"People’s Roadway” is the nickname that Transportation Alternatives uses for the Queensboro Bridge’s bike and pedestrian path. The Queensboro Bridge has had many lengthy rehabilitation projects beginning in the early 1980s, and the path was frequently closed.
The “People’s Roadway” nickname dates from 1978.
Wikipedia: Queensboro Bridge
The Queensboro Bridge, also known as the 59th Street Bridge, is a cantilever bridge over the East River in New York City that was completed in 1909. It connects the neighborhood of Long Island City in the borough of Queens with Manhattan, passing over Roosevelt Island. It carries New York State Route 25 and once carried NY 24 and NY 25A as well.
The Queensboro Bridge is the westernmost of the four East River spans that carry a route number: NY 25 terminates at the west (Manhattan) side of the bridge. It is commonly called the “59th Street Bridge” because its Manhattan end is located between 59th and 60th Streets.
The North Outer Roadway is open for the exclusive use of bicyclists and pedestrians 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The path connects Long Island City with Midtown Manhattan. T.A. worked for nearly twenty years to see this permanent route established. Nicknamed “The People’s Roadway,” the path’s temporary closures in the 1980s and 1990s became a potent symbol of government indifference to bicyclists and walkers. Today, the path is a heavily used bike commuter route, though the existing Manhattan approach forces cyclists exiting to the south to make a dangerous three-block detour in order to reach Second Avenue.
Queensboro Bridge by Numbers:
Distance: 7042 feet
Design: Two-level cantilever bridge built in 1909.
Engineer: Gustav Lindenthal
Architect: Henry Hornbostel
Manhattan entrance: 60th Street, between Second and First Avenues
Queens entrance: Queens Plaza and Crescent Street
Other info: The Queensboro bride bike and pedestrian path closes every year for the running of the New York City marathon.
10 June 1983, New York (NY) Times, “Bridge Is Soon to Lose a ‘People’s Roadway’” by Ari L. Goldman, pg. B1:
On a bright summer day in 1978, a group of cyclists, in defiance of New York’s traffic laws, rode their bicycles across an outer lane of the Queensboro Bridge and hung a banner that read, “People’s Roadway.”
About a year later, the Koch administration opened a lane on the bridge that was reminiscent of 1909 when the span was new and the pedestrian promenade was a major feature. Once again, there was a way to stroll or cycle between Queens and midtown Manhattan.
Next month, however, a new phase of rehabilitation will begin on the Queensboro, and the outer lane now used by bikes and joggers will revert to automobile use. This is the problem: two of the four upper lanes of the bridge are being rebuilt; traffic will be diverted below and the outer roadway is needed.
“It’s discriminatory,” said Janet Weinberg, the executive director of a cyclists group called Transportation Alternatives. “Somehow, if you are an automobile driver you have more rights.”
Transportation Alternatives: T. A. Magazine
March/April 1999, p.16
The “Peoples Roadway” Makes Full-Time Return to the Queensboro Bridge
The Department of Transportation has officially announced that beginning in September 1999 the North Outer Roadway of the Queensboro Bridge will be dedicated solely to bicyclists, pedestrians, skaters and other non-motorized travelers. The car-free path is a huge win for bridge users and Transportation Alternatives, and comes after decades of struggle and broken promises. For T.A., the realization of a dedicated bike/walkway closes our longest running advocacy campaign. Spanning an era over more than twenty years, hundreds, perhaps thousands of activists banded together for a single cause.
The most recent chapter in this epic opened in November 1996 when the city opened the bike/ped path to Manhattan bound traffic. Cyclists and peds using the bridge were forced to board a shuttle bus or van during the weekday evening rush, (2:30-7:30pm). Bike traffic on the bridge has plummeted 80% since the change. The DOT’s action was precipitated by a traffic routing fiasco at the Manhattan entrance to the bridge that outraged area residents and left politicians scrambling. Since then anything to do with bridge has remained politically red-hot.
The Queensboro Bridge is by far the busiest of the East River bridges, carrying more than 200,000 motor vehicles a day versus 150,000 on the Brooklyn and 100,000 on the Williamsburg. In comparison, about a thousand bicyclists and pedestrians use the Queensboro bike/ped path on an average spring day. The City has long pointed to this disparity as a reason for allowing cars on the bike path during rush hours. Yet, this is the same faulty logic invoked when new roads are built in order to ease traffic congestion. Ultimately, it is pretty simple-if the City seriously wants fewer people driving and more cycling it must encourage cycling and discourage driving.