CB 7 Parks Committee Votes for Hilly Greenway Detour in Riverside Park

NYC Park wants to divert cyclists from the waterfront greenway to the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line year-round. Image: NYC Parks
The Parks Department wants to permanently divert cyclists from the flat waterfront greenway to the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line. Image: NYC Parks

Manhattan Community Board 7’s Parks and Environment Committee voted 4 to 1 last night in favor of the Parks Department’s proposal to route cyclists away from from Riverside Park’s waterfront greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street.

The plan would direct cyclists inland at 72nd Street through a hilly wooded path passing through the 79th Street Rotunda, which has a particularly steep incline. The justification is that the waterfront path is too crowded for cyclists and pedestrians to share, but the crowding is only a problem during peak summer months, and the detour would be in effect year-round. It is one of three similar detours in the department’s preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan.

The project received $200,000 from Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s participatory budget, far less than the $2 million that the Parks Department reps said is needed for a full build-out. In lieu of securing funds for the full project, the money will go toward partial measures: paving gentler turns onto the detour route at 72nd Street and 83rd Street, installing bright LED lights, and trimming surrounding trees to increase visibility. The project would be implemented next year.

Ultimately, the master plan calls for regrading the path to make it flatter. That would be an expensive capital project that would cost even more than $2 million, said Riverside Park Chief of Design and Construction Margaret Bracken. Until then, the detour will be in effect and the path will be hilly. The LED lights will at least improve visibility at night.

While Riverside Park Administrator John Herrold told the committee he was open to limiting the detour to high-use months of the year, Bracken said the agency preferred a year-round detour. “I think it’s better to have a constant condition,” she said. “It’s really really challenging to have a situation where people, you know, one day of the week use one route and another day of the week use another route.”

In a revealing exchange, Bracken contested an audience member, Chris Henry, when he said the greenway should be “treated as a transportation facility.” Her response was emblematic of how the Parks Department has consistently failed to consider how the greenway functions as a key transportation route for thousands of New Yorkers.

“I also feel like I have to speak out to champion… our parks,” said Bracken. “And the idea that we’re just going to redesign the park so that cyclists can speed through the park whenever they want…”

“Well, that’s not what I’m saying,” Henry interjected.

“But you kind of are,” said Bracken. “Not getting off ever?”

Some audience members expressed concern about riding on the steep inclines, particularly during the winter, but Herrold insisted it was no big deal. “I think it’s overstating the challenge,” he said. “When I’ve stood at the top of the rotunda and watched cyclists go up and down it during rush hour in the morning, it’s not the Tour de France guys. It’s people on Citi Bikes going to work. I don’t see it as an impediment to very many people.”

Committee member Ken Coughlin said the option of a summer-only detour deserved stronger consideration to avoid “endangering people at night when it’s icy, when there are limbs that fall from the trees.” “I don’t think $160,000 buys us enough changes to make this a year-round thing,” he said.

Pointing to an earlier comment from Herrold that enforcement would be sporadic at best, Coughlin said the detour would likely be routinely ignored in colder weather. “It’s just unrealistic to expect cyclists to always use this path when nobody is on the riverfront path,” Coughlin said. “All it takes is a sign [to tell them whether they should take the detour].”

Rosenthal told the room that she supports the proposal and “defers” to Parks on the question of seasonality. She echoed many audience members who said cyclists in the park go too fast near seniors and children. “I think the idea was, and still is, for this one piece right at the Boat Basin section, that is particularly challenging for pedestrians and cyclists,” she said. “I think [this] plan does exactly that… It addresses, I think, what the people were asking for.”

The committee voted in favor of a resolution approving a year-round detour with a request that the question of seasonality be reevaluated in two years. Coughlin was the dissenting vote.

CB 7 will vote on the committee’s resolution at its full board meeting on Tuesday, November 1 at Mount Sinai West Hospital. While a reversal would be unusual, it’s not unheard of when large numbers of people turn up to testify against a committee’s decision.

  • Elizabeth F

    Where do I read that?

  • Elizabeth F

    Except for the part behind the softball fields, you can try this out yourself today.

  • Elizabeth F

    I’ve been trying it out all summer. Never had a problem. Now I look at the maps and I see yes, this is a highway interchange. But it’s just not a big deal. And as others have said… a little reconfiguration work could make it better.

  • walks bikes drives

    There is a solid hill just north of the light house, under the bridge. Then you go over the railroad bridge, then a quick short ramp that removes all of your speed, before you go under the overpass and continue to THE hill. That first lip is similar to the lip at the rotunda going south. As you go up THE hill, it is a he’ll of a climb and most people get off their bikes. Then, as you are about to hit the bollard, the grade gets steep real fast for a very short few feet. This lip is also similar to the grade at the rotunda.

