Coming Soon: More Continuity, Better Visibility on Hudson River Greenway

A meeting of Manhattan Community Board 7’s Parks and Environment committee Monday night touched on several items of interest to the thousands of cyclists who use the Hudson River bike path, including the last remaining gap below the George Washington Bridge and the dangerous lack of lighting on some stretches of the greenway.

Hudson_bike_path.jpgPhoto: Ken Coughlin

The long-awaited extension of the bike path along the river between 83rd Street and 92nd Street is slated for opening "around Memorial Day," according to Riverside Park Administrator John Herrold. The path will be 14 feet wide and will be striped for bike lanes and walking lanes in both directions (four lanes in all). This is the final section of the path to be completed between Battery Park and the George Washington Bridge and will mean that cyclists no longer have to make a 10-block detour into Riverside Park before rejoining the path.

As many commuting cyclists know all too well, lighting is nonexistent on the path between 63rd Street and 72nd Street and on the Cherry Walk some 35 blocks to the north. Herrold is aware of the problem in both areas. Between 63rd and 72nd, he’s working with the DOT to install lighting similar to what’s currently on the path between 59th and 63rd. He expects this new lighting to illuminate the way by the time the days grow shorter in the fall. Cherry Walk is more of a challenge, because the installation of electric lights there would be quite costly due to the lack of electrical hookups. Herrold is investigating solar-powered lighting, and in the meantime he’s considering putting reflectors on some of the trees.

Meanwhile, the potential for greater conflict between cyclists and pedestrians may be developing on the path near the Pier I Café at 70th Street. The café uses a service facility on the east side of the bike path to store food and supplies, and a permanent restroom facility is being constructed on that side of the path as well. In addition, a Bike & Roll bicycle rental station will soon be opening a few steps to the north. All of which means that foot traffic crossing the path will likely increase at what is already a sometimes crowded bike-ped intersection. Herrold is aware of the potential hazards when fast-moving cyclists mix with pedestrians who walk into the path without looking, and he’s considering speed humps to slow the faster cyclists down, as well as additional signage for crossing pedestrians.

  • Brian

    Great news about the new section of the greenway, and hope for better lighting on other sections!

  • Ed Ravin

    It’s great to have the restroom and the bar/restaurant concession at the W. 70th St pier, but without good planning that “intersection” will get even more chaotic.

    For example, the last time I was there a few months ago, the concessionaire had eaten up a couple of feet of Greenway path with some railings, looked like they wanted to give their employees a safe path around the back of the restaurant. Does their lease with Parks include grabbing territory from the Greenway?

    Another problem is the bike racks – if I recall correctly, there were a few bike racks too close to the path, which also impeded traffic slightly. Those should be easy to move once someone has the time to look at it.

  • Ken Coughlin

    Ed, the Riverside Park administrator did mention at the meeting that the temporary railings intruding into the path would be removed. I don’t recall the exact timetable but it sounded like very soon. I wasn’t aware of the bike rack problem.

  • What’s wrong with bike racks being very close to the path, and the reduced design speed of the path which results? Since when are we against traffic calming measures in order to prioritize the pedestrian experience in a park above the experience for vehicular users?

  • There is already a chicane at this spot composed of french barricades. The bike racks are not intended to calm traffic, they just make it harder for the already slowed traffic to move. To the extent the racks encourage people to position themselves in the way of traffic while locking/ unlocking their bikes, that’s not good for anyone.

  • J

    Which officials oppose lights on Cherry Walk? I’d heard previously that there was no electrical hookups there, making the installation of lights very costly. I can understand that. However, they should be more clear about their reasons, so we are able to advocate for more realistic alternatives.

    I’ve been saying this for a while now, but simply replacing the bulbs on the highway lights would go along way towards making that stretch of Cherry Walk less terrifying at night, until true greenway lights can be installed.

