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.

  • Vooch

    This is opportunity to ‘trade’ this for reallocating far West lane of West St.-12th Ave for cyclists from Houston to 57th from May 15th to Sept 15th.

  • There are elements of this presentation that are really lacking. Aside from what has been mentioned about lighting issues:
    * If the full capital isn’t there to build all of it, what exactly will a piecemeal implementation look like, and can it be guaranteed to be built without extensive long-term closures? What measures will be taken to avoid a “WALK BIKE” situation next spring/summer?

    * Why is the bicycle lane being moved to an area where there will be MORE pedestrian conflicts? The current greenway path is mostly along T-intersected paths where the southbound cyclists only interact with parallel walkers, & northbound cyclists have few conflicts. The proposed path has tons of perpendicular crossings of joggers and walkers!

    * The grades of the paths are not addressed. “Current” and “Proposed” grades are left out entirely. This is aside from the fact that they are adding up/down bicycle paths to replace a flat path… which might be ok, but could be a problem for steep areas… I’m merely citing that this presentation includes no information of hill grade numbers when that would be really relevant here. Come on, they should know this already.

    * What remediation is planned for the guaranteed occurrence of walkers taking their strolls along the new bicycle paths?

    This is so terribly half-baked, and it’s sad that it’s framed with the sentiment that the pedestrians are the first-class audience (which needs the separation from those nasty cyclists) and that the cyclists couldn’t get any remediation work or budget for THEIR issues up until the pedestrian users made a bigger noise about “conflicts”. This is a plan where the bikes are second-class park users, with a degraded experience from the status quo (for no reason), until I see anything indicating that demonstrates how the resulting experience will be more usable for cyclists. I can’t take it on faith that the Parks Department will make things better for cyclists with anything they add to the park without complete details of any proposal… we are talking about an agency that has routinely let us down in regards to upkeep, rules, scheduling and budgeting. I’m not at-all sold on a plan that doesn’t address the major points listed above & gives the agency a lot of fudge-factor to let us down some more. This is incomplete and unacceptable.

  • walks bikes drives

    Great idea BUT below 57th street is no longer Riverside Park, making it a tough trade.

  • walks bikes drives

    There is a lot to agree with here. Cherry Walk, if some sections are repaved and better lighting is implemented, doesn’t need the widening as much if the pedestrians would stay on the pedestrian side and the bikes stay on the bike side. There are a HUGE number of joggers and walkers who stay on the right side northbound because they don’t have to contend with other joggers and the bikes “can just go around me.”

    The grades are an issue because you don’t just have solid riders on the path. Throw any grade at me in the park there, and I really don’t care. But what about an 8 year old kid? Look, we do the grade from Fairway to the Cherry Walk and the issue there is the width, not the grade. So like you said, it is not about if there is a grade, but what the grade is. The monster grade getting up to 181 probably puts 90% of summer users off their bikes. Add grades like that, and this plan has insane issues.

  • Reader

    Let’s not forget seniors with bad knees. These grades are impossible for a lot of people.

  • Susanmmcdaniels1

    ??? http://GoogleMoney1/GetPaid98$/h….???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????mk2??????

  • KeNYC2030

    Park officials haven’t made much of an effort on the existing riverfront path in recent years to better separate the different users and tame those riders who seem to believe they’re in the Tour de France. The meager lane markings have deteriorated beyond recognition, the signs are few and very small, and there has been almost no on-the-ground guidance or enforcement. One possible and arguably much cheaper way to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the riverfront path remains unexplored: moving the row of benches closer to the water and placing a two-way bike path behind them, out of everyone’s way.

  • rao

    I have a solution that eliminates seasonal conflicts and makes the park much better for all users. Close Henry Hudson Parkway to cars in the summer and let bikes use that.

  • Cycleman

    I’m not sure how I feel about this… Too bad the bureacracy in this city is so large that it doesn’t allow DOT to properly consult on making an awesome bike path. Parks never does well with bike paths in my opinion…

  • Jonathan R

    With reference to the 71-84th stretch, as Brian points out below, bicyclists are using the waterfront path all year long, but come 14 weeks of the summer, they are assumed to have no rights to water views or breezes or esthetic use of the park area.

    Just from the included graphics in this post, it looks like the marina is being expanded; whose idea is this? If the area is so heavily used by people on foot or bike, why not just convert the marina and all its appurtenances to areas useful to foot or bike? Storage of private boats in a busy area seems like a relic of the 20th century.

