Plans For First Two Crosstown Central Park Bike-Ped Paths Take Shape

Details are emerging about the plan to create shared bike/pedestrian paths cutting east-west across Central Park. The first two paths are likely to officially open on a trial basis in September, cutting across the park at roughly 102nd Street and 96th Street, said Central Park Conservancy community relations manager Caroline Greenleaf at a Community Board 7 meeting last night.

The first two shared bike/ped paths across Central Park are set to open in early September. At 96th Street, the path will run south of the transverse rather than north of it (both are shown on this map). Image:##http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/09/nyregion/central-parks-walkers-and-cyclists-to-try-sharing-paths.html##New York Times##

Those paths will be clearly marked with new signage and painted diamonds on the pavement, as on the park’s only current bike/ped path, which connects West 106th Street to the loop drive. The paths won’t be divided into separate lanes for those on foot and those on two wheels, said Greenleaf, but the diamonds will be off to one side of the path.

What those signs should say was a point of contention. Greenleaf said they are likely to urge cyclists to go at “walking speed,” but many members of the CB 7 Parks and Transportation Committees found that overly restrictive.

The co-chairs of the Parks Committee, Klari Neuwelt and Elizabeth Starkey, pointed out that they had sent a letter to the Parks Department months ago recommending that shared paths in Central and Riverside Parks use language like “yield to pedestrians” or “go slow,” rather than speed limits that did not leave room for discretion. “It was not intended to have cyclists go so slowly they fall off their bikes,” said Neuwelt.

At one point, the restrictions on the paths may be more stringent still. Where the 96th Street route, which will run just south of the transverse road on a little-used path, crosses the East Drive, said Greenleaf, a dismount zone is under consideration. “There are issues about whether it’s actually safe to cross the drives on your bicycle,” she said, adding that those issues were exacerbated at that crossing by a hairpin turn just east of the loop.

A number of community board members pointed out how much more smoothly these paths could be implemented if cars were taken off the Central Park loop drives altogether. “It sounds like a lot of this is the result of avoiding automobile traffic,” said board chair Mel Wymore. The community board endorsed a car-free park trial by a vote of 32-1 in June.

The two board members who spoke against the shared paths, though, also cited the board’s support for a car-free Central Park to make their case. “The request is not by park users,” said Tom Vitullo-Martin in an argument echoed by Transportation Committee co-chair Dan Zweig. “It’s for roads to be cut across the park for bicycles.”

Even so, the bulk of community board members and neighborhood residents in attendance spoke in support of trying out the plan. No vote was taken, as Wymore wanted the board to speak up on the plan after the trial was underway.

Wymore also urged the Conservancy to generate hard data on which to evaluate the plan. Greenleaf said that the Conservancy is currently planning to have staff and volunteers qualitatively observing the way the lanes are used and gathering feedback from park users.

  • Mike

    I’m confused by the map.  Why wouldn’t the cross-park route use the existing, wide, safe, bikes-permitted transverse road at 102/103 St for its path between the two loop drives, instead of a pedestrian path there?

  • Jeff

    So we have three classes of users (pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists) which we are trying to move across the park using two available pieces of infrastructure (footpaths and transverses).  Everyone agrees that if cyclists are to share the footpaths with pedestrians, they should be expected to operate in a way which is compatible with and prioritizes pedestrians.  Why, then, would it be such an unreasonable request to have cyclists and motorists share the transverses, with motorists expected to operated in a way which is compatible with and prioritizes cyclists?

  • Mike, the map (which was prepared by the new york times) is not accurate.  It fails to show that the 102nd street route is comprised exclusively of the existing 102nd transverse between East and West Drives.  Also, it shows a Fifth Avenue Access point at 96th Street, which is not under consideration (only 97th and 5th is under consideration, as far as we have been told).  There are other inaccuracies, though they are not as clear or as important as those two.

  • Jeremy

    It was pretty stunning that CB7 board member and TA-dude Ken Coughlin told the assembled that he planned to disregard the “walking speed” restriction on the pedestrian path.  The look on Caroline Greenleaf’s face was priceless.

    The trick with the “yield to pedestrians” or “go slow” signs is that – as John Herrold keeps trying to explain to Klari and Elizabeth – they don’t actually produce the desired behavior by cyclists.  If they worked, I’m sure everyone would be fine with that language.  However, as a rule, cyclists in Central Park don’t yield to pedestrians the way they should, and this pedestrian path is much too tight to add cyclists without specific compliance parameters.

