When the city announced in January that it would construct a two-way bike lane with a separate pedestrian walkway across the Queensboro Bridge, safe street advocates celebrated while lamenting that it took five years to get the project approved. With more Queens residents searching for transit options anticipating a post-COVID economic recovery, a Jackson Heights lawmaker is proposing a way to simplify the process.
Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas introduced legislation to establish an advisory committee tasked with creating a strategic plan, in consultation with the MTA, to promote cycling and pedestrian access on MTA bridges and stations. The measure requires the MTA to consider and prioritize bicycle and pedestrian access when planning capital projects.
“The benefits of cycling cannot be overstated. During this pandemic, New Yorkers have been able to exercise, sustain their mental health, and engage in a more environmentally sustainable form of transportation and it is our job to ensure we can increase their ability to do so,” González-Rojas said. “This legislation will create a mechanism by which we can ensure to improve the access to New Yorkers who want to cycle on MTA bridges by bringing diverse stakeholders to the table.”
Currently, the MTA doesn’t allow bicycle access on most of its bridges and stations. The legislation would create a standing advisory committee comprised of 13 members who will create an advisory plan for greater access for cyclists and pedestrians. The committee will also be tasked with reviewing existing capital projects to determine the impact of those projects on bicycle and pedestrian access and recommend modifications to promote access.
“Despite the rapid growth of bicycling in New York City over the last decade, the MTA has done little to improve bicycle access at its stations and prohibits cycling on its bridges,” said Bronx state Senator Alessandra Biaggi, who will carry the bill in the upper chamber. “As more New Yorkers have turned to cycling and outdoor spaces throughout the pandemic, we must continue to make our communities welcoming to cyclists and pedestrians and encourage residents to use clean forms of transportation.”
Additionally, the MTA will be required as part of all future capital planning to consider bicycle and pedestrian access, in consultation with the standing advisory committee.
“The MTA’s track record of neglecting walking and cycling access to and through its facilities has left too many New Yorkers stranded for too long. Many transit hubs are difficult to access safely by foot or bike and nearly all lack secure bike parking facilities,” said Laura Shepard, a Woodside resident and bike network organizer at Open Plans. “MTA bridges range from substandard to hazardous to outright inaccessible. These barriers are unacceptable in a city striving to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, address systemic injustices, reduce traffic violence, and tackle climate change. This legislation will compel the MTA to bring its facilities and operations up to par to meet the needs of New Yorkers.”