  • BBnet3000

    A design like the shore path in Bay Ridge doesn’t have a great capacity for bikes but would largely mitigate the conflict here.

    As for the “Tour de France”, do you complain about people jogging on sidewalks “as if they’re in the Olympics” as well?

  • Jeff

    He’s got a point. Ideally we should have a path designed to accommodate leisure, utility, AND “sport” cyclists, but unfortunately at the moment we do not. And until that changes I do think it’s reasonable to expect the “sport” cyclists to hold back until they get to 9W.

  • Jeff

    I disagree. I think marinas are a great way to connect people to their city’s waterfront, even if they don’t own a boat at said marina. Similarly to how we like to talk about a certain type of “permeability” between parks and their urban surroundings, marinas serve this function for urban waterfronts. Think of a city like Baltimore that truly embraces its waterfront: Marinas are everywhere, and it makes the water feel like a continuation of the urban realm.

  • BBnet3000

    The simple answer is that the marina makes money. Probably whoever is expanding the marina should be required to mitigate any effect it has on the adjacent trail at a minimum, if not improve the trail above the status quo.

  • BBnet3000

    I agree totally, I just object to the stereotyping and bike hate.

  • That’s State DOT territory. Parks has no say over the roadway there, only over the bike lane itself. Hell will freeze over before State DOT helps us out here.

  • Avi

    “Sport” cyclists riding to NJ generally take Riverside Drive anyway. The issue are commuters. We don’t tell drivers they can’t drive at highway speeds on the West Side highway because pedestrians want to cross the street. So why should bike commuters be told they can’t ride to/from work at faster speeds.

  • Avi

    If this is fully implemented it’s not terrible. As a cyclist I’d rather have a dedicated lane I can use and not have to avoid joggers/people strolling. But that means a well maintained paved path with adequate lighting and enforcement that keeps pedestrians off the dedicated bike path.

    If the plan means cyclists can’t bike near the river but pedestrians still get to use the “dedicated” cyclist path then it will be a failure. Also, it all needs to be done at once, they can’t move cyclists now and say path improvements will come at a later unannounced date once they secure funding.

  • Jeff

    Riverside Dr doesn’t start until 72nd St, and most people en route to NJ don’t transfer from the greenway until a bit further uptown from there.

    And to be fair a good portion of this blog is indeed dedicated to the idea that drivers shouldn’t drive at highway speed in an urban environment so that pedestrians can feel safe and comfortable. As great as it would be to have a fully-separate bike path, we simply don’t have one.

  • Elizabeth F

    That solution is explored in the document, for certain segments of the park.

  • Elizabeth F

    They’re not putting a speed limit on the path. They’re moving the bike path away from the ped path, which will allow for higher speeds. The hills are not the end of the world.

  • Elizabeth F

    Sorry, cherry walk needs widening. Saying “it doesn’t need widening as long as pedestrians stay on their miniscule portion” is not useful. Cherry Walk also needs a baffle between the walk and the road, which will prevent northbound bikers from being blinded. Between the bumps, the narrowness, the blinding effects and the split paths, it is positively dangerous as it is.

  • Elizabeth F

    Ever since the detour was first suggested, I’ve been trying it out on my bike — including going up to the rotunda. It’s not the end of the world, and is where the park needs to go in order to accommodate all users. The devil is in the details, of course. Special attention to sightlines and safety needs to paid at points where the bike-only and ped-only paths converge. Efforts also must be made to discourage peds from taking bike-only paths (this hasn’t worked out so well further north).

    If you actually want to stop and enjoy the breeze by the riverfront — the go ahead, walk your bike over there and enjoy the breeze. But if you want a fast way to get from point A to point B, that is safer and more enjoyable than the Manhattan Avenues, then the detour will be great.

  • Jonathan R

    Huh? A marina is like a parking lot for boats. Does a big-box parking lot (for automobiles) create a “permeability” between the worlds of shopping and civic engagement?

  • Jeff

    Maybe from a very literal interpretation, but most people tend to enjoy the aesthetics of a marina.

  • MatthewEH

    So, I already use something like this route on days when the riverfront path is unusually crowded. Also, the path has been interrupted by a long-term dock reconstruction project since mid-spring, just north of 79th Street, so I’ve actually just sort of generally been doing this.

