Labor Day Bonus Pic: Hudson River Greenway Bollard at Work

Bollards! Photo: Transportation Alternatives
Without a bollard, what would have been the next thing or person in this car's path? Photo: Transportation Alternatives

Via Gothamist — check out this bollard on the Hudson River Greenway at work.

One of the strange and dangerous things about the greenway is that car traffic crosses the car-free path at several points. Twice in 2006, motorists killed people using the greenway. On December 1, 2006, cyclist Eric Ng was run down by Eugenio Cidron, who was speeding on the greenway at 60 mph for a mile after driving away drunk from a party at Chelsea Piers. Earlier that year, Dr. Carl Henry Nacht was killed by an NYPD tow truck operator entering the tow pound at 38th Street.

A year after Ng’s death, Transportation Alternatives issued a call on Streetsblog for safety improvements to the greenway, including the installation of fixed bollards, like this one, to keep motorists from driving onto the car-free path.

I look at this picture and feel a mix of reassurance, satisfaction, and terror. How is it possible for someone to run into one of these high-contrast yellow-and-black plugs, about the height of a toddler, in broad daylight?

Streetsblog will be offline Monday and back publishing on Tuesday. Enjoy the long weekend, folks.

  • Wow — idiot-proof! Have a good holiday, Streetsblog.

  • digamma

    Gothamist says they got the photo from Streetsblog, and Streetsblog says they got the photo from Gothamist. When was it taken and by whom?

  • Actually, everyone says they got the photo from TransAlt.

  • There are so many places in this city where pedestrians desperately need a physical barrier to protect us from cars. Even if bollards can’t be built everywhere, it would be great to generate a prioritized list of sensitive spots where protection with true car-stopping power is most badly needed.

  • tech guy

    It’s hard to see the bollards when you are busy talking or texting.

  • Exile

    Needs a big sign “Airbag test zone”

  • Tralfaz

    Maybe it was a case of spontaneous photo generation.

  • That car had to be going at least 20MPH to be that damaged by the bollard, right?

  • Cap’n Transit, not necessarily. Cars are designed to crumple as a safety feature (it absorbs energy). You can actually get that level of damage at 10mph. It depends on the make and model.

  • archie

    My opinion about bollards on bike paths changed immensely after reading this, albeit maybe isolated, story:

    Obviously if there is a risk of cars entering the trail bollards may have a net benefit, but they don’t come entirely without risks.

  • JK

    Transportation Alternatives asked the State DOT and Hudson River Park to install car-stopping bollards on the Hudson River Greenway as far back as the 1990’s. Ironically, the State DOT refused citing the danger they posed to bicyclists.(Which some bicyclists sadly echoed apparently never having seen cars drive on the path, or had confidence in their ability to avoid stationary objects or been on one of the thousands of other bike paths with bollards.) It is troubling to know that had SDOT installed the bollards, Eric Ng would be alive today. Even before the Hudson River Greenway opened,Transportation Alternatives requested that the Hudson River Greenway be striped and marked with colors and markings that emphasized it is a non-motorized path, not a road. Unfortunately, the current double yellow line markings do make it appear to be a road. And, before the Greenway opened and repeatedly since then, TA has asked the SDOT needs to narrow the car crossings at the Circle Line Ferry and NY Waterways Ferry. The design allows vehicles to make high speed turns, and the turning lane on West Side Highway/Street gives motorists a green light to turn right into cyclists who also have a green light. To its credit, SDOT has made some greenway crossings safer, but given the (predictably) very high volume of greenway users, more needs to be done. As a frequent greenway user, I sometimes wonder if the leadership of the Hudson River Park Trust actually bikes or skates on the greenway. The generally poor signage, marking and dangerous crossings, suggest they either don’t or don’t care.

  • Glenn

    I agree with JK that the double yellow line makes the Greenway look like a cute little street for cars.

  • JW

    given the spacing between the bollard and the side of the path there is still plenty of room for a motorist to make it past. just look at the photo above.

  • Yeah, the double yellow line is a very bad idea.

  • “Ey yo, your honor, dat **** ******* bollard came outta nowherez and…marone!…did this to mah baby. Since when did ********** ***** bikers getz moh rights den a taxpayah like me. Dat ain’t right! Badabing!”

  • Ugghh!

    It is the common belief amongst most bicycle and pedestrian design professionals that fixed bollards pose a greater collision threat to cyclists than do errant cars. Does Streetsblog or TA have any stats on how many cyclists have crashed into these fixed bollards and sustained serious injury?!?! WITHOUT any statistics to back them up, I think it boarders upon irresponsibility for these organizations to advocate for something that most professional in the field believe creates a greater hazard.

