Donate

Bike Commute Video: Canal Street Chaos & Manhattan Bridge Mayhem

Many hardened cycling commuters will watch this week's 2.5 mile ride from the Lower East Side to DUMBO and laugh. "This isn't even a ride, let alone a commute," their GU-stained fingers will type into the comment section below. To which this commuter will reply: jealousy is a bitch.

Most mornings, Canal Street is the main hazard—its mixture of double-parked cars (I'm looking at you, FDNY Engine 9, Ladder 6), box trucks, comically oversized buses, forklifts held together with duct tape, and other entropic distractions that can awaken even the groggiest morning commuter.

Pedal, brake, pedal, dead pigeon, dead pigeon, pigeons eating vomit, skateboard, pothole, swerve, veer, green light, burning smell, that guy is really cackling what's he cackling at don't turn your head—casino bus!

Yet as the weather gets warmer, the Brooklyn-bound cyclist's concern also includes the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge bike path. The issue has been especially acute since the City's Department of Design and Construction began working on the Forsyth Street Plaza project in April of 2015.

First, drivers coming off of the bridge and heading east onto Canal Street frequently obstruct the paths of cyclists attempting to enter and exit the bridge, creating the blockage you see above, in which cyclists have to thread their way between cars.

This creates those You go ahead—No, after you, I insist moments while the clock on the traffic signal that few of us can see (because it is being blocked) ticks down to zero, which is when the box trucks filled with dead pigs and the brave idiots who commute into Lower Manhattan every morning by car are required by law to accelerate as fast as possible through this intersection and into the gridlocked intersection waiting for them on the next block.

Once you make it up the incline towards the bridge, the path narrows considerably due to the construction. You can't see who is biking off the bridge until you're within a few feet of the entrance.

This is also the exact moment that those Manhattan-bound cyclists, filled with joy from racing through the dark tunnel and the roller coaster serpentine of the final 20 yards or so of the Manhattan Bridge, tend to be going pretty fast. They cannot see their Brooklyn-bound compatriots, who are vulnerable and sluggish from the incline and the hour, until they are right at the mouth of the entrance.

This near-blind curve is followed by the aforementioned tunnel portion, then an actual blind curve.

Add the inevitable pedestrians who have no clue there is an entire other path devoted for their use (because no clear signage exists), the cyclists who simply must type text messages while rolling around these curves, and cyclists who insist on passing without a cursory "On your left" as they scrape the edge of your aura, precious centimeters from your fragile human body, and your day just began with a lot of muttering and cursing.

The cycling commuter's experience should improve at the mouth of the Manhattan Bridge once the Forsyth Street Plaza is completed—the $3.5 million project to bring 10,000 feet of public space to Canal and Forsyth Streets was supposed to be completed by winter of 2015.

A DDC spokesperson says the current projected completion date is "summer 2016," weather permitting, of course.

Asked when drivers will stop double-parking, running red lights, and blocking crosswalks before renouncing automobiles altogether, a spokesperson for Everything That Is Decent And Humane tells us, "don't hold your breath."

In the meantime: phones are for pedestrians, blind curves are for braking, and bells alert others to your presence.

Featured in News