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As Bike Ridership Increases, Bronx Residents Want Better Infrastructure

KATE STOCKRAHM, HOST: Since the pandemic began, bike ridership in New York has skyrocketed. Cyclist counts have shown increases of 60 to 200% on the city’s bike paths. The city’s Department of Transportation is building more bike lanes to keep up with the boom in traffic. In the Bronx, Renée Roden reports, residents want better bike infrastructure to help meet their transit needs.

RENEE RODEN, BYLINE: If you want to bike into Manhattan from the West Bronx, the only 24-hour path is the Washington Bridge. It crosses the Harlem River at W. 181st. The bridge has six lanes for cars, and pedestrians and cyclists share a path on the sides.

LUCIA DENG: But the pedestrian paths are only, um, three and a half feet wide in sections.

RODEN: Lucia Deng lives in the West Bronx. In Deng’s neighborhood, only about 1 in 10 residents has access to a private vehicle. So Deng, like her neighbors, often opt for the path.

DENG: This path is being shared by, you know, people walking, cyclists,

scooters, people on Mopeds, people pushing strollers, shopping cart. I've actually

even seen someone come over with a washing machine.

RODEN: Cecil Brooks is a lifelong resident of Mott Haven. He sees bike lanes as just one piece of the Bronx’s transit puzzle.

CECIL BROOKS: We still have a large amount of space, residential

communities who don't have access to a subway line or reliable bus service.

RODEN: Brooks says the limited access to public transportation in the Bronx goes back to the removal of the elevated train line that served the Central Bronx until the 1970’s.

BROOKS: We have a huge transit desert all across the central Bronx because of

the third Avenue L, which was taken out of commission decades ago and

hasn't really put anything, um, as effective to fill in the gap.

RODEN: Some transportation advocates say that bike commuting can help fill in that gap...but only if riders feel safe. Nicholas Dagen Bloom is a professor of urban planning at Hunter College.

NICHOLAS DAGEN BLOOM: I think you'd probably need a dedicated bike path network there, separate from traffic. Just because traffic is very fast and very heavy on a lot of

streets in the Bronx.

RODEN: And that takes a lot of money. The city’s Department of Transportation has dedicated $20 million to renovate the 130-year old Washington Bridge. But The plans do not include any additional space for bikes or pedestrians. Lucia Deng says the city should reallocate space on the bridge, for bikes, like they have in other boroughs.

DENG: While Mayor DeBlasio has finally committed to taking away a car lane on the

Brooklyn Bridge and the Queensborough, um, we'd love to see that kind of commitment

for one of the Harlem River crossings.

RODEN: We reached out to the city Department of Transportation. They responded in an email saying they were prioritizing protected bike lanes in the Bronx this year. According to their website, the DOT will add 4 miles of protected bike lanes in the Bronx. Meanwhile, the city plans to add about 25 miles in Brooklyn. And Manhattan will get thirteen.

MIGUEL SALAMANCA: If I could talk to the people who have the deep pockets and tell

them “Look, hey, these bike lanes - we need to expand.”

RODEN: Miguel Salamanca is 46 and commutes by bike twice a week from his home in the North Bronx to his office in Brooklyn. He says biking on the Bronx streets often feels dangerous.

SALAMANCA: We need more education and we need more money and we need more spaces to ride.

RODEN: Next month, the city is scheduled to begin the renovations on the Washington Bridge, including repaving the current lanes of traffic. Renée Roden, Columbia Radio News.

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