New York CIty Council Member Ben Kallos

AM New York A spooky Gracie Mansion rally calls for safer bike lanes, bridges for people by Todd Maisel

A spooky Gracie Mansion rally calls for safer bike lanes, bridges for people

Dozens of cyclists on Halloween, dressed in their spooky best, haunted the exterior of Gracie Mansion on All Hallow’s Eve to send a message to the mayor to provide more cycling space, especially for crowded East River bridges.

Costumed cyclists from all five boroughs rode to the historic mayoral residence on East 86th Street to call for more pedaling space on New York City’s bridges — specifically the Brooklyn Bridge and Ed Koch-Queensboro Bridge, which they say are dangerously crowded for pedestrians and cyclists.

Organized by Transportation Alternatives’ #Bridges4People campaign, the cyclists gathered with three Councilmembers Ben Kallos (who came dressed as Captain America), Brad Lander (who dressed as The Magician) and Carlos Menchaca (who appeared as himself). All three have been staunch advocates of cyclists in the city and their efforts to make it safer to transverse the city’s bridges.

Bike travel over the East River bridges has grown dramatically — August 2020 ridership was up 23% compared to August 2019 — which has led to dangerous crowding on crossings like the Brooklyn and Queensboro bridges, where pedestrians and people on bikes are forced to share a narrow right of way.

In one case, leaders say a long blood trail was left on the bicycle path recently after a cyclist crashed and injured the rider.

“When I’m fighting Nazis, Hydra or the Proud Boys, I rely on a public transit infrastructure to get from borough to borough to fight evil,” Captain America Kallos chided. “In all seriousness, there are lot of tricks or treats happening and the treat we are asking for a connected transportation system infrastructure because bridges are for people. When we first got elected, there were no elected officials biking to City Hall, so we started that and its gotten bigger from Manhattan and Brooklyn and now we have Queens. When we welcomed Queens, we realized there was only one lane of traffic on the Queensborough Bridge that bikes and pedestrians must share and it is far too narrow.”

Kallos said he and other councilmembers have set aside millions of dollars to widen bike and pedestrian lanes on the bridge.

Lander said streets are dangerous for bikes and “we are learning all too often what it means to live in a spooky city.”

“The pandemic has amplified what it means to feel the fear, but it has also made a kind of magic transformation more possible and visible,” Lander said. “The magic act that is being performed, that the folks out here are performing, organizing together to transform out city, into a place where the streets are safe, where the bridge connect our boroughs for commuting and riding for a city that is experiencing a pandemic, understanding the need for human transportation – with bike superhighways, with bridges for people and streets safe for all. That is a magic act worthy of Halloween.”

Danny Harris, executive director of Transportation Alternatives said there has been an increase in “traffic violence” that has made people “outside of their homes not feel safe.”

“They don’t feel safe to cross the streets or to ride a bike – this will be the most dangerous, deadly year of the entire de Blasio administration as it relates to Vision Zero,” Harris said. “So we stand here, not only demanding safe streets for people, but demanding safe equitable, dignified and sustainable transportation alternatives for all New Yorkers. No matter where you live, you have a right to cross the street without fear of death or serious injury.”

Riders who gathered agreed.

“I think we have to learn from what is happening now to change our city in the long run – to adapt our city to people, not to cars,”  said Natalie Millstein, a leader of the South Brooklyn ride, wearing a Brooklyn Bridge around her neck.

“I’m here campaigning for bridges for people – to ask the mayor to reallocate two lanes of car traffic on every bridge for people – give it over to bicyclists and pedestrians,”  Tom Huzia a leader of the North Brooklyn ride dressed in top hat and tails. “The bridges are really packed and are to the point where they are dangerous to ride on and we need more space – there is as real inequitable spaces on bridges given mostly to people and cars. If we gave those lanes to people on foot and bike, there’d be more space.”

Kevin Costa of Greenpoint was the shark in the crowd, also on the hunt for more bike-riding space.

“I am here to support bridges for people, now more than ever given the pandemic, it is important to have public infrastructure including bike lanes, bike friendly cities and invest in transportation inclusion for the futrure,” Costa said.

Melissa Shuler, formerly Arizona, said “I have no idea what I’m doing here” as she laughed in her green outfit with red hair as the Queen of Hearts.

“I just moved her two months ago and I heard there was a costume ride,” Shuler chuckled, adding, “but anything for a good bicycle cause.”

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