Parks Department Proposes 9-Block Bike Detour on Hudson River Greenway

A Park Department proposal could prohibit cyclists from biking along the west side waterfront between 73rd Street and 82nd Street. Image: Flickr
The Parks Department is proposing to shunt cyclists away from this waterfront section of the Hudson River Greenway between 73rd Street and 82nd Street. Photo: Howard Brier/Flickr

Cyclists could be forced to take a winding, hilly detour away from the Hudson River Greenway between 73rd Street and 82nd Street, thanks to a proposal from the Parks Department that has the support of Council Member Helen Rosenthal.

As DNAinfo reported, Parks landscape architect Margaret Bracken presented the plan at Monday’s Manhattan Community Board 7 meeting. The proposal emerged from last year’s participatory budgeting process, which allocated $200,000 to reducing conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians on that part of the greenway. Overcrowding is a concern during the summer months, when usage increases dramatically.

CB 7 member Ken Coughlin said the participatory budgeting plan only intended the alternate bike route for “high-traffic summer months” [PDF]. Now, Coughlin and other people who bike on the greenway are concerned the detour will force cyclists into dark, steep paths that could be especially unsafe during the colder parts of the year.

Brachen and representatives from Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s office told attendees at Monday’s meeting that they did not want to have inconsistent rules guiding usage of the path. “My response to that is they’re taking a sometime problem and applying an all-the-time solution that puts cyclists at risk,” Coughlin told Streetsblog. “I only agreed to be an advocate for [the plan] on the condition that it would be seasonal. The crowding on the path is only a real problem during the summer and during the day.”

A Parks Department spokesperson argued that the new bike route “will not be a detour” because it will run parallel to the greenway. “The safety of all parkgoers is a top priority for NYC Parks,” Parks Manhattan Borough Commissioner William Castro said in an email statement to Streetsblog. “Working with cycling advocates, we are happy to move forward with adding additional pathway to The Hudson River Greenway so to better accommodate cycling traffic on this popular Manhattan destination.”

After this round of feedback, Parks plans to come back with an updated proposal in the near future.

Rosenthal provided the following statement:

“The Hudson River Greenway in Riverside Park is dangerously crowded and unsafe for pedestrians and cyclists. Residents complain about the path to my office regularly, and the funding for safety improvements to the path was one of our most popular projects during Participatory Budgeting last year. I support the project, but I’m open to suggestions on how we can make the detour as safe as possible for cyclists, which could include using brighter lights in those lampposts or fluorescent paint on the new bike path. I look forward to seeing the amended plan at the next scoping meeting for the Parks Department capital projects in the district, which is open to the public.”

  • Alexander Vucelic

    just repurpose One lane of Riverside Drive AND West Side Highway with protected bike lanes in each direction. Solved

  • Reader

    And add protected bike lanes to West End Ave.

  • jooltman

    People calling Helen Rosenthal’s office to complain should not be how DOT makes policy. What are the stats on injury along this stretch?

  • Geck

    I think Ken Coughlin is right. An alternate route during high traffic summer months with more daylight makes sense. Not a year round change that permanently puts bikes on a dark, less direct, less safe route.

  • Reader

    Funny how people calling Helen Rosenthal’s office — not to mention showing up at meeting after meeting after meeting – was not enough to encourage her to do something about her appointments to CB7. Some members of the “community” are more equal than others.

  • This is the second policy proposal Rosenthal has issued based solely on the grounds of “people have called my office to complain.” Maybe we should try this approach.

  • jooltman

    Oh, I see it’s Parks Dept. policy, not DOT. It just so closely echoes DOT’s deference to Community Boards, I was confused. When resources are scarce (and they always are) data, not perceived risk, should drive policy, no matter who is setting it.

  • Carl S

    I’m a biker but having walked there in the summer when the mixing of foot traffic and bikers felt dangerous, I think that this is needed.

  • Like most people who’ve cycled along that stretch of the path at busy times, I recognize it’s very busy and stressful to use and I’d welcome more capacity. But, if it’s not direct and convenient, cyclists simply won’t use it and there will be a row about scofflaw cyclists added into this. If cyclists are to be diverted, it needs to be onto a high-capacity path immediately adjacent and parallel to the existing route. That can be done for most of the route (as far as I know) by carving out a new route and taking away some grass. If people don’t want to lose any grass, they certainly shouldn’t be looking to spoil an important and useful cycling route simply on the basis of whinges from other park users.