  • MatthewEH

    Are you talking about the through route that connects the two park paths, or about the actual circular part of the road that also includes the highway offramps and onramps?

    The through pavement is fine, sure, but I’ve had some troubles with traffic on the circular segment. Cars aimed for the HHP southbound doing quick passes and cutting me off, when my goal is to exit the park and head east on W79th street, basically. It’s happened twice so far.

    Also, the pavement on the circular segment is beyond awful, and I don’t think it’d be trivial to repave it. It’s the roof of the boat basin cafe and the garages and whatnot; can’t just pour more asphalt on top.

  • Vooch

    solution: reallocate one lane of Henry Hudson Parkway during summer months for cyclists. The high speed cyclists will merrily use the new HH bikeway and 99% of conflicts along river will vanish.

    motor traffic on the HH drops from Labor Day to Memorial Day,

  • notsurprised

    “I also feel like I have to speak out to champion… our parks,” said Bracken. “And the idea that we’re just going to redesign the park so that cyclists can speed through the park whenever they want…”

    “Well, that’s not what I’m saying,” Henry interjected.

    “But you kind of are,” said Bracken. “Not getting off ever?”

  • Joseph Cutrufo

    This is my evening bike commute. Proud to say I’m able to climb it on the lowest gear of my three speed! (It used to be a single speed but I converted it because I was tired of having to walk up the hills.) They really ought to address the grading near the rotunda before a new route is established. That’s only fair.

  • SteveVaccaro

    The picture is inaccurate. it seems to show the traffic passing just to the south of the rotunda, on the main Greenway path, as it does now. If two-way bike traffic is routed through the rotunda, it’s definitely a problem. Those two opposing flows of bike traffic have to share with motorists headed counterclockwise through the rotunda coming off a highway. If a cyclist tries to pass, you need three bike-widths, and the whole thing gets dangerous very quickly. And there is the steepness issue, particularly to the south of the rotunda, where northbound cyclists would have to make a hairpin right at ~5MPH and then climb a 12% grade hill. Then face motor vehicle traffic and oncoming cycle traffic in the rotunda. Sure, it can be done, but its hardly optimal. It’s hardly what you’d expect from an agency trying to support cycling. Brooklyn Bridge Park has greater pedestrian density at virtually all times of the day or night than the Greenway stretch by the Rotunda, but pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to share there. Why not here?

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Wow…now people who use that path to get to work have to yield it to people who are visiting the city or who have the luxury to be jogging around in the morning/afternoon. This is another subtle example of how people on bikes are demonized (largely because of the spandex-clad road warriors who truly do use the path inappropriately) and people walking can’t be asked to walk in a straight line or to realize more bikes is a good thing.

  • MatthewEH

    For what it’s worth, while I’m certainly on the greenway more as a cyclist than in any other modality, I run to work on the greenway about twice a week. It is a legit commuting mode. Certainly I’m very aware how runner-me should avoid doing the things that would annoy or even endanger cyclist-me.

    Just the same, though, people have all sorts of legitimate reasons for being in a park. Everyone should behave themselves, be orderly on a mixed-use path, etc., but “I’m going somewhere!” isn’t in any way a trump card. This brings to mind irate drivers who complain about cyclists gumming up “my roads” when all those namby pamby cyclists are doing is recreational travel, as opposed to “us adults who have jobs to go to and groceries to buy and kids to pick up from school” and whatnot.

  • JudenChino

    but “I’m going somewhere!” isn’t in any way a trump card.

    Actually it is when we’re talking about a heavily used bike route as a form of transportation. If there were suitable alternatives then yah. But no one would think to make anyone in a car get out and push their car in neutral, because “that’s a legitimate” form of transportation.

  • MatthewEH

    My point still stands. “The greenway is a major transportation corridor” is a factor to consider, absolutely. It’s a shame that this Parks proposal worsens the bike routing so much in the cause of separating bike and ped traffic — or, perhaps, “separating it”, given how much encroachment will happen in both directions, particularly peds on the bike route. But it does not automatically override all other considerations.

    Of everything that’s been discussed on-thread so far, the idea I like the best is shutting down one of the southbound lanes on the Henry Hudson Parkway and turning it over to bidirectional bike traffic May-September. Probably as far north as 96th Street; maybe even to 125th.

  • JudenChino

    Haha, well I wouldn’t even go that far. I just don’t think they’d ever subject car commuters to a detour like this. The 6 year detour around the Pier in Battery Park City is another one (in which, in the summer months, you’d have to dismount for car shows and movie night on the pier — which is nice except for the forcing hundreds to dismount and walk for 100 meters) that they wouldn’t subject cars too.

