State DOT Prepping Permanent Measures to Replace Temporary Barriers on West Side Greenway

Construction is slated to start this summer and last into 2019.

Once the weather warms up, large numbers of people will have to funnel through these concrete cattle chutes simultaneously. Photo copyright Shmuli Evers, used with permission.
Once the weather warms up, large numbers of people will have to funnel through these concrete cattle chutes simultaneously. Photo copyright Shmuli Evers, used with permission.

Spring is around the corner, and if you ride the West Side Greenway, one question must be consuming you: What’s going to happen to the obtrusive security measures that create pinch points on the greenway?

The greenway is begging to be widened — in the warmer months it’s just not big enough to handle everyone who uses it. But after a fatal vehicular attack last fall, state DOT and NYPD dropped down heavy-duty barriers that made the greenway even narrower at intersections.

At 31 locations where motor vehicles cross the greenway, state DOT installed Jersey barriers, and at 26 pedestrian-only crossings, NYPD put down concrete “sugar cubes.”

The barriers function better now than they did at first, but once the spring wave of greenway users arrive, it’s going to get hairy as people try to funnel into the 20-foot long cattle chutes.

State DOT is aware of the problem and working on a fix for its 31 intersections, but the Jersey barrier replacements won’t be in place for peak greenway season this year. State DOT is “designing a permanent solution to replace the temporary security measures on the Route 9A bikeway,” an agency spokesperson said, with construction scheduled to begin in the summer and wrap up sometime in 2019.

An inquiry to NYPD regarding the 26 sugar cube locations did not elicit a response.

The state DOT project is still in the design phase, and the agency did not have renderings of the new intersection treatments to share.

In addition to letting advocates advise on the design of these junctions, state DOT should share its construction plans and minimize the disruptions for greenway users.

Construction-related detours on the greenway tend to crop up with little advance notice and drag on far longer than initially anticipated. Between 59th Street and 70th Street, for instance, the Parks Department recently closed the greenway for construction, and it remained under construction last week despite the agency’s assurances in December that the closure would only last a few weeks.

State DOT’s project will affect the most heavily used segments of the greenway, the single most important artery for bike travel in the city. If the agencies that manage the greenway are ever going to put in place a good process to manage design changes and construction impacts, this is the time to do it.

  • Brad Aaron

    Any driver, right now, can enter the greenway from the Henry Hudson Parkway just north of the GWB.

    A plan that doesn’t address access points north of Midtown is just theater.

  • there are a lot of bollard/chute intersections to the south of there, though. I’m not sure it’s possible for a heavy vehicle to get all the way to midtown, or even to the UWS.

    Worth reporting on exactly how much of the northern greenway can be breached by a small passenger car, though. Many cars are not that wide…

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    They won’t get it right. They won’t follow best practices. Odds are very good that they are going to put super thick bollards with extremely narrow spacing at every point where there are barriers now. At least they won’t be 20 foot long chutes, but the way the Greenway is designed in Battery Park City even without the jersey barriers should be the envy of no one.

    Instead, they should:
    a) Reduce the number of places that need bollards on the path itself rather than at entrances, creating long bollard-free stretches. This should include consolidating some driveways that cross the Greenway. Today this seems to be the case only in the West Village area.
    b) Use Dutch standards for the bollard spacing, which creates a pinch point but not Goldman Sachs (200 West Street) style, which is terrible. This includes well-designed entrances and places to wait to cross West St/12th Ave/etc with separation between people walking and cycling, instead of both modes sharing a tiny ped ramp.

    The only hope for a decent design is the Hudson River Park Trust’s need to get their maintenance vehicles through. It’s not going to happen in order to provide a good cycling environment, at best we’ll get that by accident.

  • redbike

    Months of Jersey barriers in place makes indisputable: there’s no need for motor vehicle access (facilitated by e.g.: retractable bollards) to the West Side pedpath.

    An alternative that may have merit is a “tiger trap”: segments of the path adjacent to motor vehicle access points are what’s described as “compressible concrete”, sturdy enough to support folks on bicycles, but if a motor vehicle tries to cross, the surface collapses.

    http://www.homelandsecuritynewswire.com/new-york-architects-test-two-new-bollard-devices

    and

    http://www.nytimes.com/2006/12/28/nyregion/28blocks.html

    Both the articles cited were published more than 10 years ago. I’ve passed the intersection in Battery Park City at Vesey St and North End Av many times, but I’ve not seen the installation referred to. (North End Av south of Vesey St is blocked by more or less conventional security barriers.) Dunno whether the “compressible concrete” is still there. If yes, how’s it doin’? If no, what went wrong?

