Pedestrians and bicyclists were at each other’s throats this week on the remaining Williamsburg Bridge bike path now that the city has closed the southern lane for repairs that will drag on through the entire spring biking season at least.
For more than a week since the detour sign went up, bikers and pedestrians have been having one near miss after another — and not all the misses have been near.
“I saw someone lying on the ground bleeding from his head,” said a jogger named Jennifer who declined to give her last name.
With its southern lane closed, the northern path is jam packed — more resembling the always choked bike and pedestrian path on the Brooklyn Bridge. As a result, few users of the Williamsburg Bridge are happy.
Pedestrians chastise cyclists for clipping them or careening by at high speeds near the foot of the bridge. Cyclists criticized pedestrians for walking too slowly. Both sides accuse the other of occupying the wrong lanes.
Either way it’s a mess.
For three months, Department of Transportation officials are resurfacing and repainting the bike-pedestrian pathway to create clearly marked lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, causing users to be rerouted to the north pathway until at least early June. The project is just one part of the city’s $173-million Williamsburg Bridge rehabilitation.
Transportation watchdog groups, including Times Up!, are wary of the city’s timeline and believe that the project could take even longer. The group’s director, Bill DiPaola has observed no construction activity on the south side of the bridge for the past five days.
“Things need to be repaired, but you wouldn’t close the street for five days in a row and do nothing,” said DiPaola. “Don’t close it and not show respect for people on the bridge.”
In the meantime, cyclists and pedestrians have been forced to share the path, often swerving into each other’s lanes to the consternation of the other group.
“Two girls were walking down the bridge on the wrong side and a kid hit them,” said Ashley, a cyclist, who declined to give his last name. “The city needs to repaint the lanes.”
His friend, Aidan Lyon, recounted a scene where his cycling roommate collided into another cyclist head on and flew off his bike in the middle of the bridge.
“Neither of them were mad at each other because there were other people around,” said Lyon, who himself had been almost hit multiple times this week.
Chaya Kurz, who was walking with her family over the bridge on Sunday, blamed out of control cyclists for ruining her afternoon stroll.
“You can’t walk very peacefully because you’re always crashing into bikes,” said Kurz.
Transportation Alternatives spokesman Wiley Norvell believes that the restriping will ultimately improve safety on the bridge.
“It is incumbent upon cyclists, as the faster-moving users on the path, to yield to pedestrians and to bike at a safe speed,” said Norvell.
Yet cyclists such as Rachel Steinberg are not so sure people will stick to the lanes once they are painted in.
“It is kind of marked already. It is more a matter of people not paying attention where they are going,” said Steinberg.