Yesterday marked the beginning of cable repairs on the Manhattan Bridge, meaning that all the pedestrians are rerouted to what is normally the bike path on the north side, while the cyclists are now rerouted to the south side. So far, reviews of the route have been mixed. The Brooklyn side for cyclists is minimally affected, and the views on the south side are stunning. But as is usually the case, shit gets real in Manhattan, as thousands of cyclists who would normally glide out into the relatively quiet bosom of Chrystie Street are now vomited out into the cycling nightmare that is Bowery & Canal.
Two of us who bike the bridge regularly took a moment to have a calm, rational discussion on the changes. After all, they're in effect for six months! Garth here occasionally takes the bridge into Manhattan after work, while Chris uses it every day to get to the office in Brooklyn.
Chris: I dunno about you, but I treat a commute as a sacred thing, only to be tinkered with in extreme circumstances. I get pissed when an ice cream truck isn't on its usual corner.
Garth: Agreed, my commute is pretty locked in and that's the way I like it. Which may partially explain why I wasn't as upset with the new Manhattan Bridge route as others—I only take the bridge after work when I'm going into Manhattan. It isn't an every day thing for me.
Chris: I see. So you're one of those B&T types I keep hearing about. What's so great about this detour anyway?
Garth: Well if I used it every day, what would irk me the most is the fact that the pedestrians probably won't bother to learn the new system until the side-switch is almost over. Meanwhile, I loved the view from the south side. After biking on the north side of the Manhattan and Williamsburg bridges for so long it was almost distractingly gorgeous to get a clear view of the downtown skyline. What did you find so irksome about the new setup?
Chris: I dug the view too, but I'm all business when pedaling to work: head down, heart pumping, dodging those people who aren't used to pedaling up the bridge and so they're all wobbling into my lane. I have no ill to speak about the Brooklyn side. What the detour has added for me in Manhattan is .3 miles of nasty traffic. As Brooklyn Spoke illustrated, just being on Bowery for a few blocks during rush hour is really dangerous.
Garth: Yeah, I mean the changes to the Brooklyn side are a piece of cake. But Bowery is one of the first places I ever biked in the city. It's my go-to artery for lower Manhattan.
Chris: Really? I got doored on Bowery when I first moved here and I still have nightmares about it. I avoid that road whenever I can. Also, the Manhattan Bridge has that insanely grandiose "plaza" on the Manhattan side— couldn't all that wasted concrete be used to help riders from Chrystie get over to Bowery instead of looping around the bridge at Division? Why hasn't Sadik-Khan invented some sort of hover-bridge with all the bike lane money she steals from the graves of dead orphans?
Garth: I always thought that entrance added a nice bit of pomp to that intersection. But I do feel your pain about the Bowery in the mornings. Though—and again, I mostly use the bridge going into Manhattan not leaving it—I actually really enjoy the access to the Bowery the south side provides. Bowery is generally closer to wherever I'm going. The thing about this switch up for me is that I understand why they are doing it (it really is impossible for two bikes to get through those sheds safely) and I can't think of a better way for them to go about it, besides maybe doing it in the winter.
Chris: Lets just hope that the DOT finds a better way to protect the 3,000 bikes that spit out onto Bowery every day, and maybe the NYPD will stop parking their vans in the bike lane.
Garth: Don't hold your breath.