    Anyway, the extra hills are gonna be a non-starter for casual cyclists, especially the grades to get up to the 79th Street rotunda. Noncompliance by cyclists continuing to use the flat, straight, riverside route will enormous.

    Putting a connector between the softball field and the dog run at 72nd Street is a very solid improvement, OTOH. The stretch of path on the riverward side of the softball field that’s in place right now is, bar none, the worst chokepoint on the whole greenway.

  • Vooch

    “temporary and test reallocation” for Sabbath

    Plus enough vig, blow, and hookers – consider it done

  • jzisfein

    The cyclist/pedestrian crowding on the greenway from 72nd to 84th is unacceptable. A new bike path is needed, and Parks proposal has the best place to put it.

    CB7 Parks Cmte will monitor to make sure NYC Parks designs and builds the bike path properly. It must be wide (14-16 ft. where possible), well paved, landscaped to minimize slopes, well lit at night, striped to make cyclists want to use it, and signed to warn pedestrians away.

    I disagree with statements that the bike path will be crowded with pedestrians. There are currently few pedestrians walking along the route of this path and crossing pedestrians are mostly at 72nd and 84th.

    The current greenway 72nd-84th will of necessity have cycling restrictions. How much restriction is negotiable. Ken Coughlin of CB7 makes the important point that crowding on the greenway is not 24/7. Restrictions on cycling should therefore be by time of day (i.e. not at night) and possibly day of week or time of year.

  • ahwr

    Why is the bicycle lane being moved to an area where there will be MORE pedestrian conflicts?

    It’s not. Conflict is reduced dramatically with the relocated bike path. Shared paths are continuously in conflict. Each pair of intersecting dedicated paths have a single conflict point.

    * What remediation is planned for the guaranteed occurrence of walkers taking their strolls along the new bicycle paths?

    The number of cyclists on the waterfront will be reduced, almost definitely not to zero. The number of pedestrians on the relocated bike path will be significantly lower than on the current shared path on the waterfront. Again reduced, but almost definitely not to zero.

  • LN

    I, like many cycling commuters, ride a single speed bike which can’t handle grades of this type. I tried that detour once to avoid the annoying steps/ dismount detour around the dock building, it is way too steep up and down for me and I won’t use it ever, and neither will most other cyclists. Nope Nope Nope.

  • ahwr

    One possible and arguably much cheaper way to separate cyclists and pedestrians on the riverfront path remains unexplored: moving the row of benches closer to the water and placing a two-way bike path behind them, out of everyone’s way.

    Not really a solution. Look at the width between the river railing and the rest of the park, including old trees. A lot of it is about 20-22 feet. 4 feet along the water for small groups that are going to stop and enjoy the view – including cyclists who will have their bikes with them, 8 feet for people to walk in two directions – remember it’s a park, people go there with other people and they walk next to each other, 3 feet for a bench, 1 foot buffer space/shy zone before the bike path. That leaves you with 4-6 feet for a bike path. Get rid of the lookout space and stick to just an 8 foot walkway between the benches and the water? Then the pedestrian path will often be blocked by people who are stopped, either with others on the benches or on the waterfront railing, including cyclists. Cut down trees to expand the path? Shouldn’t be an option. Extend the path further out over the water? Not a cheap plan anymore. And even if you did that, you’ll have people who gravitate to the shade offered by the trees along the park side of the path you want for cyclists. The non bike riding park patrons are not a homogeneous group, and one that includes cyclists that have dismounted to walk/stand/sit and have with them their bulky bikes, they have diverse needs and are poorly served by the existing path and would be even more poorly served by your proposed narrowed path with dedicated bike lanes.

  • This is dramatically adding the number of intersecting paths, though, which have more an impact than parallel shared path usage.

    The wishy-washy language of “reduced” is completely unconvincing. Sure, there will be fewer pedestrians on an uphill bicycle path during peak hour than there will be on the riverfront path. Do you know these few stray pedestrians will have as much impact up top as they do down below? What about the other obstacles, like the perpendicular intersections we discussed above? What will be the actual impact for a cyclist who uses that path? Will they have to stop at any of these intersections? How frequently? What will the sightlines be like? What if a pack of tourists with 20 people decides to use the shaded uphill path (instead of the unsheltered river path) one day during peak hour? What if Parks employees start parking their carts on the bike path? Is this going to add to any enforcement needs to the park, to have cops patrolling 2 paths instead of one? Etc.

