Citizens Propose Cycle Track Greenway Connector in Inwood


Broadway at Dyckman/200th Street and Riverside Drive: a confusing, foreboding free-for-all

Livable streets advocates in Northern Manhattan are proposing a cycle track, similar to the one on Ninth Avenue in Chelsea, to link the Hudson River and Harlem River Greenways at 200th/Dyckman Street in Inwood.

Dyckman currently has bike lanes at its east and west ends, but the stretch between Broadway and Nagle Avenue is four lanes of auto traffic with parallel parking on both sides. When an item showed up on Community Board 12’s Traffic and Transportation Committee agenda suggesting DOT might be poised to add bike lanes from Broadway to Nagle, Maggie Clarke got to work.

Clarke, who has a Ph.D. in environmental science, has been an active Inwood organizer since the 1970s. She was a key player in establishing the RING Garden, transforming the Lt. William Tighe Triangle at the intersection of Dyckman and Broadway into a community-supported treasure and making Inwood home to Manhattan’s second Greenstreets site. Clarke has not seen the city’s plans, if any, for Dyckman Street (neither has Streetsblog — we have a message in to DOT as of this writing), but says that, because of harrowing traffic, a simple restriping would be a "waste of paint, unless it was a prelude to something bigger."

One idea for "something bigger" was presented by Clarke and other Inwood residents at the CB 12 T&T committee meeting earlier this month. Modeled on the Ninth Avenue cycle track, Clarke and a small group of neighbors proposed a two-way separated bike lane on the north sides of Riverside Drive and Dyckman Street, buffered by a narrow green median, connecting the Henry Hudson and Harlem River Bike Paths.

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The Tread Bike Shop, across the street from Dyckman’s sidewalk cafés

Clarke, herself a cyclist who has for years led rides originating at the RING, sees such a facility as a natural fit for Dyckman and Riverside. In addition to the obvious benefit of connecting the east and west side Greenways in such a way, Upper Manhattan is already a destination — or at least a pit stop — for cyclists who come from as far away as central New Jersey, Clarke says. Inwood Hill and Ft. Tryon Parks flank Dyckman Street, and the RING is adjacent to the proposed cycle track route, on a more serene stretch of Dyckman to the west of Broadway, where cafés set up outdoor seating in the summer. Dyckman even has its own thriving bike shop. Then there’s the community benefit of turning a hazardous, unsightly strip of asphalt into a calmer, greener neighborhood asset.

At issue, however, is parking. Community board members are concerned about a loss of spaces, though DOT is now studying a proposal to add more (free) parking on Dyckman’s west end, where there are already bike lanes, near the Dyckman Marina. Clarke is hoping that this, as well as her group’s proposal to replace parallel parking with angled spots, would minimize or eliminate a net parking loss, and therefore might appease the board and others who would surely howl at the prospect. If not, her group’s "Plan B" is to three-lane Dyckman, trading one traffic lane for parking, which could of course rile opposition as well.

DOT Deputy Borough Commissioner Maurice Bruet, who attended the CB 12 Traffic and Transpo meeting, was reportedly impressed to see such a citizen-driven proposal — and the three-lane plan in particular, as it would allow for wider lane widths — but said that any work resulting in a net parking loss would require community board approval. Committee Chair Mark Levine described board members as "interested but cautious."

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Dyckman east of Nagle Ave has asphalt to spare

Clarke has also been in touch with the offices of Council Member Robert Jackson and Borough President Scott Stringer, both of which expressed interest. She was told by the T&T committee that the project would require "stakeholder" input and cost estimates from DOT to move forward, but she isn’t sure when, or if, she can expect to hear from the CB or DOT again. She says Bruet told her the neighborhood should come forth with more design suggestions.

"If DOT wanted a separated bikeway connector, they’d design it," says Clarke. "If there was a beautiful, green, state of the art bike facility up here, it would be a magnet for even more bikes."

Photos by Brad Aaron

  • Can I finally get some love for Vias Verdes, my test-of-concept with nycstreets.org? VV is a project to pedestrianize Ft. George Hill, which meets up with this proposed cycle-track at the strategic corner of Dyckman and Nagle.

