CB 7 Endorses Year-Round Parks Department Greenway Detour

79th_rotunda
The detour will compel cyclists to climb an incline at the 79th Street Rotunda. The Parks Department could not say how steep these slopes are. Image: NYC Parks Department

Based on scant justification from the Parks Department, yesterday Manhattan Community Board 7 voted in favor of a permanent detour for cyclists along the Hudson River Greenway between 72nd Street and 83rd Street. Amendments to keep the main path accessible to cyclists during off-peak times either failed or were not considered, in part because board chairs Roberta Semer and Klari Neuwelt were in a hurry to finish the meeting.

The detour would take cyclists off the flat path by the river and route them onto a hilly trail that ascends a steep incline by the 79th Street Rotunda. It would also put bike traffic within a few feet of motorists exiting the Henry Hudson Parkway near the 79th Street boat basin.

The Parks Department, which controls this part of the greenway, says the detour is necessary to reduce conflicts between people walking and people on bikes. But while crowding is undoubtedly a problem at some times, Parks provided no data to assess when it is most severe or how it affects people. Nor did the agency provide quantitative information about how its detour plan, which would be in effect 24 hours a day year-round, would affect cyclists.

The Parks Department wants to start the detour, which is supported by City Council Member Helen Rosenthal, next year.

Last night CB 7 rejected amendments that would have made the greenway available to cyclists when pedestrian traffic is low, at night and during cold weather. One of the amendments would have passed if Semer and Neuwelt had been a little more patient, reports board member Ken Coughlin:

When they carved out the two parts of the amendment — hourly and seasonal — they should have started with the more radical provision, the hourly change, then gone to the more inclusive one, seasonal. The vote for seasonal … failed, but because of the reversal in the logical order of voting on the two parts of the amendment, a longstanding board member was confused and failed to vote for seasonal even though he supported it. The two chairs running the meeting were apparently aware of this but refused to agree to a re-vote because they were anxious to get on with the meeting, despite the strenuous protestations of former chair Mel Wymore about the reversal in voting order. If there had been a re-vote, the seasonal amendment would have passed. [The vote was 20-20 with one abstention, according to Coughlin, which is one vote shy of passing.]

Then, also in the interest of getting on with the meeting, the chairs refused to allow me to offer another amendment, which would have been for a summertime pilot of the reroute before committing to year-round.

So because some CB 7 members wanted to get home a little earlier than they would have had the process been allowed to play out properly, cyclists will be forced to endure a substandard and arguably dangerous reroute year-round. I have never seen such a bungled vote and disregard of parliamentary procedure in my seven and a half years on the board.

Attorney Steve Vaccaro, who attended the meeting, said some opponents of the detour were not allowed to speak. Some ceded their allotted time to Vaccaro, but Semer and Neuwelt cut him off several minutes before his time was up. Vaccaro said limitations imposed on public input last night were inconsistent with what was “commonly allowed among opponents to the Columbus and Amsterdam avenue bike lanes in past board meetings.”

“The other truly appalling departure from past procedure is that there was no organized empirical investigation of the problem this detour purports to fix,” said Vaccaro. “Parks Department personnel could not say what the pedestrian or cyclist volumes were; what the numbers, times, or places of any collisions or other incidents were; what the grade of the hilly detour was or whether it met federal or other design standards for multi-use paths.”

“Compare this CB’s exacting scrutiny of DOT proposals for protected bike paths on Columbus and Amsterdam,” he said. “Years of delay because the board thought the DOT studies and analysis did not adequately address the potential traffic implications.”

  • Bob

    The approved changes will in no way reduce conflicts between bikes and pedestrians. Bikes will now be forced onto paths that will be shared with pedestrians. The hilly path with many curves will result in more problems. Poor sight lines will make accidents more likely. There are good ways to make changes and there are bad ways. I would suggest the administrators of Riverside Park look to the Prospect Park example of including all park users in the planning phase. I was at the meeting and was embarrassed for the community board and the Parks Dept. They looked like rank amateurs.

