Eyes on the Street: Un-Plowed Bikeway on Parks Department Turf

Photo: Commenter BBNet3000
Pike Street has a bikeway and a pedestrian path, but you wouldn’t know that based on the Parks Department’s snow removal practices. Photo: Commenter BBnet3000

Most of NYC’s bridge paths and protected bikeways seem to have been cleared well in the aftermath of this week’s snowstorm, judging by the lack of snowed-in bike lane photos in the Streetsblog inbox.

It’s a different story on Parks Department turf. This stretch, flagged by commenter BBnet3000 yesterday morning, is the center median bikeway on Pike Street leading to the East River waterfront. (It remained unplowed late this morning.)

The Pike Street bike and pedestrian paths have been ignored by the Parks Department. Photo: Stephen Miller
The Pike Street bike and pedestrian path this morning. Photo: Stephen Miller

Landscaped malls run down the middle of Pike and Allen Streets on the Lower East Side. While the street is under the purview of the Department of Transportation, the malls themselves fall under Parks.

DOT redesigned the street in 2009 to add protected bike lanes and more pedestrian space. Since then, a few blocks have been upgraded from paint to permanent materials. On those blocks, the bikeway is now controlled by the Parks Department. So when it snows, that means a patchwork of agencies are responsible for keeping the bike lane passable on a single street.

North of Division Street, Allen Street’s bikeways are mostly cleared, whether the section is maintained by Parks or DOT. On Pike Street south of Division, the bike lanes managed by Parks are snowed-in. Pedestrian walkways along the entirety of the mall, also maintained by Parks, are completely covered in snow.

The Parks Department, responsible for 29,000 acres of land, says it has 900 staff working on snow removal. It operates 44 plow trucks assigned to a Sanitation Department detail and has 200 additional vehicles on snow removal, including smaller plows and salt spreaders.

“Our first priority is to clear park perimeters to ensure safe access for pedestrians,” said Parks Department spokesperson Sam Biederman. He added that crosswalks, bus stops, hydrants, and catch basins along park perimeters in high traffic locations — such as transit hubs and civic centers, or near schools, recreation centers, and senior centers — top the department’s priority list for snow removal. “Interior paths of all types are a lower priority during snow storms,” Biederman said. “We will be clearing snow from interior play spaces and interior walkways throughout the week.”

Parks Department bike lanes on Allen Street north of Canal Street are as clear as the DOT-managed ones. So why does the department ignore the bike and pedestrian paths nearby?
Parks Department bike lanes on Allen Street north of Canal Street are as clear as the DOT-managed ones. South of Canal the paths are still covered in snow. Photos: Stephen Miller

Parks classifies the Pike and Allen Street malls as “interior” park space. Seeing as the linear paths run down the middle of a public street, they are neither interior nor exterior, but part of the city’s street network. Like most greenway infrastructure, however, they don’t seem to be high up the department’s list of priorities for ensuring public access.

The department was able to clear the Central Park loop down to its pavement yesterday morning, though. Gotta make sure it’s ready for that rush hour traffic.

  • Adrian

    When this is unploughed I normally just use the road. This morning though, the bike lane appeared to be completely clear. So I joined at Canal Street, only to find that the last 20 meters before Grand St were still unploughed and my subsequent efforts to get back on the road were distinctly ungraceful. Why on earth would they completely clear most of it, but then leave a 20m stretch unploughed? What a nasty trick!

  • Kate

    I have not heard anything about the Hudson River Greenway path north of 72nd street, but, my assumption was that it would be largely impassable so, I haven’t been down there to take any photos. I would love to hear if anyone actually knows for sure. Particularly north of 135th Street…

  • Robert Wright

    I avoided the Allen St lanes – which I normally use – this morning, on the assumption they wouldn’t have been cleared. I didn’t particularly enjoy mixing with the traffic on Chrystie St, though.

    The point about Central Park, I suspect, is that it’s a semi-autonomous operation (as is Prospect Park). Both Central and Prospect Parks, as far as I know, are largely run by their own, well-resourced conservancies. So I’m not surprised they’re in a better position to clear snow.

  • Queenscommuter

    The Triboro Bridge walkway from Randalls to Queens is still not plowed. Thursday at 5 pm.

  • Alan

    I filed multiple 311 complaints about this exact stretch last winter. A Parks Department person eventually phoned me at some point during the midsummer, saying they would have better plans this winter. I guess they didn’t.

    We need to be sure that, when there are street redesigns like this, it doesn’t mean we lose 4-season bike infrastructure— it appears Parks still considers bike infrastructure to be for recreation, as opposed to transportation.

  • Alan

    Paco says he went to CB3 and has their support for a resolution to get a Chrystie Street protected 2-way lane on the park side, hopefully at restriping time in spring. Keep your ears peeled.

  • D’BlahZero

    What is the precedent for Parks maintaining transit infrastructure as opposed to recreational facilities? I’m guessing it’s pretty much Prospect and Central Parks and the Hudson River Greenway. Two of those are used (legally) by cars. I think the HRG is a special case like ped/bike bridge crossings. That’s not to say the lesser used facilities under Park’s purview don’t deserve better attention; they do. I’m just wondering if designating some sections of bike infrastructure as Park property isn’t simply a mistake in the first place. Why couldn’t the Pike St. path pictured here have remained under DOT jurisdiction?

    Of course it’s also true that Parks does a better job with some of ‘their’ bike paths than DOT does with theirs. The green lanes on the Avenues in Manhattan have been crap since the non-blizzard.

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