Central Park Roadways Will Get More Room for Cyclists and Pedestrians

Above, a rendering of the type of roadway redesign that will be implemented in Central Park to expand space for cyclists and pedestrians. Image: DOT

This evening, DOT, the Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy announced a change to road configurations in Central Park similar to recent changes in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park. The plan [PDF] would double available pedestrian space and bring the installation of plastic posts to separate cyclists from walkers and joggers.

DOT said that it has notified local elected officials and community board leadership of the proposal and will begin implementation in October.

Lane configurations would vary within the park, but would in most locations reduce the number of motor vehicle lanes to provide more space for pedestrians and cyclists.

When reached via phone earlier today before the changes were officially announced, a spokesperson for Gale Brewer said the Upper West Side council member, a long-time advocate for car-free parks, would welcome a roadway design similar to what has been implemented in Prospect Park.

Transportation Alternatives also voiced support for the design. “Parks are for people and that’s why we’ve long supported a car-free Central Park,” TA said in a statement earlier today. “However, in the meantime, separate spaces could help. It’s a proven fact that separate spaces for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers keep everyone out of each other’s way and out of harm’s way.”

  • My preference would be for a buffer that separates bikes from cars. I think the speed of cyclists should be such that they’d have no problem sharing such a wide area with pedestrians. Call me idealistic but a cycling facility for should be fit for all cyclists, of all ages and abilities.

    I like this quote from Mark Wagenbuur of Bicycle Dutch “Two bad things don’t make one good, but some… really believe it is better to have the choice between two not so good [bike facility] options than to have nothing at all. From our Dutch perspective we did not quite follow that line of thinking. “(Let me say that my comment is made as an outsider, I’ve never been to NYC but this is my impression from my perspective on bicycle planning.)

  • Ex-driver

    They’ve already done something like this to the 72nd Street cross drive.  The result is traffic congestion in the one lane that remains open to motor vehicles, which foments road rage.  Get the cars out of the park already!

  • Walk Eagle Rock: Central Park has some long sloped sections where cyclists can easily keep up with motorists and the park is popular with amateur racers who train there. The speed of cyclists is significantly greater than that of pedestrians so separating the three modes of transport makes sense to me.

    (Also a minor issue in the article: the lane reconfiguration will _increase_ the number of vehicle lanes, although it may decrease the number of motor vehicle lanes.)

  • Anonymous

    @twitter-250412845:disqus Nice catch; I changed the wording.

  • Albert

    Whether this particular new lane configuration is the “best” one or not, my hope is that a reduction in motor vehicle lanes will slow cars enough that the loop’s usefulness to drivers as a shortcut will dwindle.  The number of cars using the loop will then dwindle as well, until there’s no longer enough of a car constituency left to stave off the inevitable total car ban.

    (Soon, Ken!)

  • Anonymous

    Anything that marginalizes the vehicles in the park is a good thing, but really all this chanellization of people with garish road markings is not in keeping with a free, human spirit that a park is meant to engender.  I’d like to think that the car ban that will someday come is being held in abeyance until such time as the greater society decides it has had enough of cars and all the negative impacts they bring with them.  Then the ban can join a synergy of major moves to get people’s minds out of the driver’s seat.  We can expect this well within this decade as fuel supplies fail to keep up with demand (production of crude has been flat since 2005).  When that happens, Joe motorist is last in line for access to the stuff. The park ban will be one of many signals that the fossil fuel fiesta is winding down.

  • This has worked well in Prospect Park and I’m happy to see it done in Central Park, except that … why the &!%$ can’t we just get rid of car already?!?!  I mean, it’s a PARK.

  • Ian Turner

    Wow, I am super excited about this!

  • JuanitoB

    perhaps now the runners will now stay out of the bike lane when there are cars in the park. they never seem to respect that the outer lane is for bikes and when you remind them, they get so angry and defensive about it. 

  • Debbie R.

    Nice idea, but how about the pedi-cabs?  They take up the most room, seem oblivious to oncoming cyclists as they turn into and out of the bike lane to show passengers the sights, and when they are where they are supposed to be (all the way to the right), they crowd the cars into the bike lane, creating very dangerous conditions on the lower loop when the rest of the park is closed to traffic during the day. I see no accommodation for them in this design. 

  • Anonymous

    Have to say, this setup is far from perfect in Prospect Park, but it’s still much better than it was before, particularly in terms of calming drivers and putting fewer pedestrians in the bike lane.

