Cyclists push for Verrazano bike lane

The Brooklyn Paper
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Getting to Staten Island won’t require as many wheels as it used to if a group of cycling advocates gets its way.

Pedal-pushers are pushing to add a bike and pedestrian path to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a vital motorist-only connection between Brooklyn and Staten Island that currently boasts 12 lanes for cars and none for velocipedes.

“Support of the path would provide a much needed toll-free option that would benefit the health, emergency access, and economic viability of neighboring communities,” activists wrote on a petition put up by a steering committee for Harbor Ring, a proposed 50-mile route for walkers and bicyclists that would connect the waterfronts encircling New York Harbor.

More than 28 miles of the route is already in place due to existing paths and bikeways, but one critical missing link is the 49-year-old bridge, claim advocates who believe a Verrazano path is a much-needed connection between the two boroughs.

“We are well past the notion that cars are the only way to get around,” said Harbor Ring committee member and Cobble Hill resident Dave Paco Abraham. “It’s a matter of fairness to the people who either can’t afford a car or simply do not have a car.”

The bike boosters — backed by cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives and Regional Plan Association — are calling on Gov. Cuomo to hop onboard their proposal for a lane running across the 4,260-foot span.

They’re not the first people to call for a bike path across the bridge: the Department of City Planning commissioned a 1997 feasibility study by Verrazano engineers Ammann & Whitney, who determined that a route could be built without removing a single lane of automotive traffic.

But building a platform between the suspension cables — not unlike the Brooklyn Bridge’s bustling pedestrian and cycling area — wouldn’t be cheap. The study estimated a total build-out at $26.5 million.

A spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority — the agency that operates the Verrazano — said a cycling route was never part of the original plan for the bridge, despite rumors of the contrary, and noted that transit planners are considering conducting their own feasibility study, which would not begin until 2014 or later.

“MTA Bridges and Tunnels is considering this issue as part of a future Belt Parkway ramp reconstruction project,” said spokeswoman Judie Glave.

The bridge is only open to bikers and bipeds twice per year: once for the Five Boro Bike Tour and again during the New York City Marathon.

Abraham, who savors crossing the bridge on his two-wheeler during the bike tour, said that he can tell from the way photo-snapping cyclists react when they hit the bridge that a year-round pathway would be a big attraction.

“This could be a huge boost to New York City on a tourism level,” said the avid bike rider. “You can see sweeping views of all of Manhattan, the Statue of Liberty, of Brooklyn, of New Jersey — it’s really just breathtaki­ng.”

Bike backers gathered 924 signatures as press time, but not everyone is gung-ho for a walking and biking route over the Narrows.

“It’s sheer unadulterated idiocy,” said Community Board 10 member and driving advocate Allen Bortnik, who fears car lanes would be affected. “There are certain places bike lanes do not belong — it is a major thoroughfa­re.”

Reach reporter Natalie Musumeci at or by calling (718) 260-4505. Follow her at
Updated 10:09 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Fr. Cappadonna from New Dorp says:
Does Bortnik have a learning disability or is just an idiot who speaks without reading or listening?