  • Alexander Vucelic

    Henry Hudson Parkway can easily Have one Lane made Over to a protected bike Lane

    Ditto RSD

  • BBnet3000

    I think user Mike proposed a viable solution in the comments on Today’s Headlines:

    I’ve often thought that stretch of the Hudson Greenway should adopt the same approach as the path along the water in Bay Ridge. This would involve moving the benches forward (towards the water) to create a barrier between cyclists and pedestrians. A painted bike lane behind the benches is not particularly tempting for pedestrians to wander into.

    It’s a good idea and has proven success on the East River Greenway in Manhattan and the Shore Greenway in Bay Ridge. That’s how I know it will never happen. Nobody does garbage cycling facilities and manufactured conflicts quite like the Parks Department.

  • BBnet3000

    You’re right that some people cycling will continue to follow the current path. People will also walk on the “new” bike path, especially as the Parks Department doesn’t even know to paint bike paths green.

    This will accomplish nothing other than making the pensioners who called Rosenthal happy by making cycling in the park worse than it already is.

  • BBnet3000

    Is there anyone at the Parks Department who could actually be described as a bicycle planner? Why are there no alternatives on the table? Who wrote that participatory budgeting proposal?

    Note that Streetsblog wrote the proposal up as “safety improvements to the Hudson River Greenway between West 72nd and 84th Streets” and filed it under “Livable Streets Projects”. We just got hosed.

  • Miles Bader

    The thing about bikes though, is that they’re perfectly capable of operating at slower speeds.

    If it’s super crowded, bicyclists can easily and naturally slow down to walking speed or just above (where you can basically stop instantly), in the affected area, and voila, no problem at all.

    If there’s a separate faster but longer path, some cyclists might prefer that. They’ll know who they are.

    But I think in the end, there’s no inherent conflict, so I dunno why so many people seem; to determined to create one…

  • Joe R.

    As a bonus it also lets them sit a lot closer to the water. Frankly, I don’t know why the benches were put where they are anyway.

  • MatthewEH

    I often use the detour when the main greenway path is overcrowded. There are actually shockingly few peds on these upper paths compared to the esplanade path.

    It’s still not a good idea. The extra hills are frustrating, and people won’t use the marked detour unless it is dead obvious what to do. For evidence of that, just look at how many peds encroach on the bikes-only segments of path, from the Intrepid all the way to South Ferry. It’s especially obvious around Chelsea Piers.

  • MatthewEH

    There are jerkwads who ride too fast for conditions. The status quo ain’t so great either.

  • MatthewEH

    Trouble here is that this would make the portion of path in front of the benches garbage for jogging. So expect runners on the bike ROW. :-/

  • Simon Phearson

    This is what happens in Astoria Park, which I bike past frequently. There’s this pleasant-looking bike path that’s almost perfectly parallel to Shore Boulevard. It’s signed specifically for cyclist-only use for much of its length, but there are almost always pedestrians on it, including peds with dogs on long leashes. It’s unsafe and unsuitable for biking at any speed, as a result.

  • Miles Bader

    Bikes are perfectly compatible with pedestrians at slow speeds, except on the most narrow of paths (narrow enough that even pedestrians have issues passing each other)…

  • Simon Phearson

    Pedestrians, yes. Loosely-controlled dogs and children, less so. I typically avoid the path at Astoria Park and stick to the roadway because I’m out for exercise, not slow riding.

    I lived and biked for some time in Chicago, whose lakefront trail at many points has the same issues as the Hudson River Greenway. Particularly cramped in-season is a bit where several sand volleyball courts directly abut the mixed-use trail; it becomes so dense with pedestrian traffic that it’s impassable by bike at any speed. But, still, no one talks about banning bikes altogether there, or really anywhere along the lakefront. There are some crunch points where they’re building alternative routes, but generally people are just expected to get along, even if some jerk cyclists don’t play it safe. Compared to that, it’s clear that the Parks Department here is just expressing simply antipathy towards cycling, the same way that the Central Park conservancy has been recently.

