Overruling Bronx CB 8, DOT Advances Protected Bike Lanes Along Van Cortlandt Park

Council Member Andy Cohen supported the redesign of Broadway in Riverdale, citing the imperative to reduce the death toll on a high-speed street that's claimed too many lives.

The DOT redesign will shorten crossing distances and make room for a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT
The DOT redesign will shorten crossing distances and make room for a two-way protected bike lane. Image: DOT

DOT plans to move forward with a redesign of Broadway alongside Van Cortlandt Park next month. The project calls for concrete pedestrian islands and a two-way protected bike lane along the park border. Council Member Andrew Cohen requested a safety overhaul of Broadway in 2015, and DOT says it will be installed despite opposition from Bronx Community Board 8.

In a letter sent last week, DOT Bronx Borough Commissioner Nivardo Lopez informed CB 8 Chair Rosemary Ginty that the danger of Broadway’s current wide, high-speed layout makes the redesign imperative [PDF].

“After full consideration of your resolution, feedback received through our outreach process, and our engineering analysis, we have determined that the proposed safety improvement project is the best way to address all the safety issues along the corridor,” Lopez wrote.

Broadway north of 242nd Street feels like a highway, and people have to cross it to get to the park, which is one of the city’s largest. DOT clocked about 80 percent of drivers exceeding the speed limit on this part of Broadway. Lives are at stake: From 2010 to 2014, 12 people — including 10 pedestrians — were killed or severely injured in crashes on Broadway between 242nd Street and the Westchester County border.

The street doesn’t work for transit riders on the eight city and county bus routes that ply Broadway either. Not only do people have to dodge high-speed traffic to reach the bus stops, but the excessively wide dimensions invite illegal parking that interferes with bus movements and blocks curb access.

DOT’s redesign addresses those concerns. The parking lanes will be narrowed from 13 feet to eight feet. At eight bus stops, the parking lane will give way to concrete bus boarding islands. Crossing distances will be reduced 30 percent at those locations, and the narrower parking lanes will open up space for the two-way protected bike lane along the park.

There's no reason for Broadway next to Van Cortlandt Park to be so wide. Image: Google Maps
There’s no reason for Broadway next to Van Cortlandt Park to be so wide. Image: Google Maps

Despite the terrible conditions for pedestrian safety on Broadway, agency reps who presented the plan to CB 8 last spring got a rough reception. After two months of meetings, the board eventually passed a resolution that simply ticked off every complaint they received about the redesign, no matter how outlandish, and called on DOT to install painted, unprotected lanes instead.

Cohen told Streetsblog last year that the while the city should listen to community feedback, the ultimate decision has to be based on what’s best for public safety.

“I think that the street is too fast, is too wide, and has got a lot of unsafe crossings and design,” Cohen said at the time. “I asked the DOT to come up with a safety plan, and this is what they produced.”

DOT will return to CB 8 next week to take questions about the project. While the redesign is moving forward, if you walk or bike on Broadway it can’t hurt to show up to voice your support. The transportation committee meets Tuesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Downey’s Bar and Grill, located at 5790 Mosholu Avenue.

  • Vincent Howland

    March 22?

  • Larry Littlefield

    Next up, over-rule CB8 and pave that bike path on the Putnam Division ROW, matching the quality walk/ride they have up in Westchester.

    An otherwise really nice day touring my home town was marred by having my pedal hook an old railroad tie in the park and throw me off the bike.

    CB 8 thinks its part of Westchester anyway.

  • yep, fixed

  • Jeff

    Great news from a traffic-calming and pedestrian safety perspective!

    Next step will be to extend this south and otherwise connect it to something resembling a bike network! If I do actually bother to cross over from the West side of Broadway to the East side and then back to the West side again just to ride in a bike lane for a few tenths of a mile on my 15 mile ride home from Yonkers, it will be out of respect for the activists who pushed for the bike lane, not because I think this is actually a reasonable thing for a first-class user of a transportation network to do.

  • Vooch

    It’s a great beginning, and congrats to DOT for the gumption to go ahead with this.

  • Vooch

    honestly a few ltruckloads of gravel would solve 75% of the issue at 1/10 the cost

    as a first phase

  • Guest

    Excellent news! Congratulations to local residents and activists who spoke up for the project.

    Could someone explain why this is only north of 242nd? What will happen btw 240 and 242, also along the park? Shared sidewalk path? Nothing?

  • Jeff

    Some sad little sharrows and a painted bike lane, it looks like. But if you have a car you want to park you can do that, so that’s pretty cool, apparently.

  • sbauman

    The transportation committee meets Tuesday, March 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Downey’s Bar and Grill

    They are having a Transportation meeting in a bar, to which most members and public must drive?

  • crazytrainmatt

    Fantastic news, it’s not a complete network but a great precedent to reinforce.