  • Alec

    other than the customary opening week ticket blitz, there will be zero enforcement, and zero compliance, especially during the quiet hours.

  • Guest

    Community Board members actually are amateurs…

  • AMH

    Let’s hope not. The last thing we need is another excuse to hand out bogus tickets.

  • AMH

    I saw a camera last night — is video of the proceedings available online?

  • LN

    This morning there were two cars and a truck parked on the narrow path they propose us to ride. I am not going to detour at nights and in bad weather so I guess they’ll have to ticket me, because I choose my own safety over this ridiculous plan.

    A little bit of effort at moving some rocks, signage and repainting lanes would have sufficed to fix this sometimes-problem

    Right here on streetsblog is a long history of NYC Parks not fixing the most dangerous parts of the West Side Greenway – car conflicts, no lighting on cherry walk, inconsistent lane striping, unannounced and confusing temporary detours.

    I also want to point out that the only time I’ve heard of pedestrians and cyclists being recently assaulted or mugged is in what will be the pedestrian area on this plan. If cyclists are not riding along here, it will be an even more dangerous area at night for both pedestrians and cyclists.

  • AlexWithAK

    Who wants to bet there will be complaints and collisions resulting from cyclists flying down the downgrades as they re-merge with the path along the river? This is what you get when people with no expertise in this area make these kinds of decisions.

  • Kevin Love

    Parks Dept personnel are not.

  • JamesR

    This is because Parks does not see itself as being in the transportation business. If we’re considering the Greenway a transportation facility (which it is), then it is under the jurisdiction of the wrong City agency. DOT, somehow, needs a voice at the decisionmaking table here, but I’m not sure what the mechanism for that would be.

  • Maggie

    The original participatory budgeting proposal that got 873 votes for $200,000 in funding is so different from what Herrold and Bracken presented.

    Hudson Greenway Bike Safety Improvements in Riverside Park
    (sic)

    The improvements will include: signage, pavement markings, gates and bollards where required, and repave and regrade sections of the existing park paths to accommodate an alternative bike route to alleviate congestion.

    That was accompanied by two summertime photos of casual bikers out enjoying the riverside path.

    Even after 873 people voted for a PB project with regrading and repaving and alleviating congestion, which isn’t what was delivered, and 2000 people signed a petition asking for big adjustments to the plan, I was startled that on a $200,000 project, not one of the project stewards thought to use a FREE app and cycle the proposed bike route, ever, to check what grade they’re asking the city’s cyclists to use, 24/7, year round.

    Hopefully the proposal undergoes an EIS, gets weighed against other parts of Riverside Park that need work desperately, and gets shelved or fully specced out and properly funded.

    I’ve been trying to nudge my 68-year-old parents to substitute trips by bike for some of their driving. It isn’t easy. Flat paths and common-sense, open-to-all attitudes with infrastructure that’s designed with an 8-80-year-old view are really needed.

  • KeNYC2030

  • J

    Years of study and analysis are required to create safe and convenient bike facilities, but anecdotes and hasty decisions suffice for permanent downgrades to bike facilities. Seriously, this couldn’t wait a few more weeks to actually have some data and analysis. Shameful.

  • MatthewEH

    I don’t like being a scofflaw. Since I’m coming from and heading to the west 110s anyway, I’m hoping that by the time this detour is in place, the upcoming Riverside Boulevard connection to West 59th will be in place, and I can use that to get to and from park pathways in upper Riverside Park (that is, above/east of the highway) and just avoid this part of the greenway altogether.

  • Tenzing Norgay

    The hill at the 79th Street Rotunda should be renamed “Mt. Rosenthal”

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    In terms of bike path design I wouldn’t be so sure.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    No sort of significant regrading was ever going to be achieved for $200,000. If that was what they had people voting for during PB they were lying.