  • Anonymous

    @dced0f930518f402277f3e4d73a5b1f9:disqus I hate the idea that something “foments road rage.” If someone can’t control himself because he’s caught in a little traffic then that’s reason enough to separate cyclists and pedestrians from drivers.  I shouldn’t have to share A PARK with psychopaths who can’t control themselves!

  • Runner&Cyclist

    When the park is closed to traffic, this problem could have been mostly addressed by simply requiring cyclists to keep to the far right side of the road when cars are not present. For some reason, even when the park is closed to cars most cyclists still ride all the way over in the far left side of the car lane closest to the recreation lanes, with many of them riding as close as possible to the recreation lanes or even IN the recreation lanes. Its as if they are afraid they’ll lose a few seconds off of their all important imaginary “race time” if they were forced to use common sense and keep to the right.

  • Anonymous

    It will be interesting to see how this works in Central Park, especially at the south end, in the company of horse drawn carriages and bike taxis and throngs of out-of-towners with no familiarity of the park, but I’ve been amazed at how well this has worked in Prospect Park. It’s better than I had expected to the point that I’m finding the cars to be tolerable even when they are present. Runners and cyclists are not competing for the same narrow strip of road while cars, with too much space, speed next to them. It makes the park loop usable during a prime exercise time from 5PM to 7PM in the post work day period when there is still enough light most of the year. In fact I’m finding there are fewer cars and they have slowed considerably. By channeling the cyclists into a narrower steadier stream the road configuration is almost self-enforcing discouraging pedestrians from hanging out in the section of road dedicated to bicycles making it easier and safer to use at all times, even during peak periods of park use.

  • Anonymous

    If it improves safety and the ability for all to enjoy the park I’m all for it.

  • Albert

    wkgreen: “…in Prospect Park…I’m finding there are fewer cars and they have slowed considerably.”

    This is great to hear, and it bodes well for the hoped-for scenario mentioned in my earlier comment!

  • J

    This is a common sense solution, and I’ve been advocating it for years. WIthout the ability to pass slower vehicles, speeds in Central Park are limited by the prudent driver. This makes the park far less attractive as a shortcut, reducing the number of vehicles that use it. Fewer drivers in the park, means fewer people will care if it is closed to vehicles.

    I’m also glad that all the groups that supported this change reiterated that this is another step towards a car-free park. Well done, all around.

  • Anonymous

    @183d477fef327c38e3fad8030f2a1659:disqus Why would it be “common sense” to ride in the far right, when the law says pass on the left, and the clearly marked bike lane is on the left? Yes, there is a “park rule” that says that during car-free days bikes are supposed to go on the car lanes, but it is almost impossible to find that rule even if you look for it. You have to go deep into the park’s website, or read the really fine print posted at some park entrances. I’d bet that most people don’t know about that rule.

  • vnm

    This is great! Up until this point, the jogging path, separated off to the side of the road, has been filled with walkers. The “bike lane” has been filled with runners. And the car lanes have been filled with cars, during rush hours. That means cyclists trying to use the park to commute, like myself, have been marginalized, literally, in the small striped margin between the bike-lane-filled-with-joggers and the motor vehicle lanes.

    I agree with the point Emily Litella raises about how parks are supposed to be a place where people can enjoy freedom.  Contravening that fact is that right now the park loop drive is nominally “one way,” counterclockwise, with cyclists, runners, and motorists all supposedly going southbound on the west drive and northbound on the east drive. But there’s a persistent salmoning problem, among cyclists and even more so among runners. So the next step should be to get rid of the motor vehicle lane entirely (which doesn’t move many people but takes up a lot of space!) and make all the jogging and bike lanes two-directional.

  • vnm

    Whoops! This does make the running lane two-directional already.  Excellent!  That should happen for cyclists too.

  • Jesse Greene

    Thank you Daily News?

  • Max Power

    What’s with the sharrow marking? Do they expect motorists and fast cyclists to share that part of the road?

  • Joe R.

    @twitter-22713583:disqus “My preference would be for a buffer that separates bikes from cars. I think the speed of cyclists should be such that they’d have no problem sharing such a wide area with pedestrians. Call me idealistic but a cycling facility for should be fit for all cyclists, of all ages and abilities.”

