New Riverside Park Master Plan May Send Greenway Cyclists on Hilly Detours

The preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan reroutes cyclists away from the waterfront at 72nd Street. Image: NYC Parks
The preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan reroutes cyclists away from the waterfront at 72nd Street, along the hillier path marked by the bold dotted green line. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Parks

The waterfront greenway in Riverside Park is one of New York’s most popular places to bike and walk. During the summer, it can get crowded — so crowded that the Parks Department is proposing new detour routes to divert cyclists away from the waterfront path. Those routes are hillier and poorly lit, however, and advocates are worried that the department will compel cyclists to use them at all times.

On Monday, the Parks Department presented parts of its preliminary Riverside Park Master Plan to the Manhattan Community Board 7 parks and environment committee. The plan includes bike detours along three segments of the greenway — between 72nd and 83rd streets, 93rd and 99th, and 145th and 155th.

The detour path between 72nd and 83rd received some funding courtesy of Council Member Helen Rosenthal’s 2015 participatory budget and will be built next year. It includes a particularly steep incline at 79th Street, where cyclists will have to climb up and around the 79th Street Rotunda. Lowering the grade of the rotunda’s access ramps is included in the long-term Riverside master plan, but is not part of the upcoming project and will likely be very expensive.

CB 7 member Ken Coughlin, speaking for himself and not the board, said that while the waterfront esplanade can get messy in the summer, most of the time it is fine. The greenway is the most heavily-biked route in the city, and for much of the year there are more cyclists than pedestrians using the waterfront path.

He warned that the detour paths could pose particular problems during the winter, when there is limited lighting and inclines may freeze over and become slippery. “The absence of notable conflicts on the current riverfront path during most days and times does not justify forcing [cyclists] to divert to a sub-optimal hilly, indirect and potentially unsafe route at all times,” he said in an email.

Rosenthal’s communications director Stephanie Buhle said rules regarding cyclists’ use of the waterfront path have yet to be determined. “[We are] trying to assess and make sense of what will work to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are using the space in a way that makes it possible for everyone,” she said.

The incline on the ramps around the 79th Street Rotunda may be too steep for some cyclists to handle. Image: NYC Parks
The proposed new path (the green dotted line) will take cyclists up the steep ramps around the 79th Street Rotunda. Image: NYC Parks

In addition to the proposed detours, the master plan calls for expanded biking and walking paths between 92nd and 95th and along the “Cherry Walk” from 100th to 125th, by the Henry Hudson Parkway. The plan also calls for new lighting to better illuminate the notoriously dark Cherry Walk.

The CB 7 committee endorsed the overall goals of the plan — which touches on maintenance and drainage issues in addition to bike/ped routes — but not specific projects, Coughlin said. The full board will take up that resolution at its meeting next Tuesday.

The "Cherry Walk" is in line for expansion between 100th and 125th Streets. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Parks
The “Cherry Walk” is in line for expansion between 100th and 125th Streets. Click to enlarge. Image: NYC Parks

There is no set timeline for the implementation of the master plan. Buhle said the Parks Department will return with a final plan at an undetermined future date.

  • Bocheball

    Maybe they’ll fix the nasty cracks in the road between 96th-110 th st that will send you to the ER if you hit them at a moderate rate of speed. These cracks, more like hills, are very very dangerous and I can’t believe they have not been repaved. But hey, it’s NYC, where you pay the most and get squat.

  • Bocheball

    How about asshole speed bikers who whizz past other bikers, inches from clipping them and sending everyone to the ground in a heap. Yet, they rarely say anything, like the simple word, ‘passing’ and maintain a safe distance.

  • Vooch

    walk Bike up Hill Is my solution 🙂

  • Vooch

    yes

  • You got that right. Or, even better: avoid the whole thing and take another route.

  • Joe R.

    Midland Parkway, then left on Surrey Place, is my preferred route when going north from Hillside or Jamaica Avenue. I’m not aware of any other “easy” routes going north. Unfortunately, Midland Parkway is quite a bit away from Miller Avenue.

  • For the entire length of Hillside Avenue in Queens, from its birth just west of Lefferts Blvd., out to the City line, there is no really good way to go north without hitting hills.

    I used to think of this as the “Queens Curse” when I was a kid growing up just south of Hillside, getting frustrated at the hills on every northbound street. When I got older and ventured farther west, I eventually found that Queens Blvd. has a tolerable slope going north from Hillside. Of course, I later learnt about the Terminal Moraine, and discovered that the big hills going north from Jamaica Avenue extend out to Broadway Junction in Brooklyn.

    In that particular area of Miller Avenue, a better way to get to points north of Jamaica Avenue is to use the bike path adjacent to Highland Blvd. starting from the point where Highland meets Jamaica Avenue at a right angle before it turns to run east-west, or else to attack Highland from the other end, from Bushwick Avenue.

  • Joe R.

    You’re right about Queens Boulevard. Still not as easy as Midland Parkway, but at least it’s tolerable. Most of the other routes going north resemble walls. I get tired just looking at them. 😉

  • walks bikes drives

    Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I am against widening it. I just think there are more pertinent fixes, that include low hanging fruit, that are more important than the larger task of widening. You mentioned quite a few yourself that have nothing to do with the width, such as the lighting. The path needs to be smoothed, which is an undertaking just short of widening. But in addition to keepingredients bikes and pedestrians separated, the path needs better maintenance. The plants over growing the path narrow it, often in places where extra width is more beneficial, like curves. Theread is way too much sand and gravel. Vehicles that use the path, from parks trucks to fire trucks to police cars, rip up the dirt alongside the path, which ends up covering the path with dirt, gravel, and sand. There are potholes all over it. And this goes the full length of the path, all the way up to the northern terminus. I would rather see the more dangerous issues addressed first. Some of which could be accomplished this week by sending a tractor with a mower to cut back the brush and abother with a blower to remove the debris. Yes, widen the path. But while we are waiting for that, fix the more dangerous stuff first.

  • walks bikes drives

    I just did the route southbound. I could do it on a single speed as I didn’t change gears at all on the route. But there is one part I think needs to be reconsidered. At the southern end of the detour, where the path isn’t built, they would have to either eliminate a large portion of the dog run, or remove the outfield of the array too small little league field. But that curve right there when cyclists exit the viaduct and curve onto the Riverside path is especially dangerous and is the on major thing that needs to be addressed first and foremost, in my opinion.

  • Andrew Lassiter

    I understand the tongue in cheek of this comment but seriously – even just for a Summer Streets or something…wouldn’t it be amazing?!

  • Andrew Lassiter

    Cherry Walk is the part of my commute I dread. It’s a nightmare after dark…so dangerous! Going northbound you are completely blinded by headlights. A wall, hedgerow, etc between the highway and the path would make a world of difference, and as Elizabeth mentioned, of course lighting is needed really badly. And I’ve found it is virtually inaccessible for pedestrians at night unless you have a headlamp, which is really sad because it could be such a nice evening stroll/jog with the waves lapping at the rocks on the banks of the river.

    As for the separate walk and bike sections, what is the best practice? I always FEEL like the “all peds on one side” setup causes far more conflict and it’s better if everyone just stays right (especially since it’s not well-marked, too narrow, and expects behavior inconsistent with the rest of the Greenway). Is that true??

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