A bike/pedestrian path would be elevated in the middle of the bridge, all traffic lanes, upper and lower deck, would intact.
April 5, 2013, 1:49 am
Reader from Brooklyn says:
Bortnick is an idiot.
April 5, 2013, 7:58 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
There is no way that the MTA will spend $26 million and let bikers ride across for free. That said, I would gladly pay just for the view. I've done the bike tour, and riding across the bridge was definitely the highlight.
April 5, 2013, 8:39 am
Jay from Bay Ridge says:
if a bike lane open, it will invite graffiti vandalism over to Verrazano-Narrows Bridge.. (as seen in Manhattan Bridge after its bike lane open).
April 5, 2013, 8:43 am
ty from pps says:
I'm usually all for bike lanes everywhere... but this bridge is a BEAST of a hill. Add riding into the wind (which is likely at least sometimes). Folks riding this route regularly would definitely get fit, quick.
April 5, 2013, 8:44 am
VMGillen from Elm Park says:
The Bayonne Bridge Roadway-raising project will shut dow the bike/ped path for at least 3 years - right now, that's the only bridge that will allow bike/peds off Island, so that may be part of wha'ts driving this effort. ON THE OTHER HAND those winds on the Verrazon really are beastly, and as long as the ferry is running it's no problem taking a bike to and from Staten Island.
April 5, 2013, 9:13 am
T from Brooklyn says:
Ty, I guess you've never heard of the Golden Gate Bridge.
April 5, 2013, 9:14 am
Sean from Staten Island says:
As a resident of both Brooklyn & Staten Island, it is more than just joy riding picture taking tourist/ instagraming transplants that would benefit from this. I hate dealing with the SI ferry and the S53/S79 from Bay Ridge are many times infrequent. Having access to cross this bridge would open up avenues of business for both Bay Ridge and SI. Furthermore, Staten Island is the ONLY borough you cannot walk to from Manhattan. The Golden Gate has no problems with having a bike/ped access and that bridge is steep and long. The GW has ped/bike access and there is no graffiti. The only reason why this has been dragged out is b/c both the MTA & Port Auth have a vested interest in NOT having this available. SI is once again, just a place for the city to squeeze money out of.
April 5, 2013, 9:21 am
Scott from BR says:
Sandy proved the need for more than just car access on and off of Staten Island. For many people who could not get gas, biking to and from needed services, family members, jobs, or public transportation would have been a life saver. Allowing people to walk and bike over the bridge would help people should this kind of situation arise again.
April 5, 2013, 9:30 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
Plenty of native NY'ers would be instagraming on the path too. I know I would be. The view from the middle of the span on the bridge might be the best in the city.
April 5, 2013, 9:32 am
Sean from staten island says:
@ Scott. Agreed. I can remember many instances where the pedestrian access was needed in an emergency situation like your example. When the Staten Island ferry crashed, everyone had to take buses back to SI but the bridge was closed to only emergency vehicles. Had there been a pathway, people would have walked. During the Dec 2010 blizzard, there was no transit or ferry service and I had to get to Manhattan. I considered illegally walking the bridge. (luckily, hitched a ride).

Yes, there will be taking pictures on the bridge of course. But for people worried about it being like the brooklyn bridge, clogged with picture takers (whether tourist, native or naive), I would think that the George Washington is a good example of how that probably wont happen to the same extent. Too far, too long and no real draw beyond the bridge/bridge views itself...
April 5, 2013, 9:48 am
Sarah from Gowansu says:
What a wonderful idea! Folks living in Staten Island and Bay Ridge deserve more transportation options. Walking & riding over bridges in the city is an exhilarating & healthy activity that local residents will enjoy.
April 5, 2013, 9:50 am
ty from pps says:
common sense,
I don't know... from the "local natives" that post on this website, I don't think you're allowed to enjoy the city. Taking pictures would be frivolous and very hipster-like. That picture-taking is time that you would be better spent suffering and whining.
April 5, 2013, 9:54 am
DG from Brooklyn says:
A question. Why would you allow Bortnick's uninformed opinion into this piece? As other commenters have pointed out, the plan to put a biking and walking path on the bridge would add to -- not take from -- the bridge, in no way affecting the amount of space allocated for cars.

Bortnick can fear that car lanes would be affected all he wants, just as I can fear an invasion of purple-headed, three-eyed aliens with ray guns, but that doesn't mean it's going to happen. That's not to say that you can't include someone who is opposed to this project, but perhaps you should find someone who's opinion is based in reality instead?

I really hope that one day the Brooklyn Paper can report on these important issues without trying to drum up "nontroversy." This is a sensible, long overdue plan that will benefit everyone, including drivers.
April 5, 2013, 9:55 am
ty from pps says:
Also, I thought I read somewhere that the Verrazano was originally designed with a ped/bicycle lane... Was that converted into an additional driving lane at some point? Or perhaps it was this same proposed design, but it was omitted during construction to save costs?

Anyone know?
April 5, 2013, 9:58 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
I'm all for it.

