Eyes on the Street: New 215th Step-Street, With Bike Ramp, Taking Shape

Photos: Brad Aaron
Looking up the northern section of the 215th Step-Street from Broadway, with bike ramp on the left. Photos: Brad Aaron

It’s been a year since we checked up on the 215th Step-Street in Inwood, where the northern section of the long, steep stairway looks to be nearly finished — complete with bike ramp.

These stairs serve as a car-free street between Broadway and the 1 train and residential blocks that make up the northwest corner of the neighborhood. “The ancient passageway was built in an era when the automobile was still a relatively new contraption and getting up or down a hill required nothing more than a decent pair of shoes,” writes Cole Thompson at My Inwood. Check Thompson’s site for photos of the step-street dating from 100 years ago, when Broadway was paved with cobblestones and there’s not a car in sight.

As promised, the Department of Design and Construction is rehabbing the northern and southern sections one at a time, with one remaining open. Locals have waited for the city to fix the stairs since the late 90s, at least, and while it seems doubtful that DDC will meet its spring deadline (the project, which began last January, was supposed to take 17 months), Inwoodites may be using the new northern section before long.

How cool is it that, on a public stairway built before the city ceded the streets to motor vehicles, the reconstructed stairs will feature a bike ramp as a modern amenity.

The stairs in 2008.
The stairs in 2008.
  • Bobberooni

    It’s cool. BUT… the bike ramp should be on the right hand side of the stairs, not the left. You always walk your bike standing to the LEFT of the bike, in order to avoid destroying your pants on the chain.

    The radius of curvature of the corners heading into the landings should also be larger, to avoid scraping the bottom bracket or front sprocket on the concrete as you go from the uphill sections to the level sections.

    So altogether… it’s a good try and really appreciated, but it looks like it was designed by someone who’s never actually tried to take a bike up a set of stairs.

  • Brad Aaron

    Maybe this is intended to be the downward stairway, which would put you on the left side of your bike.

    That would also make the south stairs a mirror image of this one.

  • Bobberooni

    Yes, that makes sense, people have to go up and down a stairway, so it might not matter so much which side the ramp is on.

    HOWEVER… I do my bike backwards down the stairway, that way its nose is always pointing up. In that case, I will always prefer the ramp on the right. (I go down backwards because I have a lot of weight on the rear, and going down forwards would seem dangerous. This is not a problem for lighter / less loaded bikes).

  • Jonathan R

    Why is there no elevator? We have one at 190th St. Hello, 21st Century!

  • I always walk my bike while standing to the right of it, guiding it with my left hand (even though I am right-handed). I very much suspect that this is just down to personal preference, and that there is no prevailing norm. So a ramp on either side is equally good.

  • GoPherIT827

    sounds like that is more “your” problem than a “design” problem

  • louise

    It seems to me unlikely that those bike ramps would see much use. Those steps are steep. For going downhill, rolling down Park Terrace West and around 218th to Broadway would be quicker and easier than walking a bike down. For going up, that is a long steep way to push a bike in a channel. I expect it would be quicker to bike around to the corner of 218/PTE and bike up PTE, or push a bike up the less steep and much wider sidewalk there.

  • iSkyscraper

    It’s all well and good, but still a missed opportunity to do something that would have really made a statement about the importance of streets and pedestrians. Most locals avoid these steps due to the work involved and go through the park (dangerous due to bad lighting) or all the way up to 218th and then down gritty Broadway. How great would it have been had they been able to pull off this instead?

    http://i.dailymail.co.uk/i/pix/2013/02/25/article-2284350-184A51B6000005DC-435_634x382.jpg

    Sure, would have had to break up the slide into segments and given the end some thought but it was entirely possible. Just too ambitious for ho-hum city agencies to pull off.

  • Joe R.

    Yep, same here. It probably is entirely personal preference.

    On another note, if nobody was on the stairs, I’d probably ride down those ramps just for the fun of it. Just ride the brakes to keep my speed in check and all would be well. Don’t have a low enough gear to ride up, but I imagine on some mountain bikes that might be a possibility.

  • Eric McClure

    The way the pictured slide ends at sidewalk level rather, than a few inches above it, must cause the occasional road rash. Good concept, though.

  • Matthias

    215 St was, while dilapidated, a really nice design with the park space and seating. Unfortunately the new design looks pretty boring.

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