  • HamTech87

    I know of a few people sorry they didn’t vote for Mel Wymore.

  • qrt145

    I took the detour this morning to see what the fuss is about.

    While I agree with the complaints about Parks not treating the greenway as transportation, the ridiculousness of the CB vote, and all that, I think the notion that this is some kind of insurmountably steep hill is unfounded. I’m hardly the King of the Mountains, but I thought the effort nothing to write home about. A tiny stretch of it is a bit steep, but it is so short that with some momentum (starting at about 12 mph) and a couple of strokes of the pedals it’s over. I didn’t even bothered shifting gears.

  • Maggie

    Here’s her page describing the project that people voted for. http://helenrosenthal.com/2015-winning-projects/ (second item)

  • Elizabeth F

    The devil is in the details and the budgets — both capital and ongoing.

    Doing this change well requires a one-time capital expenditure to regrade the path near the rotunda.

    Keeping it working will require that Parks Dept now keep TWO paths clear of snow all winter instead of ONE. Are they prepared to do that? If not, consider your options as a biker in the middle of January… take a path by the river that is snow-free and ALMOST COMPLETELY DESERTED; or take an inland path with a foot of snow. The choice is easy. And I dare any cop to sit out there in zero-degree weather to ticket bikers for making that choice.

  • Jesse

    Careful. You don’t want to give them any ideas.

  • KeNYC2030

    A woman I know who rides a Dutch-style bike can’t make it up the hill. When I tried it on a Citi Bike, I was able to do it but it was challenging, and I’m a very fit and experienced cyclist.

  • KeNYC2030

    There is no money for regrading, now or in the foreseeable future. Re the possibility of crazy ticketing, a cop gave a ticket to a 65-year-old woman cyclist of my acquaintance for making a right on red at a deserted intersection in January at 7 am when it was 19 degrees out. Anything is possible.

  • Maggie

    Did you see vehicle traffic on the detour? I walked it this morning – south along the river: saw 10 cyclists, felt calm and safe. North up over the boat basin rotunda: in a 3 minute walk I encountered that steep grade, two Parks John Deere tractors, two full size heavy duty commercial trucks on the one-lane path, a minivan with Connecticut plates on the “bikes only” path, & an unleashed dog running around.

  • qrt145

    I didn’t see vehicles, dogs, or people. Maybe it was the time or day, or maybe my luck.

  • AMH

    I was glad that many people pointed this out at the meeting. Apparently it didn’t do any good though.

  • AMH

    Someone said exactly this at the meeting. No one listened.

  • AMH

    That sounds like it will be a great route.

  • MatthewEH

    It should be. The thing that spoils it right now is having to go out to West End Ave and back. Even for just 1-2 blocks, that part of West End is under heavy construction and otherwise trafficky and terrible. But if you can take Riverside Boulevard from 72nd all the way through to 59th? Total game-changer.

  • MatthewEH

    Did you do the detour southbound? The upward pitch to the rotunda is actually more of a dramatic change in the northbound direction, fwiw. Not an apples-and-oranges difference, though.

  • MatthewEH

    Hah. Though the plus side of using a Citi Bike for this is that if you climb the incline and then actually leave the park via 79th Street, Citi Bike tires are wide enough that the pavement conditions on the rotunda and the access road are actually tolerable instead of being completely bone-jarring.

  • Katrina

    Years of analysis and study gone to waste. Haste makes waste! But then again, it would be a totally bad idea to take a detour. 😀

  • MatthewEH

    I’m necromancing the thread here, but I have thought of one thing:

    If cyclist get a hard ban on off-leash dogs in this part of the park — even before 9 AM or after 9 PM — then at least there are glimmers of a compromise here. Not that many people take their dogs down to this part of the park to begin with, as compared to the parts of the park above the parkway, but I have seen unleashed dogs on the main greenway here before, and it’s seemed… unwise.

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