And a toll of $7.50 - one direction only!
April 5, 2013, 10:09 am
BKCyclist from Brooklyn says:
Link to the Harbor Ring petition:
April 5, 2013, 10:10 am
adamben from bedstuy says:
great idea!

next, hang some subway trains on the bottom and start building sky scrapers!!!
April 5, 2013, 10:20 am
Michael Stevens from Prospect Heights says:
Of course it's cheap. The cost to do this is less than a half of a percent of the Tappan Zee replacement projections.
April 5, 2013, 10:21 am
common sense from bay ridge says:
@ty: You're right, what was I thinking? I better go flush my Sixpoints and Almond Milk. After I shave, of course.
April 5, 2013, 10:26 am
Rob from Williamsburg says:
We crossed the Verrazano on unicycles May 3, 2010.
April 5, 2013, 10:29 am
Alex from Brooklyn says:
$26 million is pretty steep. It would make much more sense to simply close a lane to cars and convert it into a bike/ped path. And to keep things balanced, they could close another car lane and convert it into a peak direction express bus lane while expanding bus service. That would seriously improve Staten Islanders' commute into Manhattan while also reducing the smog the bridge traffic creates. Also, it would REALLY piss off Bortnik and that in itself is worth while.
April 5, 2013, 10:33 am
Mike from Williamsburg says:
I appreciate that Bortnick was identified as a "driving advocate."
April 5, 2013, 11:01 am
Tourist from Outside NYC says:
Stuff like this keeps my tourism dollars going to DC and San Francisco instead of NYC.
April 5, 2013, 11:02 am
Peter Engel from Fort Greene says:
Ty, you must be one of those wussies on their fixies if you think the V-Z would be "too steep."
April 5, 2013, 11:03 am
ty from pps says:
Peter - I don't think that was my statement. But I guess you just wanted to make a nasty comment.

And if you must know, I don't ride a fixie... but my bike only has one gear (freewheel). It serves me very well in the city. Once in a while, especially if I'm tired, I'd like some gears -- but not enough to go back.
April 5, 2013, 11:22 am
why from bklyn says:
Where would the money and extra space come from to help with creating these bike lanes?? Drivers already have to pay a hefty toll to get across Verr. If the bikers really want these lanes, then they should also be ready to pay the same exact toll fare as drivers. That be only fair.
April 5, 2013, 11:40 am
s from brooklyn says:
Why would cyclists have to pay the exact toll fare as drivers? Do car drivers pay the same amount as truck drivers?
April 5, 2013, 12:22 pm
Jym from PLG says:
The headline notwithstanding, this is a path, not a lane, and indeed the bridge was designed with a path in mind, which would have no impact on the car traffic. Mr. Bortnik's fears are unfounded.

His other statement makes no sense. The alternative to bike lanes on "major thoroughfare[s]" is to share the road with bikes. I'm pretty sure that's not high on the list for "driving advocates."
April 5, 2013, 12:27 pm
C from Bay Ridge says:
Ty is right. I rode across the VZB during the 5 Borough Bike Tour a few years ago, 50 miles. Granted the bridge was one of the last pieces of the route, but still, I'll never forget the steady climb from the base of 278 by 92nd Street all the way up to the mid-section of the bridge on the lower level. Holy hell, I was almost seeing things after doing that and I considered myself in shape. Not sure that this would prove to be the attraction it's meant to be.
April 5, 2013, 1 pm
Jim from Cobble Hill says:
The Verrazano is an example of the piss-poor planning and car-centric platform of Robert Moses and his ilk. Designed exclusively for cars and leaving no room for either Subway expansion or pedestrian access, it is something that was flawed from day one. Anything that helps fix this situation (however slight) is a welcome reminder that the attempts to turn NYC into Long Island are long gone and dead.
April 5, 2013, 2:47 pm
BayRide123 from Bay Ridge says:
They should pay the toll too. Or will they raise the toll to 50 so that we can pay for this eventually?
April 5, 2013, 3:22 pm
Q from Bay Ridge says:
The $26 mil will come out of motorists already empty pockets due to the sky high toll as it is. Not to mention the YEARS of lane closures to construct the thing (the Brooklyn Bridge is taking 6 yrs just to paint!). Traffic into and out of Staten Island is awful enough, without trying to make it worse. Nothing says living "Green" quite like a single traffic jam from the SI Mall to the L.I.E. and back all for a bike lane.
April 5, 2013, 4:39 pm
T from bklyn says:
They are spending $600 million and counting to renovate the Brooklyn Bridge and yet the bridge remains free of tolls. Where does that money come from?