    They just don’t realize how much harm that detour causes — the 24/7 nature of bike commuting — the hills themselves — to the fact that it’s only a limited time where bikes/peds are subject to tight and unsafe conditions and certainly nothing like the unsafe conditions on the BK Bridge — which the DoT just took a major safety initiative, including putting up many signs warning pedestrians (and other users) of the harm of locking up locks to the bridge out of love –which costs DoT upwards to $100K annually to remove.

    So, my point is — nobody gives a fuck about bikes and not even Parks.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    I agree. So, why not have people on foot to do the slightly uphill, out of the way route? Certainly fewer people walking/running on the path are going to work than those biking. Moreover, I venture to say that most people can climb a higher grade more easily on foot than by bike.

  • Darren Jeffries

    Referring to cyclists as, “…those Tour de France guys…” is offensive in and of itself.

  • @nanter – The word “parkway” pretty much originally meant “greenway,” and then we put cars on them.

  • Aliya Tyus-Barnwell

    They don’t have the money for even #1. It’s pie in the sky.

  • Aliya Tyus-Barnwell

    Agreed, but that sounds ideal. What’s cheaper, widening the path/moving benches, or lessening the grade to 79th? I don’t think they’re going to soften that hill, btw, they can’t afford to. I think they’ll do nothing but kick cyclists off that section if they don’t vote.

  • Aliya Tyus-Barnwell

    Kinda what I was thinking. The hill to 79th is fierce but doable- for me. But I know a lot of people who would walk it. And going down at night (heading south) is taking your life in your hands.

  • Aliya Tyus-Barnwell

    Yeah but that creates an unsafe situation if people konk out/bonk or give up and dismount while on the path.

  • MatthewEH

    I don’t see that there’s much ability to widen the main esplanade routing either. At 79th Street, the Boat Basin Cafe itself makes for a pinch point, and south of 79th there are ballfields and upward embankments immediately east of the esplanade.

    I bet you could widen the existing path from 79.5th to 83rd, but that doesn’t seem like a huge win.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I don’t know this path as well as a lot of people here, but it seems like they could widen most of it to the east and just turn what is now a shallow hill behind the benches into a 3-4′ high stone wall with some ramps and steps. No, it certainly wouldn’t be cheap.

  • Paul Sternglass

    This plan seems fine. Not sure what the fuss is all about. I take this route on the way to the GWB and 9W. I am one of those “spandex” guys, but I go slow along that promenade because it is not safe with pedestrians. This is a better plan; but only if pedestrians stay off, which they won’t. That’s the only problem I see.

  • Cecil Scheib

    If the quote “I don’t see it as an impediment to very many people” is accurate, it’s emblematic of the basic thinking about bikes – they are not “real” transportation. It’s hard to imagine DOT proposing a road detour impassable to or even inconvenient for some cars (or drivers) and defending it as “not an impediment to very many people.”

  • Unfiltered Dregs

    “the 79th Street Rotunda, which has a particularly steep incline.”

    Steep? lmao…

    As a cyclist who frequents the entire West side path when I go from the Bronx to Brooklyn and back…

    It’s an EXCELLENT idea. Safer for everyone as long as the rules are adequately enforced and the bypass is demarcated strictly for bicycle use.

  • Unfiltered Dregs

    Why? Because people like to hang out by the water there. It’s first and foremost a promenade; the design intent is obvious. I don’t see cyclists chilling there on the benches, reading books, sunning, etc.. Just whizzing by.

  • Unfiltered Dregs

    …and how would DEDICATING an exclusive space for bike traffic in any way impede bike traffic? If anything it’ll be faster.

  • Nathan C Rhodes

    Busiest bike path in the country with no other safe alternative.

    El 28 oct. 2016 10:19, “Disqus” escribió:

  • mark berghash

    I am an eighty-one year old artist and bike the greenway on the way to my studio from home, 79th to 22nd streets five days a week. I have been doing this since it opened and it sure beats 11th Ave. On the weekends my wife and I often walk along the way and we are very concerned about the bicyclists, and there are many, who ride too fast and come to close to the walkers. I am in favor of the petition.

    However there other safety concerns that trouble me. Runners and walkers use the bike path with an air of invincibility and that is especially dangerous at night, as most do not use lights. Better signage would be helpful as most seem blissfully unaware of the pedestrian pathways. And bike light use at night should be enforced although I am heartened that of late the majority of bikes do have lights.

    MWB

  • Herb

    The problem is that Pedestrians are unregulated on the bike lanes. They will be unregulated on the bypass also. There is way to much latitude for people who ignore the presence of lanes intended to facilitate riding.

    Time to get tougher in NYC with people who walk against lights, in the middle of the block, or in the dark with dark clothes.