  • Brad Aaron

    That’s you, Jonathan? We should talk.

  • momos

    This is an absolutely fantastic idea. That area is prime cycling. Ms Clarke is right on, this would make that area a real magnet. As it is, Fort Tryon park is full of leisure cyclists (and the spandex crowd) in the summer. I bike there all the time. If the whole system was integrated it would be phenomenal and increase bike circulation through that part of Manhattan, as well as link upper Manhattan to the superior bike facilities further south on the west side. This would make the system useful for commuters, as well as leisure cyclists.

  • Andrew

    Fantastic idea, traffic is a mess through there. I hope it includes the removal of the stairs at the end of the Hudson River Greenway.

  • Brook Whitman

    It’s an alright idea, but not the best from a bicylist’s point of view. The trail alongside the Hudson River ends just north of the GWB. You are expected to return to city streets in Washington Heights and Inwood. You can ride further on the rail-bed albeit illegally to hook up with Dyckman Street, but for the time being there is a disconnect between about 500 yards south of Dyckman Street and the north end of the West Side trail.

    A better idea would be a loop around the Northern tip of Manhattan, picking up where the Harlem River trail finishes off and continuing north with a pedestrian bridge over Broadway and continuing through South through Inwood Hill park. It would be terrific too if one could eliminate the previously mentioned disconnect by having some kind of bicycle path cut through Fort Tryon Park connecting a northern tip loop with the side streets of Washington Heights that lead to the end of the West Side trail. However I highly doubt that the Met’s people who run the cloisters want bicyclists pedaling along anywhere near their secluded location.

  • City Cyclist

    This is the WORST part of riding in almost all of Manhattan. I’ve circled the island many times, and I even took my parents (both in their 60s) on a ride around the island. But this was so bad everyone had to walk their bikes for the mile stretch from the Hudson to the Harlem River.

    About the only thing that could be worse would be a bike lane on 42nd Street near Times Square!

  • anonymous

    Brook Whitman: the bike path, as far as I know, continues along the parkway until Dyckman street. That path segment has been around since about 2003, and I’ve personally been there several times since then. It’s still not as good as it could be, and it does have stairs, but you don’t have to ride on city streets until Dyckman.

  • Mitch

    Tech note: the RING garden link is broken.

  • ln

    Yes for sure the west side and east side greenways go all the way to Dyckman, you need to get way uptown more often Brooke. You can also ride through Inwood Park, its a fantastic ride and view, and I have even heard of some intrepid riders taking the trestle bridge into the Bronx there (not legal or very safe).

    And theres plenty of people riding through fort Tryon park, with so far no MMA staff members blocking the trails. Though cyclists could theoretically get a ticket for riding on the walking trails.

    On the east side the disconnects are below 155th street to 125th street. Blocked off so that contractors can park their trucks there. And the long awaited opening of the higbridge into the Bronx.

    But the most aggregious disconnect is the unsafe conditions Dyckman between the two greenways on Dyckman, thanks for fighting for this Maggie and let us know how we can help make this happen!

  • Adam K

    1) Let’s get our nomenclature straight. As far as I know, a “cycle track” is a European-model, sidewalk-grade bike lane, not an “on-street” separated bike path. In other words, the distinction is that a cycle track is at sidewalk level (or somewhere between sidewalk and roadbed) and a physically separated lane is at roadbed level.
    2) The deputy Manhattan Boro Commish was happy b/c the community’s proposal would widen moving lanes? Since when does DOT have an official policy favoring wider lanes?
    3) Any proposal that would remove parking would have to be approved by the community board? May be politically that’s how they feel, but that’s certainly not a rule, and DOT has done projects that removed parking without CB approval in the past.

