The Dangers and Indignities of Riding the East River Greenway

Photo: Kim Martineau
Cyclists and pedestrians feel the squeeze where the East River Greenway narrows at this Con Ed facility near 13th Street, with zooming FDR traffic a few feet away. Photo: Kim Martineau

Above 34th Street, the East Side of Manhattan is unforgiving for cyclists, without any real provision to ride safely and quickly. The one dedicated path for bicycling, the East River Greenway, is barely usable for practical trips — the gap between 38th Street and 63rd Street being the most prominent of several flaws. On a ride organized by Transportation Alternatives this Sunday, Michael Auerbach of neighborhood group Upper Green Side led a group of about 20 cyclists, including City Council Member Dan Garodnick, on a tour of the greenway path to take in its pinch points, shoddy surfaces, and other shortcomings. Here’s a short photo tour of the trip from 6th Street to 63rd Street, with an assist from TA’s Kim Martineau.

The city has begun exploring a plan that would plug the greenway gap using funds secured through a land swap with the United Nations. If, after looking at these pictures, you’re wondering about what you can do to support a better greenway, it may helpful to keep in mind Garodnick’s parting message from the Sunday tour: “Communicate to your elected officials.”

Photo: Ben Fried
Photo: Ben Fried

The pathway narrows and cyclists must dismount in front of the Crow’s Nest, sandwiched between the FDR Drive and the East River, before riding through the restaurant’s parking lot.

Photo: Kim Martineau
Photo: Kim Martineau

At 37th Street, greenway users head back toward the wide open streets of the East Side…

Photo: Kim Martineau
Photo: Kim Martineau

…where cyclists on First Avenue make do without bike lanes and navigate around double-parked cars.

Photo: Ben Fried
Photo: Ben Fried

This father and son are heading across 62nd Street to the greenway entrance on the north side of 63rd. Heading to the greenway here takes you across the path of traffic heading to and from ramps for the FDR Drive, in a part of the city with zero on-street bike infrastructure.

Photo: Kim Martineau
Photo: Kim Martineau

Council Member Dan Garodnick urged the tour group to contact their elected officials in support of the plan to close the greenway gap.

Photo: BicyclesOnly/Flickr
Photo: ##http://www.flickr.com/photos/bicyclesonly/4325677732/in/set-72157621595490070/##BicyclesOnly/Flickr##

Above 63rd Street, the greenway is pocked with depressions and sinkholes that have been fenced off, like this one near 118th Street, creating pinch points on the route. A recent cave-in on the greenway at 72nd was caused by a breach in the bulkhead, which caused material supporting the pavement to leak into the East River, according to Joshua Laird, assistant commissioner for planning at the Parks Department. Work on plugging this hole in the bulkhead and another one in the 120s is underway, he said. These breaches are relatively easy to fix compared to other depressions in the greenway, where marine organisms have eaten away at the wooden pilings underneath the greenway surface.

“We’re doing some creative budgeting to fix what we can,” Laird said, but it’s going to take a significant investment to complete a comprehensive rehab of the greenway structure. “Until we can figure out a big allocation of funding, it’s going to be one by one.”

  • On the occasion of David Byrne’s audio release of Bicuycle Diaries, he was on WNYC’s Soundcheck today. Bryne talked about dramatic progress in making NYC more bicycle friendly and the environmental and livabiltiy benefits of bikes. Sounded like a radio version of Streetsblog. All the best.

  • Let’s also not forget the East Side Greenway gap between 125th and 155th Streets. In my experience riding the ESG, the only truly decent stretch is the uppermost part stretching from Dyckman Street (Swindler Cove Park) to 155th Street (and even that has a pinch point). The stretch through the East River Park could be absolutely lovely except the path is in terrible condition.

    When you compare the (generally) excellent condition of West Side Greenway with the terrible and impoverished condition of the East Side Greenway, it becomes “A Tale of Two Greenways.”

  • EVNative

    I’d like to point out that the picture taken by the Con Ed plant at 14th street shows everyone riding on the shared path despite signage at both ends that asks riders to dismount.

    I gave up power walking through this choke point after being hit by a biker too impatient to wait for me to clear the space.

    Why can’t some people follow the rules and be considerate of their fellow citizens ?

  • Scott Baker

    A couple of errors in this article that actually mean good news for bikers/walkers:
    1. The midtown Gap is actually only form 38th (the end of Glick Park) to 61 (the entrance is on 60th), but the 60th street entrance was closed the day of our ride due to work on the Tram, making it appear the 63 street entrance is the earliest one. So, there are only 21 blocks to close, not 24.
    2. The uptown gap is closed from 132-145th, though the entrances to the Harlem River Park leave a lot to be desired, at least the Greenway is there, and nice to ride too.
    More importantly, the U.N. Land Swap deal has been on the table for over 5 years, and is not “new” nor is it progressing. We need to find other funding, through Federal Transportation initiatives, or through a Land Value Tax that would properly tax the residents of the surrounding area for the improvement that would surely benefit them financially in the long run.

  • Besides Urbanis, has anyone noticed that there’s no path between 164th St and 145th St on Manhattan’s Harlem River shore?

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