Drivers are the primary beneficiaries of socialism these days.
April 5, 2013, 5:27 pm
Sean from Staten Island says:
Right, charge for pedestrian/bikes on the bridge when no other bridge connecting to Brooklyn or Manhattan does that. Here's a better idea: Charge for the Staten Island ferry. The revenue/savings from that could over time cover the cost of this project. Of course no politician wants to touch the SI Ferry considering it gets partial funding by the Feds and is run by the DOT...
April 5, 2013, 5:41 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Most toll bridges usually don't allow for any pedestrians or bicycles on them. Part of that reason is because many of them have direct highway access, which they wouldn't have much of a way of getting to them anyway. Where the money would come from raises a lot of issues here. Let's not forget that this bridge is currently the city's longest especially when The Narrows does have a very long span. Seriously, why shouldn't cyclists be required to pay tolls if they get their way on this? Then again, the bike zealots do have a history of hypocrisy of saying that they want the same treatment as all other vehicles but don't want to be subject to the same rules and requirements at the same time. As for the Brooklyn Bridge, the reason that it doesn't have a toll anymore, is because its toll was long paid for in its early years, which is the original purpose of the tolls that is to only be there and pay it off and remove after that is all done, not leave there to make some kind of profit.
April 5, 2013, 7:44 pm
S from PPW says:
So, Tal. About the current $600 million renovation for the Brooklyn Bridge. Was that paid for by the toll that no longer exists?

You're not very intelligent, are you?
April 5, 2013, 8:31 pm
ty from pps says:
And, Tal... could you explain what the purpose of this sentence is?

"Let's not forget that this bridge is currently the city's longest especially when The Narrows does have a very long span."
April 5, 2013, 9:09 pm
Brownstone from Brooklyn says:
"Bicyclists are just going to have to get over it."
said former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota last December.

That's just what we want to do: Get Over It!
I've gotten over the Verrazano by bike about 65 times so far since 1964, but I would like every cyclist to be able to get over it, every day, any time they want to, not just at special events.

There appear to be Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority staff who still claim that the bridge cannot support the bicycle/pedestrian paths, and so (mis)informed the MTA Chair. These TBTA staff deny the existence of the 1997 Amman & Whitney study that confirms that the Verrazano can support two paths, and that the paths can be installed without taking away any roadway lanes.

The MTA has to get beyond path denial, and accept that there are no engineering impediments to installing the paths. Then we can have the serious discussion about how much the paths are needed, and how much they will cost. In other words, the question is not "can we build them at all?" but "should we build them now?"

$26 million is less than one percent of the replacement cost of the Verrazano. The number of bike/ped paths users should be at least one percent of the bridge's total traffic. So the cost per user of the 2 paths is in balance with the cost of the whole bridge per user. This $26 million is about 1/3 of what was spent on the SI Yankees minor league ball park that seats only some 6,000 people, a few times a year. And who paid for the ball park?