  • Lots to address here. Thanks for the support and questions. I’ll start with a few items. First, the NYC DOT fellow at the community board meeting told us even before I started to talk that DOT’s rules for lane width increase over time. They are now a minimum of 11 feet for a travel lane. I didn’t know that when we first decided on our plan. We’d measured the width of Dyckman and of Riverside with our feet (63 and 61′ respectively). I knew that to sell the idea, the least disruption to the status quo would be the best. I also knew that our biggest adversaries would be car parkers from the neighborhood IF (and only if) our plan reduced the number of parking spaces. Knowing that painted lanes don’t do that much good, and being the founder and president of a large garden in the neighborhood, I wanted to integrate more green into the bleakness of Dyckman St. So I quickly went to plan B during the meeting – reducing 4 lanes to 3, since it was clear that DOT would not go for narrower lanes (we had figured 9.5 to 10 feet in our plans). In reality, I rarely see more than 3 cars in the travel lanes at any particular point on Dyckman, and that’s a slower street anyway. Riverside might be more of a challenge since it is 2 feet narrower and is, in essence, the on and off ramp to the Henry Hudson parkway, so cars go faster.

    How can you all help? The Community Board said the most important thing they needed to hear was that all stakeholders are on-board with this. I believe that the money will flow if we get all the stakeholders. That would be letters from businesses and tenants associations in the immediate area stating how such a facility would either help or at least not change their business / quality of life.

    I’ve put in a link to the RING garden (www.ringgarden.org).

    If you want to join the Dyckman Greenway connector group, please go to the website and email me. Thanks!

  • Adam K

    Maggie – what the DOT guy said sounds suspicious to me. The AASHTO “green book” says down to 10′ is fine for urban environments, plus that is non-binding guidance and many major streets in NYC work just dandy with 9′ moving lanes. Fundamentally, though, as you said it’s a question of politics and building support both within the community and with DOT, so use your own judgment.

  • Maggie,

    We had a DOT guy in Brooklyn recently come to a Community Board meeting and he was talking about 10 foot wide travel lanes as a possibility for a busy avenue where some residents would like to see a cycle track built.

    If the lane width issue is important, you should view DOT traffic engineering standards and mandates with healthy skepticism. Find out what the source is for the standard (probably the Green Book, as Adam pointed out). Give a call to Transportation Alternatives or Project for Public Spaces and ask them what they know about the source and the standard.

  • Larry Littlefield

    (DOT’s rules for lane width increase over time. They are now a minimum of 11 feet for a travel lane.)

    The standard for highways is 12 feet. Wider lanes are required for trucks. Are the streets in question truck routes?

  • Adam K

    Most or all of the major Manhattan avenues are truck routes and many or most of them have 10′ lanes. And DOT is actively, currently implementing projects with 10′ lanes – obviously there is some kind of policy dissonance going on there. I would be interested to see a generalized study of comparable Manhattan avenues (controlling for traffic volumes & 1-way vs 2-way) with different lane widths comparing crash data. Could be tough to get reliable results though with all the variables. I really doubt that wider lanes will improve safety – they will only make drivers feel ever more comfortable going faster than they should be in a dense urban environment.

  • flp

    yaknow, i always wonder whether so many of the avenues actually need to be used as truck routes. crap, it sure is not a coincidence that the avenues that are NOT truck routes are the ones that tend to be the poshest: East End, Park, 5th, (CPW??), West End, and Riverside (officially for the latter, but i have seen trucks make late night passes through there..)!

    meanwhile, the nabes with the highest asthma rates are the ones with truck filled expressways and avenues!

    as for dyckman, i think it may be a truck route, but could be wrong about that. however, that is no excuse for having a proper cycle path, lane, track, whatever put in place.

  • Jonathan

    According to DOT, Dyckman St is not a truck route. Truck drivers-slash-Streetsbloggers, take 207th instead.

  • Thanks for the comments. Interesting dissonance at DOT. I would greatly appreciate peoples’ help on trying to get to the bottom of this. The fellow who came to the CB12 meeting is Maurice… I forgot the last name and (unfortunately) never got his card. He suggested that I send him a list of design requirements and he would tell me what the numbers are. I have not followed up, but would be grateful if people here could. I gave him two copies of our handout. Is there a way to get that on this blog as an attachment or something? We adapted the 9th ave drawing and listed bullet points for Dyckman Greenway. I suppose a plan C (if the truck deliverymen get upset with this) is to have 3 lanes and keep parallel parking on both sides (but the north parking / loading lane, which would have a space here and there strictly for loading/unloading, would be on the traffic side of the hedgerow divider. Traffic is slow on Dyckman St. When people turn onto Dyckman pretty much from anywhere, it is one lane at a time. When people drive onto Riverside from the HH highway, it is one lane. So keeping it one lane in many places should not impact traffic. The main places you get two lanes is when people are waiting at a light somewhere. The entire length of Riverside up here has a park on the south side. No turning is necessary until you get 5 blocks east to Broadway, so one lane on Riverside going eastbound ought to be enough. The main exception that I can think of is summertime weekend late afternoons when traffic volume is at its highest.