  • Anonymous

    A lot of park users are going to be using clipless pedals, so the walking speed requirement is problematic from the word go.  Also, if everyone were to go at walking speed, they might as well just walk, defeating the whole purpose, right?  If the expectations are unreasonable, disappointment is assured.

  • Commuter

    I would like motorists to have to dismount their cars and push them across the transverses.

  • Jeremy

    That was actually Dan Zweig’s suggestion – that the transverses should be modified to provide a great crosstown cycling option.  I don’t know that bikes would be “prioritized” (and based on current volumes, they shouldn’t be), but they would be compatible and very cyclist-friendly.

    Although the electeds and administrators are putting it more tactfully, the reality of this whole process is that everyone is trying to honeypot the currently-illegal Park-crossing cyclists away from the majority of the paths, and keep them separate from the rest of the Park visitors.  The transverses might be a great way to go, but I think it’s probably outrageously expensive.

  • Jeremy

    @station44025:disqus Well, that’s what the test is for.  If Conservancy finds that cyclists can’t abide by these rules, crossing on pedestrian paths can’t work, and we’re back to square one.

  • Danny G

    @station44025:disqus I don’t see clipless pedals as being a problem with going slow. I think the ‘walking speed’ bit is an exaggeration, and should be thought of as ‘go at a speed that you wouldn’t mind being passed at if you were walking’.

  • Danny G

    @6b6a3fe730de2006198ee2f388021f7b:disqus If people drive slower on streets that are narrower (i.e. one of the whole premises behind traffic calming), why would someone bike the same way on an 8′-10′ wide path that they do on a 30′-35′ wide asphalt street (i.e. the Central Park loop)? Narrow the paths on which people cycle, and you will find they cycle slower.

  • Mike

    BO: composed *exclusively* of the 102nd St transverse? Then how do you ride between the loop drive and CPW/5th? I feel like there are directional problems with the existing entrance/exit roads.

  • Jeremy

    @36056f95783f8cfb512e9d49d4187ce6:disqus I hope you’re right.  I’m just recalling John Herrold telling CB7 that cyclists weren’t slowing down enough on the 72nd Street Riverside path, which is even narrower and had “slow” signs.  That’s actually what necessitated the “dismount” signs on that path.  It may just be a reflection of a small percentage of cyclists who would choose to shoot the gaps between pedestrians, but it was apparently dangerous or disruptive enough to get a lot of park users upset.

  • Anonymous

    I guess that’s my point. Bikes are faster than walking, which is why they were invented in the first place, so I hope the metric for success isn’t set up to assure failure.  Maybe a more realistic measure would be “does it work.”

  • Mark

    The problem is that the transverses are not wide enough for a car or bus to pass a bike.   So you would have to cars driving on the transverse patiently allow the bike to take the lane.   Given the way people drive in NYC, this would not happen.  Instead what would happen is that cars would pass the bikes at a high speed with very little clearance, and occasionally a biker would be killed.  But most bicyclists would be too scared to uses the transverses (like today).  In addition, the city would not be happy with the lower auto throughput of the transverses.

  • Mike–good point…there will be about a block of that path that runs between the eastern terminus of the 102nd Street Transverse south, along the bridle path just to the west of East Drive, to a point directly across from the 102nd street ramp from 5th Avenue to East Drive (which is closed to motor vehicle traffic but open to bicycle traffic). 

  • Mike

    And something similar on the west side, I assume.

  • Daphna

    John Herrold, the administrator of Riverside Park, needs to place stop signs that says “STOP look both ways” on either side of the bike path at 70th Street, the same way it is done at 23rd Street where there is a high volume of pedestrians crossing the bike path.  But instead Herrold places 3 crowd control barriers that block off 75% of the bike lane at 70th Street, forcing two way bike traffic to dangerously head straight into each other in the same narrow strip.  Meanwhile, pedestrians don’t learn that they must simply look both ways before they cross.  Klari and Elizabeth (of the Parks committee on their Community Board) should be educating Herrold on what works, not the other way around.

    There was no danger from cyclists biking into Riverside Park at 72nd Street, just a perceived danger by certain park users and Herrold pandered to them by changing the long standing (10 years plus) greenway access at that point to no longer be allowed for cyclists.  He did that without any research into the danger and without any understanding that bicycling is vital to the city and must be accommodated, not prohibited.