    Except that what you describe is the antithesis of cycling facility “fit for all cyclists, of all ages and abilities.” Any time you require cyclists to share space with pedestrians, you’re basically marginalizing not only the fastest cyclists, but even many of the middling ones. You’re right that a cycling facility should accommodate cyclists of all ages and abilities. That includes the so-called “spandexed speedsters” whom some on this site regularly deride. Believe it or not, it takes a huge amount of time, mental strength, and ability to tolerate physical discomfort to get to the point where you can ride a bike at a good clip. I’m more than a little tired of the type of cyclist who does this being marginalized by those who feel everyone should ride at jogging pace all the time. The parks are for everyone. That especially includes faster riders who really have no place else in the borough of Manhattan where they can ride unimpeded at speed for long intervals. Indeed, even on the streets of the outer boroughs, like Eastern Queens where I live, you need to go out late at night to be able to enjoy fast, mostly uninterrupted riding. Outside of Central Park, there’s literally no place in the borough of Manhattan for these fast riders to go, and yet you’re prepared to marginalize them there.

  • JK

    Why should pedestrians be walking on the park drive when they have numerous interior paths and the very wide, and the excellent, underused, bridal path? This measure is inconsistent with the history of the drives — which were built for carriages, not pedestrians. It also would appear to marginalizes faster cyclists, who have had a home in the park for more than a century. Where are faster cyclists supposed to ride under this scheme? Nowhere?

  • Anonymous

    @2555783a6f62598b6aadd2d882a4830f:disqus , your argument is strikingly similar of those drivers that complain 30mph limits on certain streets are bad because they own a sports cars, they like to push the pedal and can’t take the full joy of driving at whatever space they deem fit within the city.

    One could argue about private helicopter pilots that are forbidden on taking low-altitude fly-by on inhabited areas, or roller-blade riders and skaters complaining pedestrians clog their fast-paced moving.

    Maybe if you want to be a fast bicycle rider your place of residence is not a dense urban area, but something like some Central Oregon town. 

  • Anonymous

    @77dd00db93265cc480eeb02d3429821a:disqus Faster cyclists should just go to somewhere in Long Island or New Jersey, period. For the same reason car drivers wanting full Interstate standards ROWs for tens of miles on a ROW can’t do so between Inglewood and Battery Park, but have to resort to some drive in NJ.

  • Joe R.

    @andrelot:disqus There’s a huge difference between people wanting to push the limits of their sports cars versus people wanting to ride a bicycle flat out. You can certainly accommodate 20 to 30 mph cyclists on the same road in the park which is already accommodating motor traffic which usually moves faster than that. On the other hand, autobahns are the only public roads which can really accommodate sports cars driven flat out.

    And your argument that fast cyclists should just go to rural areas to ride is both insulting and ridiculous. Most rural roads are plain dangerous for cyclists, period. Traffic moves at 60 mph inches past as you ride a narrow shoulder. It’s much safer to ride on city streets, and I can do so at my pace without creating safety issues for anyone. Motor traffic almost always goes faster than I’m physically capable of riding on regular city streets, so exactly what’s the problem here? Besides that, ever think some of these fast cyclists aren’t riding for sport, but are actually using their bike to go somewhere? Yes, some people use bikes for transportation over distances far in excess of the few miles which seems to be in vogue. I used to occasionally do that, including running errands which were 20 miles one way. Riding fast is a given when you have to cover those kinds of distances or you’ll add literally hours to your trip. And when you’re not riding on errands you’ll still push yourself so you’ll be in shape for those long trips.

  • Gowanusbiker

    In PP, the sharrows denote the areas where speedier cyclists should ride. In other words, there is a fast lane and a slow lane in the cycling lane. If you are slow, keep left.

  • J_12

    How space gets carved up between pedestrians and various speeds of bikers is secondary.  Given sufficient space, people will be able to sort themselves as the differentials in speed and mass occur on a fairly shallow gradient.

    The main thing is that space is being re-allocated from drivers to everyone else.  This is great, and hopefully it represents the beginning of the process of keeping cars out of the park.

  • Anonymous

    I am not please with the use of bollards along the park drive. 

    The Prospect Park Drive does not use bollards at all, there is only the painted buffer strip between cyclists and foot traffic.