  • You might want to forward on the following for solar lighting.

    http://www.carmanah.com/

    I have seem some of this stuff used, and for the small solar panel, it puts out quite some light. It was down by the sea as well, so salt doesn’t seem to be an issue.

  • Ed Ravin

    Jeff, take a look at the intersection in question, on a crowded day. My memory is that people were standing all over the place, partly due to the presence of the restaurant, partly waiting to cross the path to get to the bathroom or to the exit up to the Trump development. If the bike rack was moved off to the side there would be much more room for peds to circulate.

    My impression is that the concession was built without much thought as to what the area would look like with all the bikes, peds, and concession employees circulating back and forth. Isn’t there a water fountain or the like next to the bike racks, also right up against the path?

  • Gwin

    As a cyclist, I agree that the UWS section of the greenway needs “calming.” The restaurant area marks the beginning (northward) of a shared path — yet there are still many spandex-clad tools speeding through there like it’s the Tour de France. No wonder pedestrians get angry!

    That being said, further down the island(meaning in the Intrepid area on south) there are tons of pedestrians cluelessly walking in the bike lane when they do have their own dedicated walkway just a few feet away…. also very annoying!

  • Ken Coughlin

    J, I think you’re right that the issue with Cherry Walk electric lighting is the installation cost of electrical hookups.

  • JK

    The agencies responsible for the Greenway appear obtuse to how it is actually used. The Hudson River Greenway suffers from a complete lack of coordination between adjacent land-uses and greenway users. It’s as if there is no one at HRPC, Parks and SDOT who are paying attention to the massive conflict between greenway users and wondering tourists, cabs, cruise ship passengers, sailors, convention visitors and any number of other people on foot who seem unfamiliar with the idea of a high volume multi-use path. There is an absence of simple things that could make a difference, for instance signs on the chain link fence at the passenger ship terminal warning pedestrians to look both ways for bikes etc.

  • Finally having the Riverwalk section open, with one less hill between downtown and the GWB will be WONDERFUL.. though it could make the Greenway even more popular than it already is.

  • spike

    The simple problem is the greenway is way too popular for both pedestrians and bikers. They need separate a bikeway and pedestrian paths extending the whole length of the greenway.

    I wonder if anyone has thought about at putting a separate bikeway in the section near 72nd St. It looks to me like it might be possible to put a bikeway at the base of hill inland of the small ball park that is there for kids in the most congested part of that area.

    The large section south of 72nd is hemmed into a narrow lane by a chain link fence. That fence appears to have little purpose (presumably it has something to do with the construction of the Trump line of crap towers).

    The other really bad area is near the cruise ship terminal. There again it looks like there is room to put in a separate pedestrian walkway. The cruise ship terminal should be providing a wider walkway for the users of the facility- right now they have a very wide roadway that seems too wide for its purpose.

  • The simple problem is the greenway is way too popular for both pedestrians and bikers. They need separate a bikeway and pedestrian paths extending the whole length of the greenway.

    Or just to add another bikeway to relieve some of the pressure on the current greenway. Most of the commuters go west from home to the greenway, and then back east to work. When the Eighth and Ninth Avenue cycle tracks are extended to the Upper West Side, a lot of the commuters will use those instead.

  • Gwin

    Spike: your idea is interesting, but frankly I don’t believe anything is going to stop pedestrians from walking in any dedicated bike lanes that would theoretically be added to the greenway in the UWS sections. One only has to look at the West Village sections for proof of that.

