Late last week, two Ridge reps publicly called on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) to expand its Bike & Ride program to include the S79 bus route.
The program – conceived as a one-year pilot program in September of last year – has already seen the placement of bike racks on the S53 and S93 buses, both of which travel across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge connecting Brooklyn riders with Staten Island, and vice versa.
The S79 also runs between the two boroughs, extending as far as the Staten Island Mall.
“As we near the end of the Bike & Ride pilot program for the S53 and S93 buses, I’m reminded of the old saying, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,’ and that’s the case we have here,” said Councilmember Vincent Gentile, who joined Assemblymember Nicole Malliotakis on Thursday, September 8 at the S79’s 86th Street stop to make his case. “The bottom line is there are no bike lanes on the Verrazano. These bike racks provide riders with a convenient method of transportation for their bikes so that they can enjoy trails on both sides of the bridge, such as in Freshkills Park in Staten Island and Shore Road Park in Bay Ridge.”
According to Malliotakis — who, along with Gentile penned a letter to Veronique Hakim, president of New York City Transit at the MTA, suggesting this program expansion –the first two pilot lines were chosen due to their proximity to present and future bike trails, as well as their “unique inter-borough routes.”
“A natural progression for Bike & Ride should include the S79, a line that also runs between the boroughs of Brooklyn and Staten Island, but extends down Richmond Avenue to more bicycle destinations like the New Springville Greenway, Freshkills Park, and the Staten Island Mall,” said Malliotakis, who also represents portions of Staten Island. “Furthermore, as a Select Bus Service route, the S79 carries even more appeal for those who wish to travel with their bikes between boroughs, as the Verrazano does not have a bike path.”
The electeds were joined on Thursday by Transportation Alternatives, an organization that promotes transportation options to substitute for personal automobiles, to stress that while these bike racks are important, there is something else that is still crucial.
“These bike racks on buses are necessary, but they are not a replacement for the bike path we need across the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge,” said Paul Steely White, executive director of Transportation Alternatives, “to make the Harbor Ring a reality and make bike commuting viable for residents of every borough in New York City.”
“I grew up in Bay Ridge, so I know a lot of people who rely on public transit to get to jobs and family on Staten Island, which has limited transit options,” added Joseph Loonam, an organizer with the Riders Alliance and a Bay Ridge resident. “Putting bike racks on the S79 would do a lot to increase people’s ability to get where they need to go—especially folks for whom public transit is the only option.”
In its trial period, the pilot program has offered the use of three types of front-mounted racks, each of which can fit up to two non-collapsible conventional bikes. Riders are responsible for loading and unloading their own bikes, and they are free to use and available on a first-come, first-served basis.
According to an MTA spokesperson, the agency is currently analyzing data from the pilot program.