Now You Can Bike Both Ways Across Central Park on 72nd Street

Photo: Heidi Untener

The two-way, buffered bike lane across Central Park on 72nd Street is rounding into form, with most but not all of the markings in place, readers tell us. The path is rideable in both directions, adding a critical piece of east-west connectivity to the bike network.

Reader Heidi Untener sends this pic from a recent trip on the improved 72nd Street, which used to provide only a westbound lane for bikes, and nothing between the Central Park loop and the eastern and western edges of the park. The two-way path consists of spacious seven-foot-wide bike lanes and a four-foot buffer, and the motor vehicle right-of-way has been slimmed from two lanes to one.

Heidi reports that there are no directional arrows yet, and that the bikeway is still a little “funky” where it crosses the loop on each side of the park. Overall she said the bikeway is going to make daily trips to school and camp with her kids much better. She and her family “cheer each time we ride through.”

When the Central Park Conservancy announced the DOT project last year, car-free park advocate Ken Coughlin called it “a significant step both toward making crossing the park on a bicycle less perilous and toward a car-free park in general.”

If you’ve been following the transportation bill news from Streetsblog Capitol Hill, then you know we are going to be posting a deluge of bad news. Savor this bit of progress, Streetsblog readers, because it’s probably the only scrap of news today that will nourish your hope for the future.

Here’s another angle, courtesy of Ken:

Photo: Ken Coughlin

And because not even the good news comes without a dark cloud, Ken also sends a report of ham-fisted ticketing by the Parks Enforcement Patrol:

Photo: Ken Coughlin

A cyclist… got a ticket from the Parks Enforcement Patrol on the West Drive at 81st Street, near the Delacorte at about 9:50 this morning. When the light turns red a parks officer holds up a handheld “Stop” sign.  Any cyclist who goes through the light is stopped by PEP officers a hundred feet or so down the road and issued a ticket, whether or not a pedestrian was actually crossing the intersection. The cyclist in this case told me there was no one trying to cross and that he didn’t have enough time to react to the Stop sign. He was pretty pissed. As I talked to him, a passing cyclist yelled out “Ticket the cars for speeding.” This enforcement by the PEP appears to be in contrast to the stated policy of the CP Precinct, which is to use discretion when ticketing cyclists who blow red lights, with the focus on those who fail to yield to crossing peds.

Okay, so here’s one more look at the good stuff, courtesy of Heidi:

  • So great to see these photos.  Recall that this was the project that inspired the infamous “whereas, bicyclists suck” reso from CB8 ( http://gothamist.com/2011/07/14/whereas_the_upper_east_side_communi.php ). Yet the 6-month old shared bike-ped crosstown path at 96th Street has not resulted in any crashes or even complaints, and I can’t see any reason why this re-engineering of Terrace Drive would cause problems either.  And look at the benefits!  Here’s hoping that those CB8 members who so virulently opposed this project realize that pedestrians and cyclists can share a right of way without the sky falling.

  • Ian Turner

    Taxis currently seem to interpret the yellow line as an indication that the lane is OK for them to drive in, presumably since they are used to having two lanes of traffic. Hopefully the addition of bicycle stencils will correct this.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve cycled every day through Central Park this week and have been happy to see how the 72nd St project progresses. Just one week ago I needed to go the formerly wrong way along this path, and wished that the project had been finished already!

    Regarding the ticket anecdote, as much as I think red lights in the park and this kind of enforcement are silly, I find the cyclist’s defense hard to buy. First, from the description, there *was* a pedestrian on or near the intersection: the parks enforcement officer (unless they are holding up their handheld stop signs from their vehicles now?) Second, if the cyclist didn’t have enough time to stop, it’s because he was going excessively fast toward the red light. There’s a yellow light phase for that reason, and the light can be seen far enough. I run red lights in the park too, but I slow down and prepare to stop unless there’s clearly no one around (especially cops! 🙂 If they catch me one day, I may be angry at the silly enforcement but I’ll say “you got me” and won’t be making excuses for how it was “impossible” to stop.

  • Josh

    My sister in law was struck by a reckless cyclist in Central Park. She spent days in the hospital and could only see out of one eye for weeks. Ticketing reckless cyclists in an area with heavy pedestrian traffic is not “ham-fisted.”

  • Andy

    I can see how that yellow line could be misinterpreted. In this case, drivers shouldn’t be crossing the white line to their left, but if they see the yellow line farther over, than the road appears to be two lanes wide with an unusual buffer between lanes.

