New York City’s slow transformation away from a vehicle-oriented metropolis will soon get a visible and significant boost: Mayor Bill de Blasio plans to close a lane on both the Brooklyn and Queensboro Bridges and reserve them for bicyclists.
Mr. de Blasio will announce the new cycling plan, known as “Bridges for the People,” at his final State of the City speech on Thursday.
Mr. de Blasio, a Democrat in his second term, has built more than 100 miles of protected bike lanes while in office, but street safety advocates have repeatedly pushed him to go further. The Brooklyn Bridge has long been known as a particularly dangerous route for cyclists.
The city will ban cars from the inner lane of the Manhattan-bound side of the Brooklyn Bridge to build the lane and make the existing promenade area at the center of the bridge for pedestrians only, barring cyclists.
His administration said that it was time to bring both bridges “into the 21st century and embrace the vision of a future without cars with a radical new plan.”
With a year left in office, Mr. de Blasio planned to focus his speech on inequality — the theme that carried him into office seven years ago — and he will highlight a new slogan, “A Recovery for All of Us.”
The pandemic, which has disproportionately affected people with lower incomes, has underscored the effects of inequality. More than 26,700 people have died in the city of Covid-19, and elected officials are still struggling to fight off a second wave of coronavirus cases.
The arrival of a vaccine has brought hope, but the rollout in the city and across the nation has been plodding and chaotic. The mayor’s speech is expected to focus on making sure all New Yorkers benefit from the city’s recovery.
The speech also gives Mr. de Blasio an opportunity to try to define his rocky tenure. The mayor’s greatest achievement came early in his first term when he introduced a popular universal prekindergarten program for 4-year-olds. But Mr. de Blasio’s approval rating dropped after investigations into his fund-raising and a failed presidential bid.
The annual speech is an opportunity for mayors to propose bold ideas like a sleek streetcar between Brooklyn and Queens, which Mr. de Blasio announced in 2016 with great fanfare but has not been built. Mr. de Blasio’s speech last year — shortly before the pandemic hit the city — focused on a call to “Save Our City” from anxieties over affordability.
The pandemic set off an extraordinary surge in biking as New Yorkers looked for alternatives to public transit. The city had nearly 1.6 million bike riders before the pandemic, and usage has exploded with trips at the city’s four East River bridges into Manhattan jumping by 55 percent in November compared with the same month in 2019.
City officials said they want to build a two-way protected bike lane on the Brooklyn Bridge, which opened in 1883 and runs between Lower Manhattan and Brooklyn, by the end of this year.
The Queensboro Bridge, also known as the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge, runs between Midtown Manhattan and Queens and opened in 1909. The plan calls for converting the northern outer roadway into a two-way bike lane and the southern outer roadway into a pedestrian lane; construction should begin this year but was not expected to be finished until 2022.