Eyes on the Street: Cyclists Told to Walk Riverside-Hudson Greenway Link

greenwaydismountsign.jpgNew, and contradictory, signage in Riverside Park.

We got a couple of e-mails this week about a new directive from the Parks Department ordering cyclists to dismount on the Riverside Park path that connects the Hudson River Greenway and Riverside Drive at W. 72nd Street. On his Flickr page, BicyclesOnly says he learned of the restriction from parks enforcement:

[An] officer rode his SUV up the path behind me and issued a "warning bleep" and ordered me to dismount. I pointed out to him that the dismount instruction was first announced ahead of me and it was the first time I had ever seen the sign (which was true), so why did I have dismount? He told me that they would be getting more signs so that the entire pathway would be a dismount zone, and directed me to dismount.

Following his instructions, I dismounted, took out my camera, and a took this picture. He then asked why I was taking a picture. I told him there was no reason for me to tell him. He then told me it was a violation of park rules to take a picture of any official Parks Department signage. I told him I didn’t believe there was any such rule and that I’d like him to go ahead and issue me a summons for taking a picture in the park. He got upset and scolded me for being sarcastic (I wasn’t being sarcastic), but he didn’t write me the summons.

He then proceeded to follow directly behind me in his SUV as I walked my bike up [the] hill. Then he took up a position in the 9A underpass and began scolding other cyclists.

Another tipster told us that a parks officer said cyclists would be issued summonses for ignoring the new rule, which, he points out, exponentially increases the commute time from Riverside Drive to the greenway. "The rule change and signage are symbolic of Parks’ vague approach to dealing with the growing volume of cyclists on the greenway," he said, adding that the dismount order has not been accompanied by suggestions for alternate connections.

We have a message in with the Parks Department for details on the new dismount rule, including what’s behind it.

  • Oh geez, and I have to take this connector later today. Perhaps I’ll look for a different route.

  • Oh, and isn’t it typical of this auto-centric, “bicycles are not transportation” mindset that a critical bicycle commuting link is thoughtlessly severed? And enforced *in the park* by an official driving an SUV? And then engages in harassing behavior and makes up rules on the spot when a bicyclist attempts to document the situation?

  • This is puzzling. As many of you know, I’m dead set against bikes on sidewalks, but I kind of expect them in parks — and I’ve never been menaced by a bike on one of the smaller, more narrow paths. At the very least, the Parks Dept. should get its story straight and explain what the reason is for this policy.

  • Boris

    This isn’t just any path or sidewalk, but one marked with the Greenway sign. If biking is no longer allowed on it, they should take down the top sign and remove that section from the Greenway map. As seen in the photo, the signs contradict each other, in my mind.

  • sam

    I use this connector all the time and I *will* say that it can get a bit crowded as a relatively narrow shared bike/ped roadway, particularly with many people walking their dogs to the dog run (with the leashes that can clothesline you).

    I’ve always “solved” the problem by riding relatively slowly (Then again, I’m generally a relatively slow cautious rider anyway) and watching out for people, saying excuse me, etc., but I’ve definitely seen at least some other riders barrel through – not most, but some.

    It’s a shame though that, instead of targeting reckless riders, they’re making it difficult for everyone.

    At least now I have an excuse for getting off my bike and walking it up that ridiculous hill, rather than feeling compelled to granny-gear it!

  • Jeffrey W. Baker

    Tellingly, there is nobody else anywhere in the photographs, except for the dunderhead in the park department kampfwagen. Is there really enough conflict here to warrant the regulation?

  • A sign and a surly cop, it must be a change in cycling traffic patterns. … But heaven forbid, change street traffic patterns and it’s months of community review, arguments, politics, and biased media perspective. Ever think we’ll see a sign go up without notice that says “get out and push your car”?

  • SGreenberg

    This is a great quote: “it was a violation of park rules to take a picture of any official Parks Department signage.” I suppose it’s also a violation to take pictures of cops, or oil companies, or anyone else behaving badly. If there’s no picture of it, it didn’t really happen.

  • Geck

    How about signs that say “Slow” or “Yield to Pedestrians”? Requiring bicyclist to dismount should be retired to the transportation planning scrap heap.

