Henry Hudson Bridge Path Re-Opens — With a Cycling Ban

hudson_bike_ban.jpgThe view of the Henry Hudson path from the Bronx side. Photo: James Rather

Residents of Northern Manhattan and the west Bronx have been waiting more than three years for the re-opening of the bike-ped path on the lower deck of the Henry Hudson Bridge. When the moment finally came earlier this summer, however, cyclists got a nasty surprise: MTA Bridges and Tunnels still won’t allow biking on the bridge.

The Henry Hudson provides a safer crossing over the Harlem River for cyclists than the nearest alternative, the Broadway Bridge. But, as signs on both ends of the path announce, cycling is not allowed. Here’s what happened to reader James Rather when he recently tried to bike across:

As soon as I rode on to the path from the Inwood side, an MTA tollboth officer left his booth, looked at me, and screamed, “Walk the bike!” I yelled, “excuse me?” and he says, “You heard me, NO BIKES.” There you have it.

With this policy in effect, there is no decent and safe crossing between Upper Manhattan and the Bronx — Broadway is unsafe and the Broadway Bridge actually requires that you dismount as well, unless you want to take your chance on the roadway, with most experienced riders choosing the latter option.

MTA Bridges and Tunnels spokesperson Judie Glave said the agency’s guidelines prohibit bike riding on paths no wider than 10 feet. “Our pathways are all pedestrian walkways,” she said, including the Triborough Bridge path and the Marine Parkway Bridge path, which connects to the Rockaways. “They’re not wide enough to accommodate bike riders and walkers at the same time.”

The Henry Hudson Bridge has repeatedly been identified by public agencies as a critical link in greenway plans going all the way back to 1992 [PDF], but the MTA wasted their chance to build a wider path that will accommodate rising demand for walking and cycling. “The growing number of people riding into the West Side need to be factored in,” said Caroline Samponaro of Transportation Alternatives. “The construction of the Henry Hudson Bridge, which cyclists eagerly anticipated for more than three years, was an opportunity to build capacity
for current and future levels of bike commuting.”

Even with the current accommodations for walking and biking, the MTA’s 10-foot rule strikes advocates as arbitrary, contrary to the green goals laid out in the agency’s sustainability plan, and unnecessary, especially given today’s level of pedestrian and bike traffic. The NYCDOT-managed Pulaski Bridge, linking Brooklyn and Queens, is less than nine feet wide and sees much more bicycle and pedestrian traffic than the Henry Hudson. “The Pulaski used to have dismount signs,” said Samponaro. “The bicycle volume made that completely untenable. It’s certainly within the purview of the MTA to be able to change that policy.”

henry_hudson_steps.jpgMounting stairs on the Bronx side of the path. Photo: James Rather
bike_traffic_prohibited.jpgOn the Inwood side of the path, one sign announces, “Bicycle Traffic Prohibited.” Photo: James Rather
  • Jeremy

    I live not one minute from the riverdale side of the HHB. And after walking across with a stroller, stopping to let cyclists pass, and later walking over the RR tracks, and through Inwood Hill Park, it is clear that this route is unreasonable when it comes to commuting to work (and forget about coming home through there after dark).

    I still go down to Broadway and take the bridge because its just a more convenient route. I agree that efforts should be focused on making the (relatively short) Broadway bridge bike friendly, in addition to fixing the roadways just south of it (the potholes are so ridiculous, I spend so much time looking down to avoid them, I consistently run the upcoming red light by mistake).

    Frankly, I don’t find crossing the bridge all too uncomfortable in traffic, but some kind of bike path, markings, etc. certainly can’t hurt.

  • Steve F

    1. Robert Moses is the Darth Vader of urban planning. Moses started out as a Good Government Jedi Knight – but he was kinky from the start – and got sucked in the by the Dark Side during WW II.

    2. There was no ADA planning for the Triboro. The TBTA just stated that the anchorage stairs could be replaced by ramps and left it at that. Reality, based on my experience with the Brooklyn Bridge stairs-to-ramps rebuild in the 1980’s, the Triboro paths could have been ramped up to the stairs at about 4 percent grade. Now, millions have been wasted on rebuilding the same old stairs. The Queens end can still be ramped, but it will lead to those brand new stairs.

    3. Inwood Park has been captured by bike haters. Frankly, I think they don’t want any people or paths at all in the park! Protecting the off-path portions of the park is a valid goal, but the road cyclists that are supposedly scorching the HH path are not going to be riding in the woods, they stay on the paths. No doubt, the climb up to the HH toll plaza is very high and steep, but hardly a fatal flaw. By the way, there are other paths in the park that avoid the stairs over the railroad, but do involve even more hill climbing. And nothing says that the railroad bridge cannot have a ramp installed.

    4. The Henry Hudson Bridge is in violation of the ADA. The only restriction on wheelchair and disabled access is the very short set of stairs on the Riverdale end. Those stairs can be replaced by a ramps at reasonable cost, the space is there. One issue the B&T/TBTA may have with full roll on-roll off path access is motorcycles sneaking up onto the path. Providing access for hand-cycles and adult tricycles would leave an opening wide enough for motorcycles. Toll plaza end controls? While Inwood park has long and relatively steep paths, there are fully rolling accessible paths on the Manhattan side.

    5. The HH upper level path ends in mid air over the Manhattan toll plaza. The HH offices were rebuilt and extended during this latest rehab project. It would have been easy to attach a ramp down from the upper level path alongside the expanded office building to bring the path down to the east side of the toll plaza. There are nearby paths to connect to from this point. This was a case of not wanting to do it, rather than can’t do it.

    6. AASHTO has bicycle GUIDELINES – not laws! They recommend minimums. Unfortunately, one, the minimum is too often what we get, even if more is needed and feasible, and two, engineers, like the B&T, use the recommended minimums as a weapon to prevent access. There are reasonable exceptions to all these guidelines where pre-existing structural or topographic conditions prevent reaching the minimum. For example, NY State highway guidelines allow for pathways alongside steep roadways to match the roadway grade, even if steeper than ADA guidelines. As others have noted, there are many bridge crossings in NYC that are below the AASHTO “minimums.” The narrow and/or steep paths are proof of why AASHTO recommends wider paths, yet what we have still successfully allow cyclists and pedestrians to cross major barriers. Should the paths be wider – hell yes, when they can be rebuilt. The goal of AASHTO and ADA is to do your best, but the B&T goal is to do nothing, or failing that, do the least they can get away with.

  • BicycleTaxi

    any new worf on this ???


The Bicycle Uprising, Part 4

This is the fourth installment in a multi-part series looking back at the victory over the Midtown bike ban, 25 years ago. Read parts one, two, and three for an overview of the bike ban, the advocacy of the 1970s and 80s, and the aftermath of the ban. Activists are planning a September 28 bike ride and forum […]