    But an important part of the traffic puzzle west of Broadway on Riverside up here is that the HH bridge has a toll to leave Manhattan. It has always been the case that many drivers choose to avoid the toll and clog our local streets to get to the Bronx. (Broadway north of Dyckman is a mess too, and I just heard that the East Coast Greenway is slated to come into the neighborhood from the north via the Broadway Bridge.) Back to the HH bridge, instead of a heavy toll inbound as with all the other bridges, TBTA chose to split the toll each way. I’d like to either get rid of the toll on that bridge altogether (and release local streets here and in the Bronx from the extra traffic) or at least get rid of the northbound toll. That would allow the eastbound Riverside drive to be one lane all the way to Broadway without disrupting traffic. It would also help reduce air pollution.

  • Jonathan

    Maggie, every TBTA crossing except the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge has two-way tolls.

  • Hilary

    Maggie, Congestion pricing should act as a deterrent to the toll-dodging behaviour you’re talking about, since it will credit all drivers who are CBD-bound (or coming from) for the HH Bridge tolls. I also believe that CP in general will reduce the overall traffic coming into the city from upstate, resulting in a net loss of traffic on the parkway in both the Bronx and upper Manhattan. We know that that will be very good for bicyclists on the greenway who ride cheek by jowl with the motorists.

  • This morning I realized that the plan C I mentioned would not work so well, at least in maintaining a separated bikepath. Having cars parallel park next to a hedgerow would require drivers either to walk to the end of the block between the parked cars and traffic or push through the hedgerow and cut across cyclists’ path. Neither would be good.

    In the quest not to reduce neighborhood parking (so that parkers would not rise up in protest of the greenway), we have located an easy way to add some parking to replace that which would be taken away on the north sides of Riverside and Dyckman. On the west end of Dyckman St between Henshaw and Staff there is a great deal of sidewalk for very little foot traffic. West of Staff the sidewalk narrows, and 90 degree angle parking exists on the north side, and at the last community board meeting (same one we made the Greenway proposal at) we recommended 45 degree angle parking only for small cars on the south side of Dyckman west of Staff. That will add several spaces for starters. On the north side between Henshaw and Staff, the curb could afford to sweep in a few feet to accommodate 45 or possibly 90 degree angle parking and sweep back out around the lampposts, sweeping back in. That would add back quite a few spots. The south side in that block has two small industrial facilities. Cars from those working at the business park illegally on the extremely wide sidewalk already. More spaces and angle parking could exist on the south side of that block as well.

    FYI, another blog exists on this topic and has some of our artwork:

    http://poopcity.typepad.com/inwoodite/2008/02/inwood-livable.html?cid=103048372#comments

    This is the local Inwood blog with more local points of view.

    I hope that people will be willing to write in support of the idea. More on that later.

  • Jonathan

    Maggie, I appreciate the emphasis on maintaining the number of parking spaces in your plan, but as a motorist myself I have to wonder if creating satellite parking up to a half-mile away is really an answer that is going to satisfy a lot of people. Have you done any research on who exactly is parking on Dyckman, where they come from, where they are shopping, and how long they are staying?