    Meantime, in Central Park cyclists do yield to pedestrians but there is confusion by Jeremy and others about what yielding means.  Cyclists do not menace, intimidate or threaten pedestrians.  Cyclists are more vulnerable than pedestrians and take care not to hit them.  Cyclists do not cause pedestrians to run for their lives.  Cyclists know that most pedestrians are not even paying attention so they can not expect the pedestrians to look out for them, meanwhile cyclists nearly always look out vigilantly.  Cyclists share the paths safely and effectively but there are a few vocal pedestrians who do not want to share and wrongly perceive a danger from cyclists.

    The bike community needs to stop saying that cyclists do not yield to pedestrians.  Cyclists pass pedestrians when it is safe to do so and moderate their speed when necessary.  Cyclists cross in front or in back of pedestrians when it is safe to do so.  Cyclists do not cause pedestrians to have to run or jump back; they do no hit pedestrians.  This cyclist behavior represents yielding!!

  • Jeremy

    @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus Daphna, with respect, you’re wrong.  Conservancy, NYPD, DOT, TA, UWSSR, NYCC and a bunch of other acronym-ed groups have clearly stated that cyclists must stop at red lights in the park when a pedestrian is in the crosswalk. 

    Statistically, that regulation is ignored by cyclists 95 to 100% of the time. 
    I understand that it’s an uncomfortable truth, but it is a truth.  Compliance was improved during the period of low-tolerance ticketing, but today it’s worse than it’s ever been.

    Your definition of “yielding” is simply not lawful at red lights in the park and is not what’s intended by anyone, including cycling and safe streets advocates.  This level of cyclist interpretation illustrates exactly why the signs described by Klari and Elizabeth don’t seem to be working, and why red light enforcement has become the only tool in the box for the NYPD.

  • Daphna

    The lights in Central Park are not relevant when it comes to cyclists and pedestrians.  Pedestrians do not use the lights.  They use their discretion to cross when they see a gap in cyclists no matter if they have a walk sign or not.  Likewise, cyclists cooperate and slow down and go around pedestrians who they see crossing, even those pedestrians not in crosswalks.  This works much better than the law or lights.  Red lights were made for motor vehicles and it is not beneficial to apply them to pedestrians and cyclists.

    Across the city pedestrians cross a street anywhere they want at anytime they see a gap in traffic (car or cyclist) whether they have the walk signal or not.  No one is shouting that pedestrians should not use this type of discretion even though it is against the law.  The same standard should apply to cyclists.

    Just because a group or groups have recommended lumping cyclists in with motor vehicle laws, does not mean those recommendations are appropriate or will lead to greater safety.

  • Anonymous

    If it’s clear there is a huge demand for the bike traverses and it’s bothering pedestrians it will be easy to get dedicated infrastructure.

  • Anonymous

    @6b6a3fe730de2006198ee2f388021f7b:disqus 70% of drivers are speeding in central park.  by your logic the car lanes shoudl be removed by the CPC.  I don’t think the “some cyclists break the law so no one gets infrastructure” argument holds up.

  • Daphna

    Jeremy, I am not sure why in response to my message about shared path usage in Riverside Park and Central Park, you brought up the issue of red lights.  There are no red lights on the shared paths that I was referring to in my long post.  I describe cyclists’ behavior as effectively yielding on those shared paths. Cyclists look out and yield because they have to for their own safety.  Cyclists are on two wheels and are vulnerable.  They do not need to be told to yield, because they will do that automatically for their own safety.  Some pedestrians perceive danger, not understanding that a cyclist would never hit them or even inconvenience the pedestrian because the cyclist would get hurt in the process.  The idea of danger from cyclists’ behavior is a mis-perception, not reality.

  • Anonymous

    this is why http://articles.nydailynews.com/2009-06-10/news/17924694_1_suv-bicyclist-bike

    We’ve just accepted that cars do and will drive dangerously out of neglect and even malice.

  • Jeremy

    I’m glad to have the opportunity to reply.

    @mistermarkdavis:disqus I don’t think they should “remove” infrastructure for anyone.  Bike lanes are great, and cyclists should definitely continue to use all of the bike paths and Loop road.  NYPD should increase enforcement for cars also, absolutely.