The Verrazano - We all just have to get over it!
April 5, 2013, 10:16 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
To spend over 26mm so a bunch of pedalphiles can ride over th VNB is insane.nd who would go to SI unless they had to. It isnt called the guinea gangplank for nothing.
April 6, 2013, 7:22 am
Peter from Brooklyn Heights says:
WTF is a "driving advocate"? Does Bortnick think more people should drive in NYC?
April 6, 2013, 8:08 am
Al from Bay Ridge says:
If the TBTA doesn't figure out a way to charge a toll to the users, it is a great idea. It will be a photograher's paridise.
April 6, 2013, 11:12 am
Steven Rosenberg from Park Slope says:
This sounds nice, but would truly be a waste of money because very few people would use it. Why? The hill to get to the VNB. It's HUGE, and makes the traverse viable to very few cyclists.
April 6, 2013, 3:07 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Hearing that it will cost 26 million is quite a lot for a bike path, and probably not even worth it especially if it will hardly ever be used. Does anyone really think that many are going to ride across that bridge on a daily basis on a bicycle? That money that would be spent for it, the MTA could use that help with improvement on the subways and buses. I betcha that money could probably build the needed subway connection Staten Island could have gotten long ago, though it would probably cost more now especially with the length of The Narrows, which is why it wasn't done in the first place. As for the repairs on the Brooklyn Bridge, that is being paid for via taxes for infrastructure, which took over paying for all crossings and highways once the tolls were removed after being paid off. Still, I think that bicycles should be paying tolls as well especially if they claim to want the same treatment as all other vehicles that use the road.
April 6, 2013, 5:56 pm
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
Michael from Bay Ridge, to tolls on this bridge is used by the MTA, which happens to be a state agency, not a city agency. Since I do pay taxes to them, my say does matter. Also, the I-278, which goes in this very bridge, is a federally-owned highway, so someone living nowhere near this state can talk about this as well since they are paying taxes for that. If it involves my taxes, I am allowed to have a say on it no matter where I live. Please understand where the taxes are coming from here. I still think it will be a boondoggle to spend so much money on this, and that could have been spent to better fix mass transit instead of a path that would most likely get little to no use, though I am not saying that it won't get any use at all, just not a lot.
April 6, 2013, 6:59 pm
Rob from Greenpoint says:
A bike path on the VNB would be awesome.
April 6, 2013, 10:50 pm
trans alt from my bike says:
So much cheaper to just use car lanes. Why spend $26 mil? Best way to keep cars out of Bklyn is to get them stuck in gridlock before they get there.
April 7, 2013, 1:16 am
dc from brooklyn says:
There are two other large suspension bridges where bike/walk paths are enjoyed and embraced. Check out these sites
The Tacoma Narrows Bridge:

The Golden Gate Bridge:

It's long overdue for NYC to show that it is not as backwards as it often claims it is not. There's no reason why we in NYC cannot have a bike/walk path on the V-N Bridge sooner than later. It would not harm even those who are against it. Many more people want this than against it. Sign the petition!! @
April 7, 2013, 3:46 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Gotta love the bridge in Tacoma
April 7, 2013, 10:35 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
I find it nothing more than a cheap shot to say that those who oppose it happen to be backwards. I for one, do not find myself to be backwards by saying no to this. I just feel that the money for this could be for better use, and that probably could help close the gap for the Second Avenue Subway, which will really help relieve the cramming that the Lexington Avenue Local Line gets especially since this line was needed for the last 90 years. Then again, maybe bicycles should use the regular lanes on the count that they will pay the tolls as well especially when nobody else gets free rides on that.
April 7, 2013, 1:02 pm
old time brooklyn from slope says:
tal has every right to voice his opinion - it is called the first amendment and on the side - so many have opinions about the middle east but they don't live there
April 7, 2013, 5:01 pm
ty from pps says:
Old Time --
Absolutely. Tal has the right to voice his ignorant and dimwitted opinions... but it doesn't make it less ignorant or stupid simply because he has a 1st amendment right.
April 7, 2013, 8:33 pm
dc from brooklyn says:
Here's the site for the NEW Tacoma Narrows Bridge, rebuilt and still standing since 1950:
April 7, 2013, 9:56 pm
dc from brooklyn says:
There's no reason not to have the bike/walk path on the V-N Bridge, or any other bridge. Most other large bridges have them in NYC. Many more people rather have it installed than not. For those who don't like they can use it or not, and I don't see how it would bother anyone at all, but not to install it is depriving many of us of an alternate transportation route, and a great place for locals and tourists to enjoy - great views and more!
April 7, 2013, 10:08 pm
staten islander says:
For some reason the winds across the VNB seem a hell of a lot stronger than on others. I don't have to struggle with the steering wheel to fight those winds on the Brooklyn Bridge the way I do on the VNB. If a safety & feasibility study show that it's do-able, then it should be considered. But why is it just assumed that bikers would drive over for free? Who is going to pay the $26 million that it will take to give them their bike path? VNB drivers (mostly Staten Islander residents) are already subsidizing the suburban trains. Im not paying another dime in tolls to subsidize anyone else. Before anything is done to that bridge, the tolls must be removed for all NYC residents at the very least.
April 8, 2013, 2:34 am
staten islander says:
For some reason the winds across the VNB seem a hell of a lot stronger than on others. I don't have to struggle with the steering wheel to fight those winds on the Brooklyn Bridge the way I do on the VNB. If a safety & feasibility study show that it's do-able, then it should be considered. But why is it just assumed that bikers would drive over for free? Who is going to pay the $26 million that it will take to give them their bike path? VNB drivers (mostly Staten Islander residents) are already subsidizing the suburban trains. Im not paying another dime in tolls to subsidize anyone else. Before anything is done to that bridge, the tolls must be removed for all NYC residents at the very least.
April 8, 2013, 2:34 am
ruby soho from staten is. says:
I think the point that some may be missing is that this would be (finally) a toll-free option over the Verrazano for Staten islanders and Brooklynites. Instead of saying "why do the bikers get it for free," consider that EVERYONE would have the chance to go over for free, including people who want to walk. And the wind and the hill do not seem to bother the thousands of people that ride on it during the 5 Boro bike tour or run over it at the Marathon.
April 8, 2013, 9:55 am
trans alt from my bike says:
hey statenislander, pretty soon you will look back fondly that how cheap tolls used to be. You self absorbed polluters are going to pay up for the damage you inflict. Congestion pricing and much higher tolls are just the beginning.
April 8, 2013, 11:07 am
Or from Yellow Hook says:
Congestion Pricing! Punishing the Productive to pay for the idle.
April 8, 2013, 11:59 am
Tal Barzilai from Pleasantville, NY says:
The tolls on the VNB and all the others should have been eliminated decades ago after being paid off, which was the entire purpose of them when first put up. Keep them on there and using them for anything else other than where they are on just makes them go up higher than they should be. If cyclists really want to use that bridge, they should be subject to that toll, because if us motorists have to pay for it, then so should they. As for congestion, it was defeated as it was seen more of a regressive tax, and before anyone attacks Silver for stopping it, his district, which happens to be lower Manhattan, is hardly autocentric.
April 8, 2013, 3:32 pm
Faust from Brooklyn says:
Winds? Grade?
I have been crossing the VNB by bike since 1965, in all kinds of weather. Crossed some 65 times, but only on special events like the 5 Boro. Over a million cyclists and over a million runners have crossed the Verrazano, safely.

