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Roosevelt Island Leadership Quashes Proposed Bike Ban on Bridge Ramp

4:49 PM EDT on September 9, 2015

It looks like bicycles aren't going to be banned from the Roosevelt Island Bridge helix ramp after all.

Too dangerous for Roosevelt Island? Image: Frank Farance/YouTube
This won't be banned anytime soon. Image: Frank Farance/YouTube
Too dangerous for Roosevelt Island? Image: Frank Farance/YouTube

Last night, the Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation, the state authority that manages the island, held a meeting of its operations advisory committee, reports the Roosevelt Islander blog. Its members came to an agreement that without a viable alternative for getting between the bridge and ground level, banning bicycles from the helix ramp wouldn't be feasible.

"I don't really think it's safe for cyclists to be on the helix because of the nature of car and truck traffic on there. The problem is we need to come up with a viable alternative," said RIOC Director Michael Shinozaki, who suggested repairing the long-dormant escalator within the Motorgate parking garage. No one at last night's meeting knew why the escalator had been shut down for years, but RIOC President Charlene Indelicato said Cornell Tech, which is building a campus on the island, has agreed to investigate possible escalator repairs.

Until then, RIOC will study striping and signage to calm traffic on the helix. Bike New York, which has worked with RIOC to offer bicycle education courses, offered to distribute flyers to cyclists about how to properly ride on the helix. The group also provided recommendations to RIOC about improving helix safety, including speed enforcement, signage, sharrows, and education of construction truck drivers working at the Cornell Tech campus.

Frank Farance, a Roosevelt Island Residents Association public safety committee member, also offered a 24-page report about bike safety on the helix ramp, in addition to a video of Bike New York leading cyclists down the ramp, which he claims is inherently dangerous behavior.

Members of RIOC leadership, who regularly referred to cyclists during the nearly 30-minute conversation as "they," seemed to fear potential backlash from banning cyclists. "Banning is not going to work," Indelicato said. "We don't have the manpower to enforce it, and secondly I think there are a lot of groups -- not Bike New York -- who protest these things feeling it is some sort of infringement on peoples' rights."

Over the summer, the public safety committee of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association, which plays an advisory role on the island, unanimously passed a resolution requesting that RIOC ban cyclists from the helix ramp. Although it now looks unlikely RIOC will support that request, it will still go before the residents association's common council meeting, scheduled for 8 p.m. tonight at Chapel of the Good Shepherd, 543 Main Street on Roosevelt Island.

The RIOC board of directors meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. tomorrow at the Main Street Theatre, 548 Main Street.

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