    @88b32fb69e499718d95067da9d3d7b03:disqus I think we’ll never agree that lights in Central Park are “not relevant” for cyclists, so I’ll be brief.  There are virtually no “shared paths” in Central Park today other than the Loop, so I’m confused about what you’re referring to there beyond the Loop road.  And while you’re certain that cyclists never injure pedestrians on the Loop, and pedestrians fear is imagined, I can tell you with total certainty that your perspective is fiction.  Over the last two years, about 90 pedestrians were hit and injured by cyclists on the Loop.  One was killed.  It’s more dangerous for pedestrians among cyclists in Central Park than it is for us among cars at the “Bowtie of Death.”  To the extent that nobody has informed you of this, I hope that’s a systemic education issue that we can fix.

  • And cars kill more pedestrians across the country than cyclists injure on the 6 mile loop and than cars injure in a single intersection. Why compare raw numbers of injuries at locations of vastly different sizes, Jeremy? It seems you don’t want to promote a fair debate on this topic.

    People flock to the loop on foot, roller skates, and bicycles precisely because unlike the Bowtie of Death it is not full of cars. With more of us out there on the asphalt, more of us are going to get injuries, mostly minor ones. But no matter how much any park joggers may hate cyclists, you will not find them jogging down a New York street instead–unless that street has a bicycle lane for them to borrow.

    The point of a “walking speed” rule is obvious: to nullify the benefits of cycling. Cyclists are then divided into two groups, those willing to break the rule and those who just give up cycling that route. When it’s all said and done, “all cyclists” are scofflaws because the non-scofflaws have given it up.

    It’s a nasty, cynical ploy and I’m thrilled to see that at least one “TA-dude” has gotten wise to it. You have to be honest about what proposed rules and laws you are willing to subject yourself to, and which ones will cause you to just take a damn taxi. Otherwise you’ll get a bunch of impractical laws that purposefully make your way of life miserable. At a large scale, that’s what makes walking and cycling impossible for most of the country. The only reason walking works in New York is we’re allowed to ignore all the stupid anti-walking laws that still apply here.

    The solution to this artificial problem is simple. A “jogging speed” is perfectly safe, as surely as there are people jogging those same paths. If you want to separate reckless cyclists from benign ones, you want a “jogging speed” rule. If you want to rig the test and refuse to accommodate any safe cycling traversal of the park, you want a “walking speed” rule.

  • Daphna

    The issue of collecting injury statistics leaves a lot of questions open.  Right now the NYPD or the DMV (I am not sure which) tracks injuries from motorists but only in cases where the injured person goes to the hospital and has over $1,000 of medical bills.  Lesser injuries by motorists are not counted or tracked.  A few months ago the city council passed legislation requiring the DOT to track injuries from pedestrian/cyclist collisions.  However, it is unclear if the DOT will use the same standard that is applied for motorists, meaning that only injuries requiring a trip to the hospital and over $1,000 of medical care are counted, or if they will additionally count lesser injuries.  Also, it is unclear if the DOT will have one count for cyclists injured and one count for pedestrians injured, or it they all will be in the same category.

    The majority of the time, the cyclist is the one injured in a bike/pedestrian collision.  I worry that if the cyclist and pedestrian injuries are not tracked separately, people will wrongly assume the pedestrians are receiving most of the injuries.  Also, if the DOT is going to track lesser bike/ped injuries that do not involve hospitalization or $1,000, then the agency that tracks injuries from motorists should also track these lesser injuries – so the statistics can be accurately compared.

    Whatever agency is tracking injuries that Jeremy cited, is not doing so officially and it is not clear what standard they are using for injuries.

    Finally, injuries to pedestrians do not necessarily reflect bad cyclist behavior.  Many pedestrians do not look out and move in unpredictable ways that even the most careful, law-abiding cyclist can not avoid.  The occurrence of injuries does not mean the cyclists are at fault – that correlation can not be drawn unless extensive investigation was done each time into determining fault.

  • richard shaffer

    THE MAP SHOWS THE BIKE PATH GOES ACROSS 96 STREET ALL THE WAY TO FIFTH AVENUE    YET THERE ARE SIGNS POSTED ON THE PORTION OF THE PATH BETWEEN THE AUTO-ROADWAY AND FIFTH AVENUE WHICH SAY  “NO BIKE RIDING ON THE PATH”.  IS THERE IS OR IS THERE AINT AN ANSWER

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