  • Miles Bader

    Sure, but I suspect the general attitude of bike-riders will gradually shift as bicycling becomes ever more popular and widespread among the wider public, and the influence of the olde-skool (bike messengers, “vehicular” and other assorted hardcore cyclists, etc) wains…

  • Miles Bader

    Pedestrians, yes. Loosely-controlled dogs and children, less so.

    I’m not sure I agree… I’ve done a lot of cycling in crazily crowded areas (and walking near bicyclists in same), and you can always go more slowly (and be more cautious) as conditions warrant. At rambling-walker speeds a bike can stop in about 3cm…

    Of course if you get into jam-packed rush-hour city-center-sidewalk territory, the mere fact that a bicycle is rather large and has hard/sharp edges becomes an issue, and you’d best go elsewhere. Even walking your bike in such conditions is painful. But it doesn’t sound like that’s what we’re talking about here.

    Obviously if you’re out for exercise, and your goal is to go fast, none of this applies, and you’ll want to locate a course suited to that goal…

  • Simon Phearson

    I’m speaking in relative terms. Around pedestrians – in a situation like the Pulaski bridge, for instance – I’ll try to slow to the point where I’m not scaring them by passing close at 20 mph. Depending on how much space I can give them and whether I can sufficiently announce my presence, I feel like 8-12 mph seems about right. But around dogs/children, I don’t really feel comfortable going much over a jogging speed. If I’m passing close, I’ll be at a walking speed, and making a bunch of noise in any case.

    I fundamentally agree with you. I don’t see any reason why cyclists and pedestrians can’t co-exist, and we certainly can get along (and communicate) with one another much better than pedestrians and cyclists can with drivers. And I’m sure that, on the ground, the conflicts that are inspiring the detour on the Greenway are much more well-handled than the pearl-clutchers are allowing themselves to notice. That’s why it’s pretty clear to me that this is about anti-cycling antipathy rather than trying to resolve conflicts.

  • Bobberooni

    The most crowded part of the Hudson River Greenway in the summer, by far, is between 145 and 165 st. It’s so crowded that sometimes you CAN’T go faster than a walking speed through it all, and there are often small children hanging around as well. But since the people in Harlem don’t have the same wealth, skin color or political clout as those on the UWS, I guess it’s not a “problem” that needs to be solved like 73-82nd St.

    The idea that we can’t have “sometimes” regulations is also ridiculous. Such regulations exist all the time. “No turn on red, 4-7pm,” “No parking 8-10AM”, etc.

    Seriously guys… bikers need to be courteous. It’s not that hard. On the other hand, the world is full of uncourteous bikers (and drivers, and pedestrians…). We will never be able to fix all dangerous biking problems by legislating restrictions like this. How about instead:
    a) Signs warning of pedestrians, including a lowered speed limit during peak hours.
    b) A “passing distance” law — for example, don’t pass within 6ft of a pedestrian.
    b) Cops ticketing dangerous biking at peak hours.

  • MatthewEH

    Though to be fair, the 145-165th crowding is a weekend-only thing. The 70s-80s section under discussion gets crowded during the week too in peak season, especially in the evenings.

    I’m liking the idea of not forcing cyclists off the regular pathway entirely, but instituting a 10 mph speed limit and cyclist/blader only stop signs that would be in effect only during peak hours. Put up flashing lights indicating when these rules are in effect, and signage that indicates this (like, “When lights are flashing” on signage above the 10 mph speed limit sign). A 6-foot passing rule may be too paranoid, though.

    Direct faster cyclists to the upper-path detour. They should mind the extra hills a lot less than slower utility cyclists.

    Though I think part of the problem here is that parks enforcement is very thinly spread out over this part of the park. I think there are only 2 PEP officers for RSP from 72nd to 125th. :/ I read it somewhere a ways back; it’ll be a hard citation to turn up. In contrast, RSP south, from 72nd to 59th, has much more coverage. Which is why it always seems that there’s a PEP vehicle at 69th Street waiting there to bust or at least warn cyclists who don’t walk their bike down the 68th-69th Street ramp.