    It seems from these links that the paving of the Putnam trail is moving forward despite the objections:

  • Elizabeth F

    Drive, really? It’s 1 block from a bus stop. And maybe people could BIKE to a meeting about bike lanes as well. Even without Broadway bike lanes, there are other (less convenient) ways to get there.

    In Westchester County, they keep scheduling meetings about bike lanes and street redesigns in truly hazardous locations. I went to one at the Doubletree Tarrytown. One in Elmsford (unfortunately, when the South County Trailway was snowed in). Even the Westchester Cycle Club scheduled a meeting in a nearly inaccessible location — and I was the ONLY one who biked that day, probably due to the heavy cold rain.

  • Elizabeth F

    South of 242 the road is extra-wide with 3 carriageways, including a section that was taken out of the park some decades ago. Clearly there is no way a bike lane could ever be put there.

  • Elizabeth F

    NYC is the “greatest city on earth,” and yet my daily welcome involves getting covered in mud. Conditions of the trail have only worsened in the last 2 years. I agree with Vooch, a few truckloads of gravel would help. But the Third-World conditions of the trail are still a total embarrassment for the “greatest city on earth;” and gravel would not fix that problem.

  • Jeff

    To some, this is a feature, not a bug. It’s a question of whether this right-of-way is most useful as a transportation facility or a recreation facility. I’m not gonna lie: When I ride the trail up to Brewster for funsies, I, personally, enjoy the charm of the dirt path through Van Cortlandt Park. I do think that your needs as a commuter overrule my desire for novelty on my Sunday cruise through Westchester and Putnam Counties, but I still think it helps to think of it as a recreational facility that you’d like to see repurposed for transportation purposes, rather than a third-world transportation facility.

  • Elizabeth F

    No, not a feature. All bug. This trail as it stands is a poor recreation facility, as well as being a poor transportation facility.

    The current trail is not a path, it’s just a dirt trail that “happened” as people would walk alongside an abandoned railroad. Most of the railroad ties are still there, and bikes (and people) have to go OVER them in at least two places. Drainage is atrocious, as you might expect for an unplanned, non-engineered path. During rains, the whole thing is a river; and it stays extra-muddy for days after, even on sunny days that would otherwise be good for outdoor recreation. Mud is as slippery as ice, and there are at least two places with deep, near-permanent mud pots: difficult to pass on bike or foot. Portions of the path are so narrow, it’s hard to see how an emergency vehicle could get through, should someone need medical assistance. And the whole thing is NOT wheelchair accessible, in spite of being completely flat.

    If you like “charming,” then build a charming path. But at least make it something that (a) has proper drainage, and (b) emergency vehicles can through.

  • Jeff

    Disagree. Some people enjoy “a dirt trail that ‘happened’ as people would walk alongside an abandoned railroad”. It’s not up to you to decide whether other people enjoy this, just like it’s not up to anyone to decide whether other people would prefer a more manicured, accessible facility.

    As for the rest of your points, one must logically assume that you are against the existence of all hiking trails, as they are neither accessible to wheel chairs nor emergency vehicles.

    You are free to argue that it should be converted into a different type of facility, one that is accessible to wheel chairs and emergency vehicles, and I’d likely agree with you that this is a net positive for the city as a whole, despite the fact that I (and others) enjoy it as is.

  • Elizabeth F

    Whether or not certain people like walking in muddy, poorly-drained paths is beside the point. Van Cortlandt Park is under the purview of NYC Parks, which has a mission to ALL New Yorkers. It must also comply with the ADA, which requires that parks are accessible. In line with that mission and the law, NYC Parks website says:

    “NYC Parks strives to help all New Yorkers discover how New York City’s about 117.36 sq km of parks can enrich their lives, promoting physical and emotional well-being, and providing venues for fitness and peaceful respite for the widest possible audience.”

    Due to the flat terrain and the location within New York City, it is easy to argue that the law requires accessibility for the Putnam Trail.


    The Putnam Trail as it currently stands does not meet NYC Park’s basic mission or the requirements of the ADA. And even if you don’t need a wheelchair, I think you would appreciate emergency vehicle access in case something happens to you.

    > It’s not up to you to decide whether other people enjoy this

    I’m pretty sure people don’t enjoy getting muddy on the 180+ days of the year this trail is a mud pot. I’ve been on plenty of hiking trails that are better drained than the current Putnam — because they are on the side of a mountain, and because they were DESIGNED.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    I think the recreational dirt ride ship sailed when the vast majority of the trail (in Westchester) was paved. Even as a dirt trail, this is too narrow and the railroad ties are a hazard. Removing them and regrading the trail, maybe adding gravel, would be a cheaper middle way.

  • Alan

    Thank you DOT!