  • flp

    there already are separate walkways along many, many parts of the greenway, yet all too many peds walk on the bikeway. ok, sure, there a places where construction forces them to do this. nevertheless, what really peeves me is that no authority forces them to move, BUT when a cyclist rides on the pedestrian path, all hell breaks loose and full squadrons of parks department enforcers or even nypd cruisers swoop down and treat you as if you were about to commit a major terrorist act against the entire nation.

    why is there so much talk about reigning in the cyclists and too little attention to taming pedestrian traffic? i don’t deny that there are many cyclists who need to be put on a shorter leash, but, sheesh, just look at how many pedestrians scoot, drift, barge their way willy nilly without the slightest glance left or right as if they owned the earth. please, peds, how many pedestrian dedicated areas do you have in city? tons! how many do cyclists have? far, far less. could you please give cyclists a chance to enjoy one of the very few cycling dedicated passageways by at least looking and considering whether a cyclist has time to slow down before you cross? give respect, and you will get respect! it works both ways you know – for pedestrians and cyclists (and drivers as well of course)!

  • Steven Faust, AICP

    We keep seeing the comment that bicyclist just have to slow down.
    Ok, but the question is, just how slow is slow?

    For example, when I’m tired, I get passed by runners going uphill on the Brooklyn Bridge, but we are both going at least 6 MPH. 6 MPH is twice as fast as walking speed. The lead runners in the NYC Marathon average 12.5 MPH, and that’s about what I ride as a cruising commuter. We are moving four times walking speed.

    If I’m on my way from Brooklyn to a meeting at the AYH Hostel on 103rd St, with a tail wind, I might be cruising at 15 MPH. All this is without the help of lycra or an unobtainium light bike frame. (This commuter ride takes a few minutes longer than a good subway connection.)

    These 12 to 15 MPH speeds are typical of most of the riders on the Greenway, and these speeds are far lower than the Tour de France 25 to 30 MPH basic cruising speed. Objectively, real bicycle racers moving at racing speed on this flat path would be moving more than TWICE as fast as the typical Hudson Greenway cyclists. Just how fast is fast?

    All of these speeds are at least 12 MPH SLOWER than the NYC street speed limit of 30 MPH. Cyclists are being told they are too fast on bike paths, and too slow on the roadways. Goldilocks, how hard are those chairs – are any just right?

    So most of the time I’m riding slower than a fast runner! Is this 12 MPH too fast? If so, why? Is it annoying to pedestrians to see someone using less effort, going faster than they are? Is it unsafe? But if it’s unsafe, how is it unsafe: is it because of poor design; or is it bad behavior by cyclists; or bad behavior by pedestrians. Does this stem from bad engineering, bad enforcement or bad education?

    Actually, it’s all of the above, but it starts with poor design that fails to give the path and park users the right signals and messages.

    First, it has to be clear that there is, in fact, a pathway corridor, and not just a waterfront plaza. At 70th St and again up at the boat basin, the visual message becomes that of a plaza for milling around, so even pedestrians walking through as well as cyclists don’t have a clear path.

    Second, all the path users need clear messages with where the through right of way is: for both foot traffic and wheeled traffic. Just making things narrower is not the solution here or on any bike path.

    Cyclists are more like a moving gas than a car-like solid. When gasses are compressed, they flow faster, not slower, to make up for the compression. Cyclists, when compressed, just ride closer together, for if they slow too much, they all can’t fit into the same space. So rather than slowing, all we wind up with in tight areas, are cyclists riding closer to each other, with less ability to see ahead, less ability to stop or turn, and less room for people to cross the line of moving cyclists. If you want cyclists to slow down you want to give more room – width, for slowing, the way a river delta has slow water, versus a narrow gorge that forms rapids.

    Further south, in Hudson River Park, there still is a partial excuse for bicycle – pedestrian conflicts, in that the some sections of the pedestrian path along the waterfront are not complete. But there is still no – zero – enforcement to keep foot users off the bike path where there is a full waterfront pedestrian walkway. As noted by others, there is zero tolerance of cycling, even super slowly, along the waterfront, so “shared use paths” really mean this is a sidewalk with “cyclists tolerated”, while park walkways mean “no cyclists at all, at any speed.”

    Wasn’t this Ralph Nader’s book, Unsafe At Any Speed? He was writing about a car, not a bike.