    I’d also like something in exchange for these extra restrictions, quite frankly. 🙂 Maybe rewrite the rules for that 68-69th street ramp so that cyclists are allowed to ride there, so long as they follow an ~8 mph speed limit if others are present. Or actually have enforcement officers warn about and even cite pedestrian misbehavior too. Walking three abreast square in the middle of the path when there’s plenty of open room over to the right hand side should not be a-OK.

  • Motorisims

    It’s also important to continue having Parks Department vehicles and pickup trucks zipping around during peak times. We don’t want pedestrians to become complacent and forget what it’s like to be in close quarters with moving vehicles.

  • Mike

    Thanks for saving me the trouble of reposting. That stretch in Bay Ridge is the best place in the city to ride because of this setup.

  • Mike

    Also, starting at about 2:30 (with benches starting at about 2:50), this video shows what I’m talking about for those who want a visual:

  • jzisfein

    If the plan is to separate cyclists from pedestrians on the Hudson River Greenway, please do not neglect the crowded segment between 72nd and 73rd St. Currently, northbound cyclists must veer left at 72nd to join the pedestrian path which creates a dangerous mixing zone. Instead, the bicycle path should be re-routed east of the dog run and ball field to connect with existing path at 73rd.

  • KeNYC2030

    If you’re talking about the conflicts as cyclists go past the Little League field, that’s being addressed in a separate re-routing funded by other monies. The path will cut to the water earlier, across the top of the existing soccer field, totally avoiding the ballfield. But after making the sharp left to head west to the waterfront path, under the proposed re-routing that is the subject of this article northbound cyclists will have to quickly make a right at 73rd and head back east up the hill, which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Parks officials claim that providing a linking path east of the top of the ballfield, which I think you are suggesting, is impossible due to the grade.

  • Joe R.

    That’s fine in the short term but long term the problem needs to be fixed. As things stand now NYC has very little decent bike infrastructure. The Hudson River Greenway could be excellent, but only if we do two things. One is to get rid of any traffic signals, or at least put them on sensors so they don’t go red unless a vehicle is actually entering the docks. Two is to have separate bike and pedestrian areas. In most cases that simply means widening the path. When space doesn’t exist, it could mean a viaduct, or perhaps extending the path further out into the river with landfill. Both aren’t cheap solutions, but remember this is the busiest bike route in the US. Any money spent will be relatively small on a per user basis. You’ll also eliminate the conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians once and for all.

  • Bobberooni

    Let’s see… at this point, NYC’s best “bike highway” (by far) runs
    through a park. And the Parks Department is responsible for it, not the
    DOT. At some point, we need to wake up and recognize that this is a serious transportation artery and treat it as such. Conflicts between people who need to get somewhere and those out for a morning stroll are baked into the structure and design of the Hudson River Greenway.

    Overall, I fear we’re headed down the same mis-guided path toward traffic safety that was applied to automobiles since the time of Robert Moses — a time when demand for automobile highways led to the desecration of almost every park in NYC. Why? Because it’s cheaper to build highways in parks.

    Only once we’ve built and people begin ACTUALLY USING the highway we built, do we worry about pedestrian safety. There are suggestions on this thread that would certainly increase cyclist speed and convenience. But that approach has done little for pedestrian safety in the past. Frankly, the OP proposal reminds me of the typical highway bypass around congested city centers. I hope we’ve learned our lesson that no amount of road straightening, tree clearance, separation or “traffic efficiency” will improve pedestrian safety. The most successful efforts toward pedestrian safety have involved traffic calming and building a culture of driver responsibility.

    Don’t get me wrong, I depend on high-speed bike highways to get to work safely. And I love riding through these parks on my daily commute — and having people regularly traveling through parks almost certainly makes them safer (from crime) for everyone. But I am uncomfortable with our parks-centric approach to bicycle transportation. That is not a sustainable model, if we hope to see any significant fraction of New Yorkers getting around by bike. But until DOT assumes responsibility for bicycle TRANSPORTATION (not recreation), and we get some real money behind it, parks is all we will get.

    Instead of building in parks, maybe we should think about building alongside (or inside) existing highway right-of-ways. Or above railroad tracks. Or along existing boulevards. All that would require real construction efforts, not just a cute wooden bridge here or there. But it would create a system with real capacity for the future while preserving our parks for recreation.