  • Sean – I have often been tempted to doctor, en masse, all of the signs around the city which say something to the effect of “cyclists dismount.” A few off the top of my mind include the Pulaski Bridge, that bridge that goes out to the Rockaways, and the Queens side of the Queensboro bridge. (Of course I have always rationalized them as belonging to an earlier era of transportation policy).

    “Attention Motorists: Dismount and walk automobile accross bridge.”

  • ddartley

    “He then told me it was a violation of park rules to take a picture of any official Parks Department signage.”

    Really, officers ought to get in trouble for saying such things they know to be untrue. I mean, that’s astounding nerve, to say such a ridiculous thing.

  • Glenn

    There are big red signs at 116th entrance to Riverside that say “Cyclists must Yield to Pedestrians at all times”. I think I’ve seen them in the area of the park north of 96th street. This is the rational approach to a shared space between cyclists and pedestrians. Both this and the new dismount policy exist in the same community board and park…what gives? Has CB7 even weighed in on this issue?

    Park Dept just seems to be making this up as it goes. Every park is different, has different signs and rules about where you have to dismount or have exclusive rights to a space, etc. They really need to make a standardize this, but first they need to realize that people think of parks as a shared space for all sorts of different uses. What about in-line skaters? Scooters? even Joggers can be unsettling if you are just walking along.

  • Doug

    It’s also astounding to me that time and money is being wasted enforcing something so trivial. The cop would be better used on 72nd St itself, where I’m sure he could find dozens of cars breaking some traffic law every hour.

  • Last I checked, the 88th Street pathway to the Greenway (just south of Soldiers & Sailors) also had no signage.

  • JamesR

    Yet another reason to take Riverside Drive.

    FWIW, the Broadway Bridge also instructs cyclists to dismount and walk, even though there is a rideable shoulder on the southbound side.

  • Is Parks another agency with an identity problem?

    While watching the air races from Battery Park this weekend (another park whose paths are specifically marked as bikeway routes), the German/Austrian staff members traveling with the Red Bull Air Race staff expressed horror at the speeding they observed by Parks Dept. trucks, Parks police and NYPD cruisers. These very large vehicles – service trucks and SUVs – repeatedly speed past groups of children and families. Maybe they’re very good at not killing people, but sometime the luck runs out.

    Need we remind Parks that their inappropriate driving nearly killed a wheelchair user in the West Village just this past November? http://www.streetsblog.org/2009/11/05/parks-dept-truck-seriously-injures-wheelchair-user-in-8th-ave-bike-lane/

  • Jay

    This is apparently why there are never any PEP officers available to write summonses for not picking up dog poop?!

  • Glenn

    One step forward: Riverwalk completed! Yeah!

    One step back: Can’t get to Greenway because of stupid Dismount policy

    Same old, same old…

  • MtotheI

    Please flood 311 and the Contact the Commissioner form on the Parks Department website with your concerns and complaints. Heres a link to the form.

    http://nyc.gov/html/mail/html/maildpr.html

  • Glenn

    I assume that this is a good group to address your concerns to:

    Riverside Park Fund
    475 Riverside Drive/Suite 455 New York, NY 10115
    P: 212-870-3070 F: 212-870-3079 E: mail@riversideparkfund.org

  • I nominate Sean’s comment (#7) for the “Word on the street” quote.

  • So while we’re tossing out Greenway signs and Greenway Maps, we may as well trash the 2010 New York City Cycling Map, which I just picked up this Sunday. According to this detail the 72nd Street Path, as well as the ramp that runs down from Riverside Blvd near Pier I where PEP officers have recently curtailed cycling, aren’t just access paths, they’re an integral of the Greenway itself.

    Wasn’t there a vaguely similar situation a year or two ago where PEP officers tried to close down the Greenway in Van Cortlandt Park but were eventually told the Greenway doesn’t close?

  • Ray

    I am a huge supporter of biking as a mode of transport and the increase in bicycle infrastructure in this city. I also am in this area several times a week. I see very little acknowledgement here(save sams comment) that there are many spaces that are made quite dangerous for pedestrians when cyclists travel at high rates of speed.

    In this particular area the paths are not that wide and there are two major points of conflict – people with dogs headed to the dog run (who admittedly let their dogs wander on leases that are two long – I wish those retractable ones had never been invented), and the blind corner on the river side of the tunnel under the West Side Highway.

