Port Authority Commits to Agency-Wide Plan for Better Bike Access

BikeRacksPATH_1.jpgBike racks, like these at the Grove Street PATH Station, could be a more common sight at Port Authority facilities. Image: City of Jersey City

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a huge player in the region’s transportation system. It manages the PATH train, the world’s busiest bus terminal, all the major airports and seaports, and the bridges and tunnels between New York City and New Jersey. Now the Port Authority is adding one more mode to its portfolio: the bicycle.

In a statement earlier this week, Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward announced the agency’s intent to support cycling "wherever operationally and financially feasible." 

Ward’s March 29 bulletin, posted by the Century Road Club Association, signals the Port Authority’s new commitment to get behind the region’s upsurge in cycling. Wrote Ward:

Bicycling is a rapidly growing mode of transportation and the New York-New Jersey region is facing increased demand for expanded bicycle infrastructure, safer bicycle routes, access to transit connections and secure parking facilities. While we recognize that many Port Authority facilities currently provide some accommodations for bicycle users, we need to prepare more systematically for the growing use of bicycles as a mode of travel within the regional transportation system.

Ward then listed ways in which the Port Authority plans to promote cycling, from rewriting rules about bike access to the Port Authority’s bridges, trains, and terminals, to adding bike lanes and parking at new and existing facilities and developing multi-modal transit hubs. The Port Authority will also use its power as a major landlord in both states — most famously owning the World Trade Center site — to work with tenants on becoming more bike-friendly. A Port Authority bike master plan is due by the end of September.

For current and would-be cyclists in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority is a very important ally.

"I can’t recollect the Port Authority specifically mentioning bicycling in a comprehensive way before," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "It’s a significant step forward and shows that Chris Ward understands the importance of bicycling in our transportation network."

Slevin highlighted the Harrison PATH station as a place particularly due for a Port Authority bike infrastructure upgrade. "The bikes are just parked double-stacked on this decrepit fence," said Slevin. "You see the demand for bike parking around transit facilities."

Transportation Alternatives is hoping for an end to restrictions on night-time cycling over the George Washington Bridge. "Thanks to new, safer connections on the Jersey side (in which the Port Authority played a part), the George Washington Bridge is primed for a surge in commuters," said TA’s Wiley Norvell, "but its closure until 6 a.m. remains a big deterrent."

With the Port Authority officially committed to better bike access, improvements like that are looking much more winnable. 

  • Ending the George Washington Bridge night closure to bicyclists is something that can be done right now, today, this minute with a simple stroke of the pen.

  • John Kaehny

    This is great, credit Chris Ward. The Port can do a lot of good things for cycling. For example, over the last decade, the Port Authority offered crucial support during TA’s campaign to connect the Jersey side of the George Washington Bridge bike path to the Palisades/ River Road. As a result of the Port’s help, that connecting path is done, and there is a car-free route from Upper Manhattan to a gorgeous, low traffic ride along the Palisades. (At least when it’s not covered by downed trees and rock slides.

  • Larry Littlefield

    If they want to do something big, they could contribute to a Velib-type system centered on Penn Station/Herald Square — where their new tunnel is going and PATH terminates — and the Port Authority Bus terminal.

    That would allow Jersey commuters to hop on a bike to their final destination instead of taking the subway or bus or a long walk. Lexington Avenue and 53rd Street is a long walk, but a very short bike ride, from those terminals.

  • Maybe while the PA is creating a Velib system, they could also work with DOT to improve the Broadway bike lane running downtown through Herald Square, which is confusing and awkward (bicyclists get routed right in the middle of the pedestrian seating area). The 6th Avenue bike lane running uptown through Herald Square is much better.

  • Very good news!

    But, hopefully, they won’t actually continue to use that rack type…it’s almost as bad as the wheelbending “comb” rack.

  • Another item that could be done today, with the stroke of a pen, is rush hour bicycle access on the PATH trains as well. Upgraded bicycle parking outside train and bus stations is all well and good. Taking your bike with you is even better.

  • I once met a woman who got around the PATH bicycle ban by bringing her unicycle on the trains with her!

  • Mike

    This is a decent start, but PA should start work on:

    – Greatly improved Manhattan side GWB access (much wider ramps, no awkward switchbacks, perhaps a flyover to Riverside Drive and/or the Greenway)

    – Goethals and Outerbridge bike/ped access

    – Reduce PATH bike restrictions

    – Provide ROW through the edge of LGA for an extension of the Flushing Bay Promenade

  • Being somewhat of an expert on bicycle-transit integration I cannot agree with lifting the rush-hour ban on full-sized bicycles on PATH. I’ve taken my Brompton on PATH during the rush since folding bikes are allowed and still people were giving me dirty looks. Even with my Brompton folded it was virtually impossible to avoid bumping into people with it on a crowded rush-hour train.

    BTW my blog was on this a day earlier on March 29th:
    http://walkbikejersey.blogspot.com/2010/03/port-authroity-of-ny-nj-embraces.html

  • @Andy B from Jersey
    The Port Authority could simply use the “recommendations” for the PATH that we have in New York City for bringing bikes on the subway. Have cyclists wait at the end of the platform and limit bikes to the last car. Straphangers who board the last car can learn to share. People give dirty looks on the subway too, whether you have a bike or not. I’m sure the PATH doesn’t ban wheelchairs because people might give disabled passengers “dirty looks.”