  • Bobberooni


    In many places there ALREADY ARE separate bike and pedestrian areas. Peds invariably wander though the bike area. Until someone finds a way to keep them out, separating bike and ped traffic will only go so far.

    > It sounds
    like you want to misuse stop signs the same way DOTs
    > across the country
    use them—namely to slow traffic, in this case
    > bike traffic.

    Exactly. You can post a 10mph speed limit. But since bikes don’t have speedometers, that will be hard to enforce. Stop signs are easy to enforce.

    > The problem is solved with cyclist and pedestrian education.

    Do you have an example of traffic problems being solved with education? Drivers get education, and yet do all sorts of crazy dangerous stuff. Even without education, bikers know that a red light means stop; and yet, some wantonly ignore it, blowing through red lights at intersections crowded with pedestrians at 20mph. No amount of education will fix the problem of fundamental disregard for others.

    > Cyclists
    should be taught to ride slower when lots
    > of pedestrians are around.

    Well, duh….

    Are you suggesting licensing and driver’s ed for bicycles? If it is not mandatory, how will you get bikers to undergo this education?

    > Pedestrians need to be taught not to block
    the bike
    > path other than to get across.

    We live in the land of peds who cross frikkin’ Fifth Ave while staring at their iPhones. But seriously… before you can teach pedestrians to not block the bike path, you have to delineate a bike path they’re not supposed to block. The stretch of Greenway in the OP has no such delineations. It is a shared use path. Which means that bikes must always watch out for pedestrians and yield right-of-way. I honestly don’t know if people have felt scared or threatened by my presence on a bike. But I do try hard to avoid surprise and threatening actions.

    As has been pointed out, the only way to make it NOT a shared use path would be to (a) put the bikes behind the benches, or (b) detour the bikes. Things might come to that. But it’s a shame that the shared use concept might not work out after all.

  • Bobberooni

    > Though to be fair, the 145-165th crowding is a weekend-only


    Not true. On most summer evenings, it’s crowded enough to require significant caution while biking through — including extreme braking for children. Some day, some idiot on a bike will blow through there at 20+ mph while some toddler dashes across the path to Mommy, and tragedy will ensue.

    On weekends, 145-165 is so crowded, shoulder-to-shoulder, that you simply CAN’T ride your bike. You just have to walk your bike through the crowd and continue your ride on the other side. It adds about 5 minutes to my commute. That’s nothing like the delays regularly experienced by drivers on the Henry Hudson, so I’m really not complaining…

    > Direct faster cyclists to the upper-path detour. They

    > should mind the extra hills a lot less than slower utility cyclists.

    To make this stick, you would need to put stop signs down below (and enforce them). Either you get a non-stop hilly path, or a straight, level path with stop signs. You choose…

    > but instituting a 10 mph speed limit

    I think that’s appropriate, but how would you enforce it since bikes don’t have speedometers? Maybe it could be done if you have a radar sign when entering the segment in question.

  • Joe R.

    On the stop signs, putting aside that this is a horrible, blatant misuse of them, I suspect what you’ll end up doing is making the path defacto pedestrian only, at least when the stop signs are in force. Cyclists hate stop signs for good reason. They’ll either ignore them, or if there’s blanket enforcement ride elsewhere, perhaps in places which are a lot less safe to ride.

    Instead of all these new rules and regulations perhaps going after those cyclists who actually HIT pedestrians will fix the problem you mention of fundamental disregard for others. I’m all for enforcement and accountability when actual harm is done, especially if that enforcement is highly visible so others can see the outcome of not being considerate. That’s part of what I mean by education. Your idea of stop signs will just end up being a ticket trap for the NYPD. They would be in effect at all times during peak hours under your plan, which means if a cyclist blows a stop sign when the greenway happens to be completely empty they’ll get a ticket for doing nothing dangerous. Besides, putting stop signs where there’s not even any cross street is completely nonsensical. The more you improperly use traffic controls, the more they tend to be disregarded. My first reaction seeing a stop stop plopped down in the middle of a greenway near the river would be WTF? I would think it was either a mistake, or somebody was playing a joke.

    Making it NOT a shared use path is the best possible solution and outcome here. Shared use paths fell out of favor with good reason. They’re generally lousy for both cyclists and pedestrians. They only work if the numbers of both are very small. Expecting pedestrians and cyclists to civilly share space on the busiest bike route in the country makes little sense.