    When these signs went up, my first thought was that it was an awefully long way to make someone walk. While many cyclists understand the shared nature of the space, many do not and are often riding too fast for this type of space. I experience similar issues on the Hudson River Promenade and attempting to cross the Central Park Loop. I really don’t know how you solve the speed conflict between peds and bikers, other than separate right of ways. Any ideas?

    Perhaps in this area speed bumps might help? I don’t think that signage is an effective deterrent here.

    Lastly, obvious the PEP officer should not have tried to make up rules on the spot. Unfortunately, I often find them less than useful in any capacity.

  • This is another sad “divide-and-conquer” situation where those on bikes are pitted against those on legs for a puny amount of space, while the spatial dominance of those in petroleum-fed wheeled boxes remains unquestioned.

  • I suppose it’s reassuring that so many of you are surprised at the PEP officer’s conduct. Law enforcement people love scolding, harassing, ticketing and arresting people for violating photography bans – whether such bans in fact exist or not. There are tons of officers who are convinced that taking photos in public is illegal, despite never being told any such thing.

    And yes, the irony of a cop driving an SUV into a park to scold a cyclist for riding on a path is striking. There is just plain no reason for PEP officers to drive into parks. Is there anything they need to do that can’t be done with a bike or a wheelbarrow?

  • Ray,

    Good points. I think the problem at the blind turn after the underpass could be easily resolved with signage. The conflict with the folks using the dog run is more difficult (I also think it was probably complaints by those folks that led to this new restrictiion, since it hasn’t been implemented elsewhere in the Park). I find dog owners to be the most sensitive to cyclists’ presence on park pathways.

    Given that this pathway is not that wide, I might accept a dismount policy for the segement from Eleanor Roosevelt to the entrance to the 9A underpass, with signage to warn cyclists about the blind turn. But I see no reason to force cyclists to walk their bike up that hill past the underpass. And the process used here–imposing the rule and implementing with heavy handed PEP enforcement, apparently without speaking to any of the cycling organizations–stinks.

    As for the loop in Central Park, I agree there’s a serious problem. What’s needed is a reasonable, clear policy that is enforced. Here’s one way we could do it:

    1) Change traffic lights on loop so that during car-free hours, they are green unless activated to go to red by a pedestrian waiting to cross. Include a yellow phase of sufficient duration so that cyclists have notice that a red is coming and aren’t forced to stop short. With this approach, cyclists who ride late at night and early in the morning would rarely if ever encounter a red. Most other times, pedestrians would simply wait for a gap in the cycle traffic and cross. But for pedestrians with kids, who have mobility issues, etc., they could get a green whenever they want.

    2) Change the speed limit for bicycles in the park from current 15 to 25 MPH.

    3) Enforce the red lights against the cyclists with summonses.

    4) Enforce the lane assignments during car free hours to keep runners, pedestrians and dog-walkers out of the bike lane, with summonses.

  • BicyclesOnly

    In comment above, on point (4), I meant to say “except during car-free hours,” not “during car-free hours.”

  • meb

    This reminds me of the Queensboro Bridge “walk your bike” enforcement a while back (it’s been 6 months since I’ve used that bridge regularly, so I don’t know what’s been happening recently). That made for some lousy commutes. It created conflict instead of alleviating it.

  • What is it exactly that PEP officers are supposed to do? Their duties seem to be limited to ticketing dog walkers for unleashed dogs or not picking up after their dogs, scolding cyclists, herding geese back into the boat basin, and calling for assistance for the occasional accident or floater.

    These paths are used during all hours of the day, months of the year, regardless of the weather. They may be empty on a Tuesday night and overcrowded on a Sunday afternoon. If PEP officers feel there’s too much traffic on these paths, at some times, then why not use removable signs like those used in Hudson River Park when they need to set up a temporary detour? Then when the crowds subside they could fold up their signs and put them away. After all, it’s not like these PEP officers are busy fighting crime.

  • SECURITY CULTURE DEFIES COMMON SENSE ONCE AGAIN! NYPD BICYCLE PARANOIA SPREAD TO PEP!

    City FAIL! When will the city (specifically “law” “enforcement”) recognize bicycles as legitimate transportation? Somehow it is acceptable to let cyclists and pedestrians battle it out for narrow pathways on the WillyB and Bklyn Bridges, yet it is unacceptable to have a slightly more generous greenway be shared?