  • My 2 cents on the Velib’ bike share:

    *Fills in the gaps in Paris’ already luxurious transit system, mostly from 1am-5am

    *popular with Parisians who already use transit or bikes

    *I lived in the 17th arrondissement at the top of a hill. People bike down in the morning and take transit back at night. The city trucks bikes in during the day to address this phenomenon.

    *popular with tourists.

    *Does little to address suburban commuters, because they don’t use them, only people in the core use them.

    *Lot’s of people love Velib’. It makes the easy easier.

  • BicyclesOnly

    I’d love to see airport terminal and 42nd St. Terminal bike parking, and Goethals/Outerbridge and GW Br. 24 hour access.

  • Stacy,

    PATH provides a somewhat different service vs. that of the NYC Subway. On the subway there are reasonable options available to cyclists to get to destinations well served by the subway including crossing rivers. PATH really connects cities divided by rivers.

    Newark over the Passaic to Harrison. Harrison over the Hackensack to Jersey City. Jersey City under the Hudson to NYC. One could easily argue that this makes 24hr bike access to PATH that much more necessary. However it is my opinion that opening the PATH during rush-hour would bring in many more bikes then the NYC subway currently gets due to the fact that there are few other options. I believe that so many bicyclists would opt to bring their bikes on the PATH during rush hour that would begin to be disruptive to service and limit the maximum amount of passengers that could board a train.

  • Oh Stacy, I would think that we can all agree that there is a difference between a PATH rider who MUST use a wheelchair vs one that OPTS to use a bike.

    If someone gave a wheelchair passenger dirty looks because they needed to make room for them, I’d be giving that “dirty looker” some dirty looks of my own if not more.

  • I think that this is a great start. Anything that they can do to get more people on bicycles.

  • this is great.

    it is such a new way of thinking for these people hopefully they’ll get moving asap.

  • Cheers to Airport Parking! When the Bikes in Garages law went into effect, this was the only case I could ever imagine being willing to pay for bike parking: The airport. Getting to LaGuardia sucks by public transport, especially from Brooklyn. But I’m not likely to leave my bike locked up outside and unattended for a weekend or whatever.

  • Paddymike

    How about this…
    No bikes on Path from 7am to 10am on INBOUND trains.
    No bikes on Path from 3pm to 6pm on OUTBOUND trains.

    If you ride the Path into Manhattan from 3pm to 6pm or
    out of Manhattan from 7am to 10am it’s
    not crowded at all yet bikes are not allowed. This makes
    no sense.

    Change this now. Very simple.

  • Steve Faust

    The next easiest PORT bridge improvement, after restoring the GWB to 24/7 access, would be reopening the Goethals Bridge pathway.

    The Goethals Bridge was built with two paths – both quite narrow – but they do get you across the water. There are emergency water mains on at least one of the paths, but one path should have enough clear space for two way bicycle and pedestrian travel. The path ends both NJ and SI sides at local streets that are quite suitable for bicycle travel. There are no weird expressway crossings. The Goethals path will not be elegant or even really comfortable, but it will get you across. On the other hand, one does not expect the pathway to be crowded, so the narrow path will meet the need.

    Why is the Goethals important? It would be the only direct connection between Staten Island and the US Mainland for travel south and west. The Bayonne Bridge connects to the Bayonne-Jersey City peninsula. To travel west, cyclists have to travel north and across Truck Route 9 into Newark before they can travel south and west – you may as well take PATH or a ferry to Jersey City. Right now, the best bicycle route south into NJ starts from the GWB, unless you take PATH all the way to Newark.

    Reopening the Goethals will enable a relatively easy and direct bicycle route from Manhattan to southern and western New Jersey via the Staten Island Ferry, then across the north edge of Staten Island to the Goethals. It could be a easy addition to the East Coast Greenway routing between New Jersey and New York City, one that can be open 24/7 via bridge and ferry, and not subject to a rush hour bike ban as the PATH is. It would also be completely free of tolls and fares.

    Over the past few years PORT has announced that the Goethals path will be reopened several times. Perhaps they have been holding the opening hostage for support for the Goethals twinning, but that should be a separate issue. Bicyclists need the access to the crossing now, and not in some distant future date after the twinned span is completed.

    As for the Outerbridge Crossing, despite being a very desirable bike route, this would be a much more difficult pathway to restore. The two pathways on the Outerbridge were removed to widen the approach lanes in parallel with the opening of the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in 1964. PORT saw little demand for the path in the late 1950s, because most cyclists were crossing on the Tottenville-Perth Amboy ferry, run by the B&O Railroad. That ferry was shut down when the VNB opened in 64, the same time as the Brooklyn/Bay Ridge to Staten Island ferry was shut. So now that there was no ferry and a demand for the bridge path, the path had disappeared.

    Since the Outerbridge roadway was widened over the space the paths had been (the Goethals paths still remain intact) restoring access will require hanging new paths outboard of the current roadway. This can be done, but it’s not a trivial civil engineering effort. Certainly more than can be done with stroke of a pen.

    As for the Goethals, unless there is some unusual change in the existing paths, at least one path can be reopened immediately – with the stroke of a pen.

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