The proposed paths would have railings above shoulder height. No-one is going to be blown off. Walk your bike if you feel uncomfortable. On the awful weather days, even drivers stay home and wait for better weather. Do you expect cyclists and walkers can't wait a day also? Trips and trip mode get adjusted to weather and need.

Weather has caused some serious problems - to motorists and to transit. Hurricane Sandy knocked out all transit and ferries for a week, cars were flooded and couldn't get gas. But as soon as the winds died down, people on bicycles were bringing relief supplies to everywhere but Staten Island. MTA -TBTA refused to open an emergency lane for walking and cycling between Staten Island and the rest of the city. Gross incompetence.

"The Grade Is Too Steep, according to TBTA engineers."
was told to me by a Verrazano Bridge Manager, as we both stood on the SI Toll Plaza, watching 32,000 5 Boro cyclists arrive at Fort Wadsworth. We were both laughing at that. The VNB has a 4 percent grade, about the same as the Manhattan Bridge side spans, and only a little steeper than the Brooklyn Bridge's 3.25 percent.

Sure, my legs are tired at the end of some 40 miles of 5 Boro, but I still get up and over the bridge. The view alone is worth the trip. I have commuted for some 40 years over the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges, and enjoyed every crossing. Even up hill and into the wind.

Live in Bay Ridge, work in Manhattan? Cycle the Verrazano, ride 2.5 miles to the SI Ferry, and be in Manhattan faster than the subway or bicycling all the way through Brooklyn. Think about it.

The Verrazano: Cyclists just have to get over it!
April 9, 2013, 12:36 pm
Scott Feldman from St. George Staten Island says:
I have been commuting twice weekly between Staten Island and Bay Ridge. It makes no sense that I have to go through Manhattan to get to Brooklyn without a car. Besides, how can anyone in this day and age oppose anything that would promote non-fossil-fuel-based transportation in NYC? What's up with that?
Aug. 29, 2014, 11:30 pm

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