    Parks are for cyclists too.

  • Truman Burbank

    Why not impose a speed limit, say, 5mph, on bikes along that stretch of the shared greenway? Install some radar signage showing “your speed is XX”. With initial strict enforcement to slow down the Lance Armstrong wannabes I think it could work. I commute through there year-round and find that respectful speed is the key to safe interplay with pedestrians, children, pets, et al. I’m passed every day by electric vehicles (bikes, scooters, skateboards) which are increasingly contributing to the speeding problem as well.

  • Jeff Williamson

    I’m a long time bicyclist and I saw the proposed bypass just this morning. So on my Saturday run I traced its path. There are a couple of ups-and-downs but none that pose more than mild extra effort. I think it’s excellent idea to separate cyclists from pedestrians on that stretch of the Riverwalk. There’s simply too much pedestrian and bike traffic to maintain safety. Posted speed limits, radar, urging walkers to stay in their “lanes” is wishful thinking. And the riverwalk is not a transportation route. For decades it’s been a place for people to stroll and commune with the river. A small detour isn’t a big deal. Ultimately it will be better for both pedestrians and bicyclists.

  • Joe R.

    5 mph gets into the realm where quite a few cyclists get wobbly, making them more dangerous than they would be at higher speeds. Besides that, the problem here isn’t speed but volume. Shared paths don’t work well with large numbers of pedestrians or cyclists, or both. It’s time for completely separate paths. And that may well mean strict enforcement of pedestrians walking on bike paths and cyclists riding on pedestrian paths. Remember the greenway is also a major bike transportation artery. For better or for worse, it happened to be stuck in a park. If you start imposing (largely unenforceable) speed limits along shared sections of the greenway it becomes far less useful as a transportation artery. It’s time to acknowledge the greenway is a victim of its own success, and to have separate bike and pedestrian paths along its entire length. Whatever it costs, so be it. It’ll still be a fraction of what this city spends on car infrastructure.

  • MatthewEH

    Just for completeness, I do see cyclists park their bikes benchside while they hang out for a spell on nicer days. No more than 5% of the cyclists I see on such days, though.

  • MatthewEH

    The “dedicated” path has turns, several bumps up and down in gradient (including a couple of short stretches as steep as 12%), and would still have pedestrians who need to cross on their way to the waterfront, to ballfields, the playground south of the boat basin — though it’s not a popular playground — or would just be encroaching. It’s clearly a slower way to go unless the crowding factor on the esplanade is something like 4x or higher.

  • Joseph Sackett

    Hey take your reasonable comment back to whatever nice place you came from you hear!?

  • Jeremy Munson

    I ride take this detour daily. If it connects behind the ball field that would be great. We call it the “Mario Cart” detour. I think the section of path that leads from the water towards the BB courts should be removed and turned into more green space.

  • avon

    Even recreational bicyclists like me, who occasionally have places to go uptown, would find 5mph just as frustrating as runners would find 1mph.
    I’m no Lance Armstrong, but I do want to get there without a delay of many minutes on that one stretch each time.

  • avon

    The map makes it look like a 0.6-mile detour up and over hill and dale, probably with all the riverwalk pedestrians crossing it everywhere at any moment.
    Those bicycling through from other neighborhoods may have no idea that a “Riverwalk” ever existed, or that it was there before what the City touts as a “Bikeway” from the Battery to the GWB. The Bikeway is gorgeously scenic and mostly hassle-free all the way; I love it. So I resented the idea of losing a section of it, just months after its last stretches got more or less completed! I was appalled that Transportation Alternatives decided last week to support it, although with a proviso that in low-traffic winter months bikes can use the waterfront. (I’m a Brooklynite who bikes the route every month or so – but if there’s snow or ice.)
    So this one Comment alone was instructive for me. I just urge the folks of the neighborhood to realize that the Riverwalk belong to the City, not to the neighborhood. Even though the City does need to fulfill the needs of the respective neighborhoods, it also needs to provide for the needs of the City including “outsiders” like me!
    By the way, you’re all welcome in my neighborhood. Prospect Park has great walking and bicycling – and is lucky to have plenty of lanes for each.

  • devonbanks

    Infuriating. Have these people never biked to work?

  • Miles Bader

    “Dismount zone”? Just how steep are these hills…?? – -;

  • Miles Bader

    I often joke about Joe R being too fast, but he’s right here. 5mph is ridiculously slow, even for the weakest and most elderly bicyclist on the cheapest worst maintained bike.

    A law that forces people to act in an unnatural manner will generally be ignored, as such a law would be.

  • sammy davis jr jr

    So you don’t oppose making it only seasonal, correct?

  • Chriscc63

    so they will spend $200,000 not to ride a bike on the path permanently.?!

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