    There’s a lot that can be done to mitigate issues, and a lot of issues to dig up. I don’t think Parks is up to the job without a lot of external prodding and community insistence.

  • KeNYC2030

    OK, sorry for the stereotyping. How about “riders who go way too fast in a space they share with walkers of all ages”?

  • ahwr

    Do you know these few stray pedestrians will have as much impact up top as they do down below?

    How so? You have to go around a few people instead of a few dozen. Seems less stressful.

    Will they have to stop at any of these intersections?

    In practice? Just slow and yield. Legally? Probably just slow and yield until there is a news story about someone getting hurt because a cyclist didn’t.

    http://bikingrules.org/rules/streetcode/

    PEDESTRIANS RULE Pedestrians always have the right of way. PERIOD.

    Paint a crosswalk for cyclists to yield, put up a sign warning pedestrians that they won’t. Distinct potential conflict points seems more relaxing than having to deal with the continuous potential for conflict with joggers suddenly pulling a uturn or kids and dogs darting around on the shared path.

    What if a pack of tourists with 20 people decides to use the shaded uphill path (instead of the unsheltered river path) one day during peak hour?

    Same thing that happens when a pack of 20 cyclists out on a group ride decides to stop by the waterfront and ends up blocking the whole path. Or just rides along it because they like it better. Which is to say you get annoyed, and then they’re gone and you get on with your day. What happens right now when 20 tourists take the waterfront path?

    What will the sightlines be like?

    Probably decent if you aren’t trying to see how fast you can ride downhill.

    What if Parks employees start parking their carts on the bike path?

    I’ve seen their pickup trucks on the waterfront before. There will be room to go around, maybe you have to ride single file or even yield to someone coming the other way. Not a huge deal.

  • BBnet3000

    The path they’re proposing to switch cycling to is a LOT narrower than the waterfront path.

  • BBnet3000

    To be fair in the old days they used to use a lane of the West Side Highway/12th Ave for cycling during Fleet Week when the Hudson River Path is overloaded with pedestrians.

  • ahwr

    The path they’re proposing to switch cycling to

    Is to be regraded and serve a less heterogeneous user group.

  • Vooch

    the proposed path is certainly more Fredly.

  • Elizabeth F

    New York is a hilly city. You’re riding at the bottom of a big hill next to the Hudson. Have you considered a multi-gear bicycle?

  • Elizabeth F

    > Anyway, the extra hills are gonna be a non-starter for casual cyclists

    Let’s keep this in perspective, compared to (say) the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Williamsburg and 59th St. bridges. Or the hills you have to climb to get FROM the Hudson River TO most anywhere interesting, anywhere north of 42nd St. If you’re biking in Riverside Park, you’re committed to hills at some point.

    Is Parks Dept trying to accommodate commuters, casual cyclists or both? This question is not rhetorical. We find ourselves in the unfortunate situation that parks are the only place where we get decent bike highways — just like Robert Moses built so many car roads through parks. Probably because it’s cheap. I hope for the day that people feel bikes are important enough to our society that they’re willing to spend real money to build bike highways that are not in parks — highways that would require elevated sections, overpasses, etc. Until then, there will always be conflict between the needs of recreational cyclists, commuter cyclists and people out for a stroll.

    > Noncompliance by cyclists continuing to use the flat, straight,
    > riverside route will enormous.

    Yes, I am concerned about that too. I expect people will conclude that compliance is best if the rules are 24/7. Then you can build permanent design elements that discourage bicycles from going where they’re not supposed to.

  • Joe R.

    I’m not familiar at all with the hills on the proposed detour but I can categorically state that gears are essential where I ride in eastern Queens. For example, look at this profile on one of my typical rides:

  • Elizabeth F

    Wow, I didn’t know Queens was that hilly. I always thought of it as a big pile of glacial rubble, scooped out of the seriously hilly landscape from uptown, upstate, CT and the rest of New England.

  • Joe R.

    It’s actually worse than that in some places. Hillside Avenue for example is aptly named. Most of the streets going north from it have 8% to 10% gradients for 4 to 6 blocks. Those are nasty even with good gearing and a strong rider. I’m lucky to make 9 or 10 mph going up, and I’m spent by the time the hill levels out.