    By the way, for about 30 years, I kept telling the NYS DOT to keep a 5 foot bike lane on the Route 9A roadway, to accommodate faster cyclists. DOT kept saying the separate bike path was going to be good enough for all bicycle users. Were any “pedestrian first” advocates listening to that? Did they understand that means that the NYS DOT expects that the bike path they designed and built is supposed to fully accommodate 25 MPH cyclists? Those cyclists are still well below the roadway speed limit – which is 40 MPH on Route 9A. They built it, and they came.

    Back to the Goldilocks question, are bikes too slow or too fast? What is the right speed, and how do we design the greenway paths to signal that speed to all the path users?

  • JamesR

    I think most of the faster cyclists end up on Riverside Drive, which actually serves a pretty useful purpose as an alternate north-side bike corridor. Route 9A, though technically parkway, is a de facto freeway given the vehicle volumes and the amount of speeding that takes place on it. I can’t think of a nastier right of way for a bike lane.

  • Gwin

    I can only imagine that part of the reason there are so many (faster) cyclists on Riverside is precisely because pedestrians have taken over the bike-dedicated lanes on the greenway. However, it kinda defeats the purpose many have when riding on the west side (i.e. having a nice, relaxing bike ride without having to worry about red lights, cars or errant pedestrians).

  • Riverside Drive is connected to the street grid and the Greenway is not. North of 59th, the Greenway is only accessible from the following streets: 59th, 72nd, 79th, 83rd, 91st, 102nd, 125th, 131st, 155th, 158th, 181st, and Dyckman.

    In my mind It’s worth pursuing better bicycle accommodations on RSD because it’s part of the street grid. The Greenway is always going to go through a park, and therefore it will always be subject to competing park users, like picknickers and pedestrians. The part between 59th and 71st St, under the highway, is unpleasant enough that I’d rather not spend my tax dollars on making similar routes further north and south. As long as I keep my eyes on where I’m going and my hands on the brake levers, the greenway is all right.

  • Michael Steiner

    @Jonathan,

    I don’t think RSD needs bicycle accommodation. Many of the road-bikers riding there wouldn’t care about bike-lanes on RSD (although wouldn’t object against filling the horrible potholes .. ;-). RSD is not really a destination by itself and out-of-the-way for many shorter trips (and for longer, you can already take the greenway). Besides, short of removing essentially all parking which seems a political no-no you won’t get a bidirectional bike lane there.

    IMHO, the bike lanes should be on Broadway (Amsterdam & Columbus as second best alternatives) as it has plenty of destinations, is more central and the traffic calming due to the implied road diet wouldn’t hurt either ….

  • Michael, I’m a bicycle advocate, not a traffic engineer, and I think that every street needs to accommodate bicycles, especially a nice tree-lined street like Riverside Drive, which has very few four-way intersections.

    Since we agree that “RSD is not really a destination by itself and is out of the way for many shorter trips,” I hope you will join with me to advocate for bike-boulevard treatment. After all, for longer trips, automobilists can always take the Henry Hudson Parkway.

  • Michael Steiner

    Jonathan, i’m not necessarily against RSD having bicycle facilities. However, realizing that not (nearly) every street will realistically get bicycle treatment, i think RSD should not be the priority but rather Broadway and/or Columbus/Amsterdam.

    I think you misunderstood my shorter trip statement. I have no objections whatsoever to force cars to take detours: anything which discourages driving in the city is good 🙂 However, for bicycles (as well as pedestrians) the infrastructure should support reasonably direct routes from/to common destinations. If you look in many places in Europe, bicycle infrastructure is often on main streets, to my understanding exactly for that reason (similar reasons which also make salmons legal on (one lane) one-way streets in Switzerland and Germany and probably other places as well). It’s also why we need a bike line on PPW and the park route is not sufficient ..

  • Kate

    This is from last year?

  • Ian Turner

    Is there any progress on this? The cherry walk is still a disaster at night.

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