    If bollards are to be used at all, they should be located on the left side of the buffer strip, alongside the foot (run/walk/jogging stroller) lane and not immediately adjacent to the narrow (11 foot) bicycle lane.  Even though the bollards are flexible plastic, bollards are designed to be run over by cars without damage to the bollard or car, and are not designed for safe impact by bicycles.  A cyclist hitting a plastic bollard on the left side will have the front wheel pulled left and generally crash to the left, into the foot lane. This is a serious and potentially fatal crash!
    For runners and walkers, hitting a bollard is unlikely to cause them to fall over, even if the impact does hurt, it won’t be serious.

    The federal AASHTO Bicycle Design Guide calls for at least 2 feet minimum of clear space beyond the edges of a bicycle lane or path free of obstructions that can catch handlebars or pedals, like high curbs or bollards or brush.  The NACTO Design Guide calls for a minimum of two feet and recommends three feet of clear space for buffered bike lanes and cycletracks.  The proposed Drive buffer is three feet wide – where used.  Bollards are also used on the line between the extremely narrow foot and bike lanes (each only 6 feet wide)  in the south end of the park that have no buffer space. 

    Therefore, placement of the bollards directly alongside the edge of the bicycle lane is not in compliance with federal and professional bicycle facility design standards.  The city would be seriously liable for any injury or damage these bollards cause. 
    Parks Department and DOT should closely review the use of bollards in this Drive design.

    Prospect Park manages to provide just one motor lane around the
    park, generally with a continuous right hand buffer strip, and keeps both the
    foot and bike lanes at least 12 feet wide, plus the 3 foot buffer space
    between them.  This Central Park Drive plan still does not rise up to the
    standards applied to the Prospect Park Drive.

    Based on the Parks Department plan – http://www.nyc.gov/html/dot/downloads/pdf/2012-09-28-central-park-loop.pdf
    the bike lane in the upper loop will be only 11 feet wide, while the foot lane is 14 feet wide and the car lane 12 feet wide. 
    In the lower loop, Center to East Drive, bike and foot lanes each drop to 6 feet, to accommodate two car/carriage lanes, still placing bollards between these narrow bike and foot lanes. 
    Along the East Drive, Foot traffic gets 8 feet plus 3 foot buffer, the bike lane is 9 feet, while cars get 13 feet. 
    There is still a lot of squeezing of foot and bike traffic to accommodate just a few hours of car traffic each day. 

    Better, But Not Impressed.

  • Ben Kintisch

    Prospect Park is so much better for cyclists and pedestrians since introducing the re-striping. I believe the Central Park loop will be much better, too. By the way, good Parks Department and DOT people – there’s this great protected two-way bike lane next to Prospect Park that is a great design, safe and well used. How about putting one of those ringing the park on 110, CPW, 59th and 5th avenue?

  • Ed

    Cyclists need an easy way to go cross town at 96th Street, 86th st and 64th street.  The current roads are very unfriendly to bicycles and pedestrians and are even in poor repair for autos.  These should be upgrade to encourage more short bike trips E and W and take traffic out of the park, leaving more room for recreation.

  • Pdajsmith

    Any barrier needs to be between cars and the rest of the world. When the road is closed to cars the car lane should then become the fast bike lane thus creating a barrier between fast bikes and the rest of the world. Fast bikes could then go fast in peace without being targeted by the biggots at the conservancy (who should give up all their many cars completely).

  • Anonymous

    This is slightly tangential, but does anyone know why Central Park is so hostile, or at least indifferent, to people who want to actually *visit* by bike, rather than just go around the loop? For example, if you want to go to one of the restaurants, or to a play, playground, etc., where are you supposed to park your bike? I haven’t seen a single bike rack in Central Park. If there are any, they must be well hidden. Sure, you can lock your bike to a post or fence in some places, but I worry that the park management will take the liberty of removing it from “their property”, just like the MTA says they will do if you lock your bike to the railing of a subway stop entrance.

  • Garden Plants

    Since they got millions to throw around, why not make a pedistrian walkway and one for cars? seems insane to share and this such a large park.

  • garden plants

    Buy the way- If they can spend half a million dollars on new exotic plants & trees, why not care about the people!

  • Ben Kintisch

    Nice point about bicycle parking. We can all get in touch with the parks department and the Central Park Conservancy about providing more bike parking all over Central Park. Basically, wherever you ride along the park drive and the newly legal East/West paths, there needs to be parking wherever the attractions are. So, when you leave the park drive to go visit the carousel, the pond, a picnic area, the reservoir, the zoo, etc. etc., there should be dozens of bike parking spots at each place. 

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