The NYC Tube Can Be a Rails-to-Trails for NYC

Joel Epstein
4 min readOct 21, 2021

By: Joel Epstein

New York’s next mayor, Eric Adams, on two wheels. Fair use photo courtesy of We the Commuters, WNYC.

With biking in New York City pushing past everyone’s expectations, it is time the City had an inter-borough bike highway. That is where The NYC Tube comes in. The group, which was started by young New Yorkers who bike all over the City, is calling for the transformation of some of New York’s unused rail and related transportation infrastructure into safe, ideally bucolic, bike lanes. In Brooklyn, one of these unused rights of way runs east west between Avenue H and Avenue I in Midwood. Why does our unused track

An unused rail line running between Avenue H and Avenue I in Brooklyn.

right of way need to look like it does when it can look like these once unthinkable, protected bike lanes?

Protected bike lanes along Prospect Park West, Brooklyn.

If Chicago can create the Bloomingdale Trail at the 606, a former elevated railway, and Atlanta can transform part of the Beltline into bike lanes and pedestrian-friendly infrastructure, the next mayor and the City Council can do the same and more for our fair city.

Chicago’s 606 runs along a former elevated railroad.

The New Yorkers behind The NYC Tube are young people to watch. Like the activists at Sunrise Movement who made the green new deal front page news and forced a sclerotic Congress to get off its ass about climate change, The NYC Tube will create a better City. We have made a good start but now our civic leaders must be goosed to give the City the dedicated bike lanes commuters need to safely get around the boroughs.

As The NYC Tube advocates write in a recent op-ed in Streetsblog,

Our country’s standard of car-centric infrastructure has robbed cyclists of their rightful road space and created byways instead for fuel-guzzling motor vehicles. We know that saving our city and planet requires a rapid transition to cleaner methods of travel such as biking. The time to take bold action is now.

The NYC Tube is looking to repurpose some of the City’s abandoned train lines and spaces under the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway. This sort of adaptive reuse has been successfully implemented on countless occasions. Their vision is no pipe dream. Stitched together, these lines will create an inter-borough bicycling highway. It will be for New Yorkers what Rails to Trails has become for suburban and rural bikers and pedestrians. A citywide network of protected bike lanes, separated from pedestrian and car traffic will improve mobility for one and two wheeled commuters and leisure bikers and will also reduce carbon emissions and asthma.

To lend support to its vision of better bike infrastructure for the City, The NYC Tube is holding a rally this Saturday, October 23rd, at 11am at Brooklyn Borough Hall. The rally will show support and bring attention to Eric Adams’ commitment to build a bike superhighway when he becomes mayor.

Rally for a New York City bike highway this Saturday.

It is time that New York joined other world class cities like Paris which is creating a bike highway. Similarly, the City should make Summer Streets, a limp version of Bogotá and CDMX’s Ciclovía, a year-round, weekly affair. Ciclovía has empowered residents of cities across Latin America to get on, or back on, a bike and make it a part of their daily ritual for commuting and health. Here in the U.S., CicLAvia, an awesome version of Ciclovía created by bike advocates in Los Angeles, has done the same. The result in New York will be a healthier populace and a decline in cycling deaths and injuries as the City creates more grade separated paths to serve the ever growing number of cyclists.

Learn more about the campaign for The NYC Tube @Tubenyc on Instagram and @thetubenyc on Twitter. And rally in support of the plan this Saturday, Oct. 23, at 11 a.m. at Brooklyn Borough Hall. ¡Sí se puede!

Yours in transit,


Joel Epstein is a New Yorker and an advocate for public transit, livable cities and public space.

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