    Darn it, I used to like park-ranger-types, with their green uniforms and mission to defend park spaces from destructive and dangerous behavior! Let me relate a brief account that reveals the level of law enforcement paranoia:

    On the eve of the World Naked Bike Ride, myself and a few other scouts found ourselves at Christopher St and the Hudson greenway. Straddling our bikes not far from the path, near the fountain, a PEP officer approached us, asking “Are you PD?” It is open to interpretation what “PD” means, but after a moment of confusion, I assumed she meant “are you (undercover) police department?”

    After some confounded mumbling by me and the other cyclists, I snarkily answered in the affirmative, “Yes, we are P.D.” “Yeah right,” was her appropriate response (after realizing that I, as I stood there in little white booty shorts, bobby sox with peace signs printed on them and little else, was probably not an undercover cop). She then told us we had to dismount our bikes. I pointed out that a sign giving the same order was 20 feet away, and if the policy was that we had to dismount at that location she ought to move the sign. We were not looking for trouble so we lifted our legs and ceased to threaten to ride our vehicles, gave her a bit more grief and she left with no explanation for either what “PD” meant or moving the sign.

    Now, I understand we are all human, imperfect, and liable to abuse any power that is put into our hands…But this episode highlights the ridiculous lengths NYPD and other NYC law enforcement agencies go to to make CYLCISTS UNWELCOME IN BLOOMBERG’S “GREEN” NYC!

    What a F***ing joke!

  • Emily Litella

    When the Williasburg bike path reopened no sign was placed at the split from single path to dual path directing cyclists and peds, so both paths are mixed with bikes and peds. Poor signage, reflecting a lack of professionalism and caring on the part of management are rampant throughout this city. How do you know when a sign is placed as a cover-your-ass device or as a serious tool for managing public space? Its hard to tell. But when a live person asks you to dismount, why do you feel the need to give them a hard time? Maybe they arent as cheerful as you would like, still just do what they say until you are out of sight and accept that the world is imperfect and there are better battles to fight.

  • That “Are you PD?” question says it all, Mellow Yellow. NYPD officers, even undercover, are held to a different set of standards.

  • In my experience, an unfortunate but fairly common trait among law enforcement personnel, and particularly pronounced among peace officers and other demi-cops, is the obsession with whether they are receiving the amount of respect they feel they deserve. Everyone wants, and deserves, to be treated with respect. But coming up to someone and beginning an interaction by demanding they assume a submissive posture, by dismounting their bike when they’re lawfully on it, is not a winning strategy for a respectful interaction. It’s more like how animals in a chance encounter in the wild deal with each other. And it’s not how we expect to be treated in our New York City parks.

    Of course its tricky because ultimately peace officers do have authority over civilians and their job is to use it as necessary to keep things safe and orderly. Most of the PEP I’ve dealt with–particularly the ones in Central Park–are appropriate and able to manage a respectful interaction with park visitors while still doing their jobs. But I can’t ever recall having a positive interaction with PEP or other Parks staff in Riverside Park, Hudson River Park or on the West Side Greenway (and I’ve had lots of negative ones).

  • I bicycled over the connector at around 6:30 last night in blatant disregard of the signs (but respectfully of other path users), and thankfully the PEP brigade had driven its SUVs home by that point.

    It is difficult not to become radicalized by the experience of riding a bicycle on a regular basis in New York, because there are so many occasions where the simple act of being mounted on a bicycle automatically subjects you to suspicion and harassment by police officers, park patrols, building security guards, hostile drivers, etc. ad nauseum.

  • Ed

    sheesh – I couldn’t ride up that hill anyway.

  • The NYC Parks rules and regulations found here give the final say for whether it’s okay to ride your bicycle on park roads or bikepaths to the Parks Commissioner. There is no mention of the Greenway as a specific route or entity with special rules or permissions. Perhaps this is something that TA or other advocacy groups could address.

    Gale Brewer is the councilmember for that spot; has anyone called her office to find out what she thinks?

  • Folks opposed to the mandatory dismount rule in Riverside Park at 72nd Street should attend the Community baord 7 Parks Committee meeting at 7:00 on July 19 and share their views. Location: 250 West 87th Street.

  • eLK

    Boris,

    The “Keep right pass left” signs are for everybody (pedestrians). There’s no reference to this sign being just for bicycles.

    Why does everybody think this only applies to cyclists?

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