    If you think that bollard did a number on that car, imagine what the results may have been if a cyclist hit it at any speed!

  • If youre a cyclist and cant avoid a big yellow bollard… shouldnt be on a bike.

  • On the Bike Victoria (Australia) site, there’s a nice list of Bad Things That Can Happen When You Put a Bollard in a Bike Lane:

    If objects are placed in the middle of a path, riders could:
    • hit the objects and crash, often suddenly and over the front of the bike;
    • snag their pedals or handlebars on the object and crash;
    • swerve to avoid the object and crash;
    • be forced into the travel path of another path user and collide with them; or
    • be unable to negotiate the resulting two narrow openings remaining either side of the obstacle. This is especially true for those with child trailers or three wheeled bikes (recumbent bikes and tricycles).

    How many of these calamities can you easily envision happening at the site pictured on a summer weekend morning?

  • Woody

    It’s also confusing when the signal lights are placed high above the street but the bollards are below straight-ahead line of sight. Usually I keep my eyes closer to the road surface — I was upended by a garden-variety pothole in January — and I’d prefer if the signals were about also about 5 feet above the paved surface. We’d probably need two sets, in that case, with one high overhead for the drivers.

  • Steve Faust

    Andy B & Co, bike planners are very aware of the dangers of bollards, but also the dangers of cars on bike paths. The worst crash I have ever had on a bike was being hit by a car on the Cross Island Parkway – the BIKE PATH!

    The Bike Victoria hit list is correct on the bad news but not thorough in it’s analysis. Bollards in 8 foot paths don’t leave much passing room, but neither do 6 foot cars on narrow 8 foot bike paths.
    The Hudson River bikeway has about 12 ft of pavement and another pair of 2 ft buffers, for about 16 feet between the “landscaping” curbs. That means there is about 8 feet on each side of that bollard, plenty of room for a bike trailer – or a car if they enter slowly. Big dangers to cyclists come from using two bollards, each would sit right in the middle of your side of the path, and who gets to use the center space, a bad idea.
    The center bollard used here is right on the double yellow center line that no-one is supposed to be riding (or driving) on anyway. If you are on or crossing that center line, you should be paying attention – as that driver was not.

    Another bollard danger is from the base of removable bollards – to open for maintenance and emergency vehicles. Some bases are flush with the pavement when the bollard is removed, other bases stick up an inch or three, which is very hard to see but more than enough to send a cyclist flying. This happened at a missing bollard around 58th St a few years ago. I think the base has been removed since then.

    There is good reason that the Hudson River cycleway looks like a roadway, and that’s because a good bike path for high volumes of bike traffic needs to function like a narrow 25 MPH country road. There needs to be room to ride side by side and still room for faster cyclists to pass slower cyclists. This requires the 16 feet provided, but sure, it looks like a roadway to some drivers. As noted above, the DOT and Hudson River Park has been told repeatedly that the entrances and crossings of the path have to be carefully designed so that cars are not attracted to enter and make it physically hard to enter, without creating a hazard for cyclists.

    I think that some pavement color paint, I prefer bright blue, along with curb line arrangements and yes, some bollards, would make the path less inviting to turn into, and more visible to crossing cars. But there should still be a center line to provide guidance to cyclists, day and night, to be traveling on the right and be careful overtaking slower bicycle traffic that should be riding to the right side.

    Woody #19 suggests lowering the bike path traffic signals down into cyclists line of vision. Absolutely Correct! This is exactly what is used in Copenhagen, Denmark along their cycletracks. Bike signal lights that are lower, with a unique shape of fixture, will make them easier for cyclists to see and not be confused with the car signals.

    The current Hudson River bike signals are “way up” on the poles, about the same height as car signals and installed in the same signal hardware, so not only do cyclists miss seeing them, particularly as they get close to the intersection, but drivers can mistake them for car traffic signals. Really, those nice little bike silhouettes are cute, but from a distance they just read as red or green lights. The shape of the fixture should be different from the car signals.

    The NYC DOT staff have one good argument against low signal mounting, they fear the low lights will be vandalized if they are in easy reach. My take on that issue is to do dual mounting – keep the existing high bike signal lights and add new eye level bike signals. If the low light is vandalized, there will still be the high light working until repairs can be made. Who knows, maybe the Vandals and Huns will leave the low lights alone? Cyclists are dieing to find out.


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