Streetfilms: Turning NYC’s Oldest Bridge Into Its Newest Bike-Ped Amenity

At October’s Walk21 Conference, I got the chance to tour the High Bridge, a viaduct connecting Manhattan and the Bronx which has been closed to the public for nearly 40 years.

Opening the High Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists has been a long-held goal for many New Yorkers. (I remember reading about this effort back in 1998, during a postcard campaign directed at then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.) Many community groups, non-profits, and public agencies have advocated for its restoration, including the City Parks Foundation, The High Bridge Coalition, and C.L.I.M.B.

Over the years, many target opening dates have been announced, but recently momentum has really picked up. Very early in 2010, community input and design will finally begin. Then, if all goes well, it shouldn’t be long until we can all walk and bike across this magnificent structure.

  • Ian Turner

    Nice video. What is the background music?

  • Hooray! Are there any other studies, plans, initiatives for missing bike-ped bridges or bridge access in NYC?

  • Hmmm… was reading here that lots of folks are concerned about mixing cyclists and peds, and also how benches if any would be placed.

    Consider all the users (cyclists, peds, people in wheelchairs, children, dog). Is the goal to create a new part of the two parks on either side OR a link between the two parks which is focused on movement? Would it be possible to attach a bike way (or fast path) to one or both sides or use the walkway of some sort which is under the main area we see for fast users?

  • I dont think people in wheelchairs will be able to use the bridge, looks like a lot of stairs are involved.

  • Clarence Eckerson Jr.

    Ian – Music selection is called “Other Worlds” which we bought from the site. We often buy some music in bulk and then use them multiple times. It’s a nice piece, worked well here.

    Jass & Todd – those issues are all part of the on-going dialogue with the community and the design process which begins soon, so if you have input you should get involved at the start.

    I am sure the bridge will be wheelchair-accessible since you can get there right now without using stairs (though it is a long detour) Unlike the High Line this bridge will have bike use, though through the design there may be a way to manage speeds. If you think about the options of riding your bike between Bronx and Upper Manhattan, I’d be thankful for being able to ride across at 5 mph.

    My opinion (and that is all it is): I would have a seating area with benches in the middle at the ends of both sides, leave the rest open. This bridge will not be as busy as the High Line, though there might be more tourist activity on weekends. Weekdays, I’ll bet you’ll see alot of bike and pedestrian commuters at rush hour.

  • For what it’s worth, the bridge will be accessible (on the Manhattan side, at least) to cyclists and wheelchair riders; today you can take a path with a shallow grade from West 165th and Edgecombe north to the Manhattan side of the bridge. It’s on the current NYC bike map, too. At the bridge abutment there is also a very steep staircase that goes down from behind the Highbridge Park Rec Center at West 173rd Street.

  • I think a good starting point for planning the sharing of this bridge would be to consider what would be built if there was no bridge right now and a bit more money.

    There is probably some way to compute how much space is needed for true cyclist + pedestrian comfort vs. pedestrian + pedestrian comfort. I would think a lot more with the former, and on this bridge there is an absolute limit on space flexibility, unless you want to jump over the side (propose it as a location in a future James Bond movie, for a high price, then you can watch him cycleparaglide off the bridge).

    Think about sunset coinciding with bicycle rush hour.

  • Good news and another great streetfilm!

    One tiny semantic note on your title: I try to avoid the word “amenity” for bike/ped facilities. There’s a double standard – car parking/lanes/etc. is/are generally assumed to be a necessary component of the transportation system… bike parking/lanes/etc. is/are often called an “amenity” ie: something nice, but not really needed. We need to make sure that our language asserts bike/ped mobility, convenience and safety as things that are necessary… not merely nice to have.


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