Eyes on the Street: State DOT Squeezes Van Cortlandt Park Greenway

Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue
Car drivers get two spacious lanes on the left. Golf carts get a full lane on the right. In between, cyclists and pedestrians get squeezed into a four-foot-wide path thanks to the state DOT. Photo: Urban Residue

The walls are closing in on people who walk or bike on the Van Cortlandt Park greenway in the Bronx. A state Department of Transportation highway construction project has narrowed the shared bicycle and pedestrian path to just four feet, while leaving adjacent car lanes and a golf cart path almost entirely untouched.

The cause of the greenway pinch point is the $27.8 million reconstruction of the Major Deegan Expressway bridge above Mosholu Parkway, which began in May 2014 and isn’t expected to be complete until spring 2017, according to state DOT [PDF].

The golf cart path adjacent to the greenway was narrowed slightly, but remains wide enough to accommodate larger maintenance vehicles, state DOT says. The greenway path, however, narrows immediately after southbound cyclists descend a curved incline. The space that used to be for biking is now a staging area for construction vehicles.

“Temporarily reducing the widths and alignments of both the golf path and pedestrian walkway is necessary to safely reconstruct the south bridge abutment,” said state DOT spokesperson Diane Park. “Throughout the three-year project, access to the pedestrian walkway will be maintained.”

There's about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to the safe passage of cyclists and pedestrians. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter
There’s about as much space dedicated to storing Jersey barriers as there is to people walking and biking. Photo: Urban Residue/Twitter

In addition to rebuilding the Major Deegan bridge, the project will replace a decrepit stairway leading from the greenway to a path on the bridge connecting to other trails in Van Cortlandt Park. State DOT will build an ADA-accessible ramp in its place. The 13-foot wide shared bicycle and pedestrian path next to Mosholu Parkway will also be rebuilt.

Until construction is done in 2017, however, greenway users will be crammed into a path just four feet wide — unless state DOT can be convinced to spare some space for people who walk and bike.

  • com63

    Is a 48″ wide path ADA compliant?

  • Yes. Now, it is safe for peds and bikes? No

  • BBnet3000

    Construction rarely makes decent provision for cycling, even when the space is clearly available to do so. We just do not take cycling seriously in this city.

    A bigger problem is that we always compromise on the quality of non-temporary cycling design. Look at Allen/Pike St where the bike path is too narrow for comfortable passing, in order to leave room for planter beds that overgrow in the summer and narrow the path further.

    Brooklyn CB10 recently asked for an extension of the 7th Avenue bike lanes into Bay Ridge, but DOT wants sharrows on 6th Avenue instead (naturally, these will be at the side of the lane in the tire tread zone). So now which Ave do you bike on, 6th, which has some sharrows and some not, or 7th, which has some bike lane and some not?

    This is their typical strategy in the outer boroughs especially: a zigzagging cycling network that requires you to carry a fold-out paper map to attempt to navigate it or always be on the lookout for signs. You can’t just remember “1st Avenue uptown, 2nd Avenue downtown”, because their design is so non-comprehensive that you may find yourself in a very scary situation.

    No wonder cycling is so rare in New York.

  • Pavement Contradiction?

    Is that golf cart path paved? I only ask because anti-paving VC Park users are working to stop the paving of the Putnam Trail. But they never said a word about the golf cart paths. Curious.

  • crazytrainmatt

    This is a real pity — this is one of the few reasonably nice ways to get in to VC park, although the intersection with gun hill is typically chaotic.

    If they really are rebuilding the Mosholu path, this is long overdue, both from Jerome to the gardens and by Pelham. It has basically disintegrated in both places.

    What’s also frustrating about the VC trail is that just north of this point, the bike/ped path loops above grade to cross the golf road (following the mosholu to deegan ramp bridge). Presumably this is to separate bikes from golf carts, but is an annoying deviation and creates several low visibility points because of the curves and tunnel. That golf course road is underused, even in the summer, and merges with the bike path shortly after this point. The obvious thing is to merge the two trails until south of the deegan. One of the golf cart attendants in particular already prefers driving carts back to the clubhouse on the bike path instead of the golf cart road…

  • Simon Phearson

    And it’s not just a zigzag network, it’s often a zigzag network through side streets, so you’re dealing with bad road conditions, poor lighting, and long-lasting red lights (if you’re observant).

    I’ve been exploring Queens’ network, and the prime lesson I’ve derived from it has been: learn to ride with cars on arterial roads.

  • Joe R.

    That’s exactly the problem. I recall consulting Google Maps prior to doing a bike ride from where I live in eastern Queens to a friend’s place in Coney Island. The route given had so many turns there’s no way I would have been able to remember it. It was also a full mile longer than the route I actually took.

    We should have safe biking facilities paralleling arterials, highways, railroads, subway lines. In quite a few cases you can leverage the existing grade separation and hang a bike route off the elevated structure, thereby avoiding all the issues trying to get safe, fast facilities at street level. Circuitous, hard to remember routes not only discourage cycling, but make it quite likely for a person to end up lost in a strange neighborhood. In general side streets look a lot alike. That’s why I stick to arterials. Besides being direct, they tend to have lots of distinct landmarks. Unfortunately many of NYC’s arterials are only for the bold and fearless at this point in time.

  • Joe R.

    You pretty much have little choice in Queens. Side streets are very rarely continuous for more than a mile. They’ll hit highways, railroads, cemeteries, parks, superblocks, etc. Chances are good you’ll end up on an arterial eventually anyway trying to get where you’re going, so you might as well just plan it that way from the start.

  • Having done the Tour de Bronx, I experienced this really cool twisty spot. The way the bike path snakes through everything reminded me of Holland, but with more hills. What a shame.

  • This construction is also yet another excuse for delaying a long-awaited pedestrian bridge over the Deegan:



  • Matt

    Yeah this year’s TdB is going to be a cluster-f because of this. Or maybe they’ll reroute it, but it’s a nice part to ride which is a shame.


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