  • Danny G

    Throw some bollards on that buffer

  • Park User

    Josh, it was 9:50 on a weekday. How heavy could the pedestrian traffic have been? If they were really concerned with protecting pedestrians and not just harassing cyclists, they’d be out there at 2 PM on a Saturday.

  • Anonymous

    @115087130ba87b96616eabc152b75fdf:disqus 

    Nobody here objects to ticking reckless riders.  We object to ticketing responsible riders who run reds.  If I slow roll through a red and no one’s around, it’d be silly to give me a ticket (which are more expensive than speeding tickets for cars, by the way).

    It sucks what happened to your sister-in-law and I’d hope that the guy who hit her was punished.  But running redlights in the park, doesn’t = reckless.  It depends on the facts and circumstances of each particular situation.  Of course I run reds in the park.  It’s a freaking park.  But, if it’s a weekend, or otherwise when peds are around, I slow-roll through reds and keep my head on a swivel.  

  • Joe R.

    @qrt145:disqus The Parks Department officer doesn’t count as a crossing pedestrian. The idea that bicycles should stop and wait at reds when nothing is crossing makes little enough sense on regular streets. It makes absolutely no sense in a park. It’s high time we codified this into law so these shakedowns (which is what they really are) can no longer take place. As JaredAF said, nobody here objects to ticketing reckless riders, particularly those who fly through crosswalks full of pedestrians. But by the same token, we must realize cyclists have good enough visibility to determine if it’s safe to cross without the need for traffic signals. And we must also realize that the sheer number and timing of traffic signals in NYC would render cycling just about useless from either a transportation or exercise standpoint if they were to be obeyed as the law currently prescribes. We don’t ticket pedestrians who cross on red for similar reasons (i.e. in Manhattan it would take twice as long to get anywhere if you didn’t cross on red), so why ticket cyclists for doing the same? Unless of course they clearly are putting people in danger.

    And on another note, it’s high time NYC started using vehicle and pedestrian detectors everywhere so traffic lights no longer go red unless something is crossing. It’s incumbent upon government to engineer safety in the least intrusive way possible. Dumb, timed signals which more often than not require stopping for absolutely no reason shouldn’t even exist in this day and age.

  • Jesse Greene

    Joe R.,

    I totally agree with you.  I would also like to add to something: 
     
    99% of the bitching about bikes and red lights has nothing to do with safety.  People don’t like it because it’s perceived as arrogant (how dare YOU question the laws of MY city!) and rude (I had to break stride to avoid getting hit by you), and only occasionally because they were momentarily startled by it (i.e., the 1% of the bitching).  And then there are the extremely rare instances when it actually does result in injury.  But the reality is this issue is about courtesy and not life-threatening, sky-falling, bike bedlam. The first step to changing the conversation is to get people to realize that.

    It’s also important to realize that courtesy matters.  Cyclists could do a lot to improve their image (which, as unjust as it seems to us does need improving) by just making a few small changes short of scrupulous adherence to the vehicle code: 
    (1) Cross behind pedestrians instead of in front of them.  It probably doesn’t do anything in terms of safety but they either don’t know you’re there and don’t care about you or they know you’re there but they don’t feel like you’re violating their right of way. 
    (2) If a pedestrian has the light and they stop and wait for you to pass just brake very exaggeratedly.  Just show them that you’re not going to cut them off and even come to a complete stop and put your foot down if you have to.  You can still usually start going before the light turns green once the pedestrian goes out into the crosswalk.  

  • Anonymous

    I ride through the park as part of my commute. the thing about a park is they are really for pedestrians so they cross when and where the please. people cross at crosswalks when they have the light a minority of the time, and they shouldn’t really have to.

  • Jesse, 

    I agree strongly with your post, and I suggest to fellow cyclists often that they “have some manners”.

    I’ll add to your list:

    3) Don’t stop in the crosswalk. Stop behind it if there’s no room in front.

  • Nycguy6232

    The cyclists in the park are obnoxious in rude.  Keep ticketing them!

  • Mmhviola

    This is a great improvement! it makes so much sense.Thank you!!!!

  • Willow

    Thanks for the update. This is great news. This is a small structural change that will make a big difference for us bicycle commuters. I’d much rather ride in the park, even with the pedestrians who walk in the bike lanes, than on CPW.

  • Inaflash80

    Be careful. Just rode west to east in the proper bike lane and both lanes were full of runners. Before I could even get off the bike lane I was fully elbowed purposely into the wooden railing and took a shitty fall.. Icing myself as I type.

    Until they make a dedicated running lane on the OPPOSITE side of the street from biking… It just won’t be safe during rec hours in the early evenings. The guy who shoved me continues to run off even while I fell and yelled. Asshole…

    Be careful!

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