  • Joe R.

    Right, exactly what we should be doing. Parks should remain parks, meaning refuges from the city for both pedestrians and cyclists just there to tool around at slow speeds, with no particular need or desire to get anywhere in a hurry. But at the same time let’s not ignore that we really do need high-speed, non-stop bike highways in this city and past city limits as part of an overall comprehensive bicycle transportation network. As you said, we shouldn’t tear up parks to accomplish this when we have plenty of other places we could build them.

    All that would require real construction efforts, not just a cute wooden bridge here or there. But it would create a system with real capacity for the future while preserving our parks for recreation.

    Yes, it would. And considerable expense, although far less expense than we spend on other forms of transportation. For a few billion dollars I think NYC could accomplish this. Yes, that’s billion with a “B”. We have to realize if we want top notch infrastructure then we need to pay for it. Thermoplast on existing streets can only accomplish so much. In a perfect world we would get rid of enough motor vehicles so the surface streets could effectively function as high-speed, mostly nonstop bike transportation arteries. That world likely won’t exist for a long time. That means we’ll have to carve out the space for bikes elsewhere, perhaps above or below or next to existing high-speed motor vehicle or rail rights-of-way. We can do it. We just need the will to fund it.

  • vnm

    Two comments. 1) Let’s make this a “cyclist slow zone” before we close it off entirely. If we had signage that said: “Cyclist Slow Zone. Pedestrian Heavy Area. Use Caution/Be Respectful to Pedestrians/Share the Area” (or something like that) cyclists would cool it and we wouldn’t need a bike ban.

    2) This sets a really bad precedent! If this goes through, what’s to stop people farther north from getting “me too” bike-free areas in the segment from 93rd Street to 100th Street, which is also exactly the same layout as this segment? Then, as long as you’re upland in Riverside Park between 72nd Street and 83rd Street, and between 93rd and 100th Streets, why not just cut out the middle piece and get rid of entire waterfront greenway between 72nd and 100th? That would pretty much defeat the whole purpose of a waterfront greenway!

    The City in like 2007 or maybe even earlier went through a huge effort to build a waterfront greenway around the Island of Manhattan in order to encourage cycling. It takes a long time and a lot of money but they finally FINALLY get a greenway the entire length of the West Side from Dyckman Street to the Battery, which a greenway that is of enormous use to people up and down the entire island and even beyond. (Hell, the Detour through Battery Park City only ended like a month ago!)

    Now, it seems it’s a victim of its own success.

  • Anon resident

    Mr. Castro needs to define his response with more details. His response is vague and lame.

  • MatthewEH

    Ah, okay, I’ll defer to your knowledge on high-season evenings. To the extent that I’m there at all during the week, it tends to be in the morning.

  • MatthewEH

    Well, there’s no obvious alternate route from 93rd to 100th, so there’s that. (There is something you can do to go around the back/east side of the tennis courts, but that’s only 3-4 blocks of distance, and there are presently stairs at one end, IIRC.) Pedestrian volumes on that part of the esplanade are much lower, also; other than the tennis courts there are no playing fields, no houseboats at the boat basin, no kayak landings, etc., etc.

  • Bernard Finucane

    In Germany they have these signs:

    The mean bike path, shared path bikes yield to pedestrians and separate bike path and walkway side by side. There’s also one with the bike on top meaning pedestrians yield to bikes but I couldn’t find a picture. You don’t see it much.

  • ahwr

    There already are signs.

    There are a lot of signs if you pay attention. Signs don’t work.

    Portland has waterfront paths, they’ve tried putting up signs:

    But signs don’t work, so the problems weren’t resolved.

  • Thomas Buckner

    Get rid of the restaurants at the boat basin and at the 70 street pier. We do not need restaurants in the park. They add to the pedestrian congestion and endanger everyone who uses the Hudson river Greenway. There are tens of thousands of restaurants in NYC. We do not need them taking up precious park space. By getting rid of the restaurants this will solve most of the problem with pedestrian and bicycle congestion….Or give the west lane of the Henry Hudso to bicycles.
    And whoever design the path from lower Manhattan to the GWBridge had no forsight. It was obsolete before it was finish being paved…


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