system, but not a complete solution for cyclists.

“If you are a family of four, you cannot ride together,” said Mihailovich. “Because the racks come two at a time.”

The future of the program is not decided yet. Dispatcher Wang, who didn’t disclose his full name due to contract reason, oversees the bus operation at 86th Street Station. He said the pilot bike rack program should end on Labor Day. MTA did not respond to multiple requests for comments on whether the program would be made permanent.

City Council member Vincent Gentile said in a statement that he supports calls for a bike and pedestrian path on Verrazano Bridge because it need to keep pace with the increasing bike and pedestrian population.

“The pathway naturally improves the quality of life for constituents in our district and in Staten Island, while also providing both boroughs a much cheaper alternative to cross the bridge,” said Council member Gentile in a statement.

A master plan of Verrazano-Narrows Bridge reconstruction was presented to the public in October 2015 by WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, an engineering company hired by the MTA. It suggested the opportunity of bike and pedestrian path on either the upper of lower deck of the bridge. Mihailovich said MTA is reaching out to focus groups to study the feasibility of the plan.

“We are trying to show the authority that the interest is there,” said Mihailovich.