  • jeff

    Having any barriers on the west side bike path is totally boneheaded. It’s a bureaucrat knee-jerk reaction. It’s like putting bulletproof vests on all the kids at Parkland High School – after the shooting – and making that your strategy to deal with gun violence: wait till there’s a shooting, then impose cumbersome protective gear on the students at the one school where the shooting happened to take place.

    The west side bike path is not a terrorist target. The Jihadis are not cursing the west side bike path and dreaming about its destruction. It’s just a sidewalk-like place that one terrorist picked. There are, what, ten thousand miles of sidewalks and park paths in NYC that any motor vehicle could drive on and run people over? If the next terrorist car attack happens at 3rd ave and 52nd street, will the DOT cordon off the sidewalk of 3rd ave between 50th and 55th street with huge concrete barriers, so that the next terrorist will be thwarted unless he’s clever enough to try running people over somewhere else, like 3rd ave and 57th street?

  • jeff

    You hit the nail on the head – they’ll simply switch out the thick concrete barriers with thick bollards. They don’t care about the thousands of people who rely on this too-narrow roadway to get to work every day. It’s pure “theater,” as Streetsblog calls it – politicians doing something for the sake of being able to say they did something.

  • Joe R.

    Seeing that NYC can’t even maintain regular concrete (or asphalt), I’d have my doubts about compressible concrete. It would probably end up crumbling of its own accord due to lack of maintenance, or just poor installation. And then of course the idiots who might drive any type of maintenance vehicle on the greenway would “accidentally” end up on the parts where they’re not supposed to go, with predictable results.

    I think bollards are a better answer.

  • walks bikes drives

    Every time I go past that 70-59 corridor, why don’t I ever see anyone out there doing any work? It looks like you have a beautiful, double the original width, bike path ready to go.

  • MatthewEH

    It’s not fully connected on the ends yet; lots of detailing still not done and bare ground as yet. I’m not saying that I was there on Tuesday morning on my morning run, looking to get shelter from falling snow by running under the highway instead of in the open. But if I did do that, that’s what I would have seen.

  • sbauman

    Maybe they are trying to figure out how to use those “I Love NY” signs the FHWA forced NYSDOT to take down.

  • com63

    I would imagine they will be closing the greenway for long periods “to keep us safe” during the installation of permanent barriers.

  • JK

    Has State DOT held any public meetings that greenway users can attend and comment on these designs? Is SDOT seeking any input from the people that use one of the busiest bike paths in North America? Why not? Can the groups that champion better cycling maybe ask for a consultation for say 6pm on a weeknight when people with jobs can attend? Say Transportation Alternatives and Bike NY?

  • Mike

    As a regular cyclist on the WS Greenway, the biggest change I would like to see is getting the joggers out of the bike path. I’ve seen a few crashes and many near misses because a jogger with headphones is on the side of the path and then moves into the path suddenly to pass another jogger.

  • Elizabeth F

    They could widen the Greenway by replacing the silly flagstones on either side with smooth pavement. Today that is dead space that neither cyclist nor pedestrian / jogger uses.

  • Elizabeth F

    Fuggetaboutit, pedestrians are never going to stay out of the bike path. In parts that are already signed as bike-only, where there is a signed pedestrian alternative, pedestrians would likely have a hard time showing the biker was liable in case of a crash. In shared-use sections, responsibility to avoid a crash relies entirely on the biker.

  • Elizabeth F

    Compressible concrete would die the first time a snow plow drives over it. Motor vehicles DO need access to the HRG.

  • Elizabeth F

    * North of 59th St, the Greenway is the jurisdiction of NYC Parks, not NYC DOT.

    * There are already bollards that prevent any vehicle entering from the point you mention from heading southbound. Although there are other vehicular access points (eg 145 St), which are used regularly for the Changing of the Guard at the GWB.

    * Lower bike/ped traffic volumes north of 125 St make it less of a terrorist target. Muggings around 170 St. are a more immediate concern.

    * Pinch points at 181 St and 190 St. make it hard for vehicles to navigate this stretch. So hard, in fact, that when someone gets hurt here, EMTs gain access by shutting down the HH Parkway, rather than driving on the bike path.

    * The path dead-ends at Dyckman St. in a way that would be hard for motor vehicles to navigate. Any motor vehicle on this stretch would have to find a way to U-turn if it wants to get off (or drive in reverse).

  • Elizabeth F

    The section from 135 St to the GWB is readily accessible by automobile. The rest is not.

  • This matches my recollection of the area. And it seems designed that way, for maintenance access. But maybe that’s not a good idea.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG