Port Authority Will Widen Bike Pinch Points Around GWB Towers

The Port Authority is adding "wedges" (in blue) to make room for cyclists around the George Washington Bridge's towers. Image: PANYNJ
The Port Authority is adding "wedges" (in blue) to make room for cyclists around the George Washington Bridge's towers. Image: PANYNJ

The Port Authority announced plans yesterday to add some breathing room for biking and walking around the towers on the George Washington Bridge [PDF]. Currently the paths narrow and jog around the towers at tight angles — the new “wedges” will make for a more comfortable ride.

But the Port’s $1.8 billion bridge renovation, set to break ground later this year, won’t otherwise widen the paths, which fall short of engineering standards for two-way bike lanes.

The wedges around the towers will “allow the cyclists to traverse the towers without having to dismount,” Port official Libby McCarthy told board members yesterday.

Yesterday’s announcement comes after 252 people contacted the Port with concerns about the bridge paths. Last week, biking advocacy organizations on both sides of the Hudson sent a letter to Port leadership specifically requesting wider paths around the towers.

At the request of Transportation Alternatives and the New Jersey Bike & Walk Coalition, the Port Authority released a plan in 2014 to route pedestrians and cyclists onto separate sides of the bridge (walkers on the south side, cyclists on the north), replace the north path stairs with ramps, and eliminate a hairpin turn on the south path. The advocates also won continuous pedestrian and bike access throughout the construction period, expected to last seven years.

The updated plan still falls short of the “Complete George” proposal put forward by Neile Weissman, who has called on the Port to add wider paths for bike traffic that would run parallel to the current paths. If the paths aren’t widened, Weissman warns, the bridge won’t be able to accommodate the growing number of people who bike across the bridge, especially on weekends.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Why aren’t people cycling and people walking separated already? There are already two paths aren’t there? The design looks great in general and fixes the worse problems with the current path (though it looks like the bollard spacing is at the entrance tighter than it should be on a bike path) but it looks like it may still have gates and I worry that they won’t keep both sides open all the time.

    Also, like the Manhattan Bridge, I worry that they’ll fail at clear signage and people will be walking on the bike side and cycling on the pedestrian side.

  • Neile Weissman

    While some are selling, and taking credit for, this as a “big win”, the bottom line remains the same. We’re still on track for 9000 cyclists/day on a single 7 foot path by 2024. This is wholly unprecedented, particularly for a facility that meets no known criteria for use as a bike path. By contrast, the most heavily biked bridge in the U. S. was Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge in 2015 at 6300 bikes per day on a pair (2) 10’ paths. http://tinyurl.com/hg4p6qt

    Walkway over the Hudson attracts 500,000 visitors per year. And the firm that did the WOTH economic impact study projects that a GWB linear park will attract 300,000 tourists per year. If 2020-2023 is the only period when peds can access the North Path to take in majestic views of the Palisades, I presume they’ll avail themselves of the once in a lifetime opportunity. http://tinyurl.com/howhova

    As part of her briefing to the Commissioners, Chief Financial Officer Libby McCarthy stated that the wedges will not incur the PA additional expense.

    The 252 emails calling for wider GWB paths were out of 429 total comments on a $32 billion Capital Plan. That’s more than on all other issues, like the Bus Terminal and PATH. In addition, those calling for widened GWB spans comprised 13 out of 80 public speakers. Thanks to all who spoke out.

  • Neile Weissman

    Notes:

    – While some are selling, and taking credit for, this as a “big win”, the bottom line remains the same – we’re still on track for 9000 cyclists/day on a single 7 foot path by 2024.

    – This is wholly unprecedented, particularly for a facility that meets no known criteria for use as a bike path. By contrast, the most heavily biked bridge in the U. S. was Portland’s Hawthorne Bridge in 2015 at 6300 bikes per day on a pair (2) 10’ paths.

    – Walkway over the Hudson attracts 500K visitors per year. And Camoin Associates, the firm that did the WOTH impact study, projects that a GWB linear park will attract 300K tourists per year. If 2020-2023 is the only period when sightseers can access the North Path’s view of the Palisades, I presume they’ll avail themselves of the opportunity.

    – The announced modifications (“wedges”) will still route bikes and pedestrians inside the towers. So this is not so much a widening as an improvement in sightlines.

    – As part of her briefing to the Commissioners, Chief Financial Officer Libby McCarthy stated that the wedges will not incur the PA additional expense.

    – The 252 emails calling for wider GWB paths were out of 429 total comments on a $32 billion Capital Plan. That’s more than on all other issues, like the Bus Terminal and PATH, combined. In addition, those calling for wider GWB paths comprised 13 out of the 80 public speakers. Thanks to all who spoke out.

    completegeorge.org

  • Because the one path has 171 walking steps attached to it

    And there are holes so big in some of the corroded steel stairways that you could fall through one of them.

    And bizarrely, if work is needed on the South Path, the disastrous North Path is the one they make everyone use! Sometimes for weeks at a time with little advance notice.

    It’s kind of a disaster. A lot of this should have been addressed more than 20 years ago.

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