  • SergeBanning70123

    My business partners were looking for a form several days ago and saw an online platform that has a lot of fillable forms . If others are requiring it too , here’s http://goo.gl/Dsv4jY

  • ahwr

    https://goo.gl/maps/7XhnL11G9yq

    https://goo. gl/maps/7XhnL11G9yq

    This is on the route of the Brooklyn Queens Greenway.

    https://www.nycgovparks.org/sub_things_to_do/facilities/images/Brooklyn_Queens_GreenwayGuide.pdf#page=30

    At least it comes with the warning that it’s “very steep”

  • These solutions/excuses are all not appropriate in the context where they’ll be implemented. I don’t think this works for anyone unless the cyclists are ok with riding at 5mph.

    I don’t want to keep having to iterate over every one of them. But it’s apparent that you do not have the same experiences as a cyclist as I do. “Just slow down!” “Just yield!” “Just don’t go fast!” – all words that sound like they’re coming from someone who wants to tell cyclists what to do without being a cyclist themselves & knowing the issues at hand.

    And, indeed, I avoid the current path during the peak hours because of crowding, but I would NEVER take an inland path that had many intersections with poor sightlines, no clearly marked pedestrian component, and narrow byways where a single obstruction (a pair of dopey pedestrians, a tipped over trash can, a fallen branch, a park worker with a truck & an attitude problem) would force me to come to a near-halt to push around them.

    At least the current pathway is quite wide, making it more usable than anyone gives it credit for. (They could fix some more of the egregious problems without adding a fully-inland bicycle path. I’m angry that they’ve left the problems alone until now)

    Again, I need to see more details from Parks. There is a way that they could do this that it would work much better than the current setup, but there is also a way they could do this that could make this as unusable as the 8th Avenue protected lane in Midtown during evening rush hour.

  • I think that would be smart if they’d re-implement this, but I don’t see State DOT acting like much of a partner nowadays on multimodal infrastructure issues. The infrastructure they oversee is some of the most dangerous for walkers/cyclists around the state, with improvements coming in dribbles, not waves.

    I would hope this changes.

    But for now, a complaint from a community board is probably going nowhere. Happy to be proven wrong.

  • I live near there. Miller Avenue is outrageous. When you look up at it from Jamaica Avenue, it looks like a wall. It’s like something out of San Francisco, or out of that famous Three Stooges film.

    But note that there is a bike lane on Miller going only in the downhill direction (southbound) between Highland Blvd. and Jamaica Avenue; they don’t even bother putting one in the other direction.

    Maybe about ten years ago I decided in a moment of insanity to ride up that hill. So there I am in first gear, standing up on the pedals, going about 1 mile an hour. And I notice that a guy sitting in a beach chair on the sidewalk is watching me. When I get to the top at Highland Blvd., the guy starts clapping. It was partly in admiration, but surely it was partly in amazement, as in “we don’t see too many fools doing that”.

  • JK

    Do Parks, CB 7 or CM Rosenthal have counts of greenway users by mode, time of day and month? Wouldn’t a modicum of facts and data be useful here? Have they taken any video to document user behavior and illustrate exactly where, when and what the issues are? I read the Riverside Park Circulation “Plan” and was struck by the complete lack of data, and lack of rigor. Among other things, there is no mention of multi-use path design standards for different volumes, and no mention of skaters — who have a big impact on flow.

    Before Parks permanantly diverts cyclists to the proposed diversions it has to vastly improve lighting, repave the diversion route and make the steep ramps over 79th street much more gradual — many people cannot ride over it as is, including kids. Along with the steepness of the ramp, the big issue with the proposed diversions is isolation and safety when it is dark — which is much of the year during the PM commute. Hopefully, this is the beginning of the public discussion and issues will be clarified and more information gathered before important decisions are made.

    Lastly, while it is good to look for bigger solutions, it’s just dismal that Parks cannot seem to do basic things like having plentiful, clear, stencils on the path to help educate users on where to walk and bike — you can see a difference in behavior when stencils are new and prominent. And, is it a fantasy to expect Parks Enforcement to do their jobs? It would help enormously to have a few, motivated and professional PEP officers providing a grown-up presence during the Summer PM peak period. We could really use a few PEP on the greenway (not in their car) reminding people to slow down, pay attention, and generally behave themselves. Crowding is getting more intense, but probably 3/4ths of the conflicts are caused by people not being mindful of others.

  • Critical critic

    If a bicycle detour is built, it undoubtedly will be encroached by pedestrians, so cyclists might as well use the direct route.

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