  • I have to admit that I am not a full-fledged landscape architect / transportation firm, and have not spent lots of time making drawings / researching and writing reports on this. I do know that those who live on Riverside (5 buildings) and those who live on or near Dyckman west of Broadway have quite a few cars. I also know, being the occasional renter of cars myself, that it is nearly impossible to find a space west of Broadway coming back late at night. As for the congested part of Dyckman, I do know there are 3 parking lots/garages in that stretch. I also strongly suspect, though I don’t have the data, that the vast majority of shopping that takes place on Dyckman street is done on foot. WHo knows, if there were a bikelane and bike parking stands, maybe more would be done by bike. Likewise, though I have not gone to the east end of Broadway to do measurements, I wouldn’t be surprised if angle parking could not also be accommodated out that way as well if the sidewalks are as wide as they are on Dyckman west.

  • No, I haven’t done research on this, as I’m not a full-time transportation, landscape architect firm, but living here I do know that at least the folks who park west of Broadway already have to use the whole area – Broadway to the river, Riverside, Dyckman points inbetween.

    As far as Dyckman is concerned, I would strongly wager that most people who shop on Dyckman and nearby are doing so on foot, not by car. Maybe if there was a lane and bike parking, there might be more bicycling trips to shop. There is one garage and 2 parking lots on Dyckman in this stretch.

  • I am assembling a list of and letters from stakeholders and supporters of this project. If you would like to help, I would appreciate it greatly. I can be contacted at the RING garden link (click on my name).

  • Hilary

    RBA is about to begin (or has already begun) a feasibility and planning study for completing the gap in the Hudson River Greenway between Dyckman and Yonkers. The hope of the earmark’s sponsors was that this would result in an all-river route, using the Amtrak Bridge. The Parks Dept. had recently completed its own study and secured funding for a route that would use the Henry Hudson Bridge. This Dyckman-across-Manhattan route would succeed in connecting the circumferential greenway and linking it to the Putnam Trail via the Broadway Bridge. Hopefully all of these routes can one day be implemented, but this one is by far the most bang for the buck in terms of connectivity, cost, potential users, and neighborhood transformation. Just my two cents.

  • Jackson

    Nice idea but won’t work between Nagle and Broadway where Dykman is thick with traffic of all kinds and beleaguered by rampant double parking. The 9th ave ‘cycletrack’ is cool because it is novel. It works because 9th Ave is one way and more importantly because that particular section is heavily underutilized by both peds and cars… there is a ton of excess capacity. The ‘cycletrack’ design, as implemented by DOT on 9th Avenue, is not easily exported to other streets in other parts of the City. The solution worth seriously considering is putting that section of Dykman on a ‘road diet’… a three lane section… one lane in each direction with dedicated left turns at the intersections. This will allow the striping of buffered on-street bike lanes each way.

  • I agree with much of what Jackson has said… yes Dyckman St traffic is a nightmare. That’s mainly because the 34th precinct does not enforce traffic laws up here. Not double-parking, not even running of red lights at Dyckman and Broadway (which happens every single light cycle). Venting aside, the idea of going to 3 traffic lanes was my plan B and I suggested it at the Community Board 12 transportation committee meeting Feb 4 when the idea that 11 feet travel lanes are now the minimum width. I like calling it a Road Diet. It would become so much more obvious if someone double-parked in the only traffic lane going in a particular direction, and I have a feeling that this would reduce all the double-parking. The hedgerow would prevent jay-walking. And in those parts of Dyckman where no south-turning is possible (Vermilyea and Post, as well as all the area on Riverside) perhaps additional narrow green dividers could be used to snake back and forth.

    But striping Dyckman Street would increase double-parking. Even if the stripes were only 4 feet wide, that’s been more than enough to encourage double-parking on 6th avenue downtown.

  • Brook Whitman

    I stand corrected; the bike path does continue to Dyckman Street after the ramp at about 184th street. The path is still is a pain once you reach Dyckman street because of the stairs you have to haul your bike up unless you’re a glutton for pain. (They are ridable.) By the way, who would expect to find a bike path that starts from an on-ramp to an expressway that is underneath an overpass? One would assume that the path is alongside the water like it is for most of the Hudson Greenway.

    I still maintain that they should work on a path the truly goes to the tip of northern Manhattan alongside the waterfront, including both the Harlem and Hudson Rivers and not truncate the path on Dyckman Street. This idea was floated in the Times when they were writing about the organized walk around the edge of Manhattan a few weeks ago and the difficult stretches of it.

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