Eyes On The Street: Westside Greenway Bollards Still Causing Injuries And Mayhem To Cyclists They Are Supposed to Protect

Activists have been telling state officials that security gates are too close together.

Another cyclist was injured on the Hudson River Greenway on Sunday because the security bollards are too close together. Photo: Ken Coughlin
Another cyclist was injured on the Hudson River Greenway on Sunday because the security bollards are too close together. Photo: Ken Coughlin

Meet another victim of the new math on the Hudson River Greenway.

On a busy Sunday on North America’s busiest bike and pedestrian path, a cyclist was injured in a crash caused by the metal anti-terrorism bollards that state officials started installing earlier this summer. At the time, Streetsblog pointed out the frightful statistics of the barriers:

“They’re just 48 inches apart — only enough room for one cyclist at a time to squeeze through. At peak hours, that’s certain to jam up the busiest bikeway in the nation and create dangerous conflicts.”

We don’t have all the details about the 3.40 p.m. crash today — our photographer Ken Coughlin came upon the scene near 38th Street after the cyclist either hit the bollards or was hit by another cyclist or pedestrian trying to get out of the way of them.

“The guy was in evident pain and was unable to get up during the 30 seconds or so I was there,” Coughlin said. “For me, the new bollards add anxiety and uncertainty to a ride down the greenway. At some point I may be that guy.”

The steel bollards replace temporary cement Jersey barriers that the Cuomo administration installed after a madman intentionally drove a rented truck onto the greenway last October 31 and killed eight.

There was no input from bike advocates regarding the design or placement of the temporary or the new-and-not-really-improved security measures. TransAlt condemned the initial temporary barriers immediately last year, and the group has continued to advocate for security that protects cyclists rather than endangers them.

In May, the group told Cuomo that there should be fewer bollards and they should be at least 60 inches apart — still narrow enough to stop a car, but wide enough for cyclists to pass safely. Sixty inches would put the bollards in compliance with American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials standards for shared-use paths.

 

“It’s possible to protect greenway users from all manner of vehicle incursions while at the same time not creating a new safety hazard,” TransAlt Executive Director Paul Steely White said at the time. “It’s not a matter of if people will be injured on these, it’s when.”

 

Sunday was another of those “whens.”

  • BruceWillisThrowsACar@You

    Seems like they’re there more to unnecessarily bottleneck / slow down cyclists for motorists at certain driveways / intersections while putting them in danger at the same time. Absolutely asinine.

  • It’s incredible but probably true – they likely looked at this situation and said, “well we can’t do much to prevent cars from doing this kind of thing if they really want to, but we can make it inconvenient. But also, we have an opportunity here to finally deal with those troublesome CYCLISTS”

  • Dr. Bones

    ANY set of solid barriers like that placed at unpredictable intervals in an active bike lane are going to be hit by some, (take out some knees, etc) especially when it’s busy and people have a lot to distract them. When there are a lot of people in front of you, you might not even see it until it is too late. So yes, it’s a question of when.

  • guest

    So predictable. I know where they are and slow down as needed, but sometimes people speed past me to cut in front which can be really scary, even if you look behind and try to anticipate it. I fully expect that some day I’m going to faceplant there after losing balance because someone sped by me too close or even clipped me in one of those spots. Also, as someone else mentions below, you absolutely may not see the bollards on a busy day if you don’t know to expect them or something else draws your attention for a couple of seconds on the busy path.

    But, the way things work in this city/state, we’ll need someone to die for the state to better space the bollards.

  • djx

    Also, look at the finish on those things – they’re reflective in a way that picks up the surroundings. There will be light conditions when they look like their surroundings. Imagine such a thing placed to divide lanes on a road with cars – they would be have a very different finish/color, for good reason.

  • MatthewEH

    My 2c here:

    * The bollards do not feel like they’re spaced as closely as I feared. 4 feet is a little close, but not nearly as bad as the sawtooth of bollards on the lower greenway near the World Financial Center
    – The 4 feet seems to have been chosen so as to be *just wide enough* that Parks’ golf carts can squeeze through but no more
    * Places where the bollards have gone in, it is an improvement over the 12-foot-long Jersey barriers. This is a low bar to surpass.
    * The bollards are still a PITA and are sure to cause more injuries

    I’m disappointed that there seemed to be no effort to explore solutions that’d keep cars out while presenting minimal hazard to cyclists. Amply marked hollow sidewalk slabs that would collapse under the weight of a car, things like that.

  • Dr. Bones

    Good point….especially at night. They should probably, at the very least, be painted bright something or other.

  • Joe R.

    Honestly, I’m not really seeing any good reason why motor vehicles need to cross the greenway in the first place. Put parking and bus stops on the street side of the greenway. If you do it this way you can have bollards only where people enter the greenway. The greenway itself would be bollard-free. Also, by getting rid of motor vehicle crossings you can get rid of the traffic signals.

  • guest

    Bollards are fine if they prevent another Halloween massacre, but there is inadequate signage to note where they are especially when it’s crowded.

  • Leland

    I find this bollard situation to be so stressful and unpleasant that I’ve actually decided to give up on cycling after 10+ years of struggle. Between the drivers, the golf carts, the hyper-aggressive cyclists and runners, getting stopped by the traffic guy at Chelsea Piers to let cars through…it’s all become too much. The city has made it very clear that we are not welcome to use that space. It is so much worse now than it was when I first started riding. These bollards are so offensive that I simply give up.

  • JL

    The WSGW is becoming a victim of its own success. For almost 20 yrs it opened up N/S travel in Manhattan and I got rid of my car. Travel from UWS to LES was/is approx. 1 hr by train, X by car, 30 minutes for a fast cyclist. The increase volume in the past decade brings increase stress levels especially during rush hour traffic. The only exception is the new half- mile between 59th and 70th. Each section has its own unique dangers. It can still work magnificently if you allow for extra time, allow for anti-social behaviors of all kind, while being predictable and in control the whole time. It is not for the meek during peek rush and summer weekends.

  • Leland

    Until the Halloween incident, my commute was something I looked forward to every day. I live on the far west side and work downtown, so it was usually a breeze, and it was even fun sometimes. Those days seem to be gone.

  • cjstephens

    I agree with all the cyclist safety points in this article, but I’m going to call the writer out for some politically correct baloney: the man who drove the van was not a “madman” but a terrorist. We can’t just wish away the threat of radical Islamic terrorism in NYC by defining it away with more acceptable euphemisms. This is just as bad as the NYPD using “terrorism” as an excuse to make life miserable for pedestrians and cyclists (but never inconveniencing drivers).

  • bikeohio

    Bollards are dangerous, regardless of their spacing. Learn more bollard hazard basics here — https://www.ohiobikeways.net/bollard_hazard.htm

    Also, learn more about why many communities continue to use them, despite the documented injuries and fatalities they’ve caused — https://www.ohiobikeways.net/ongoing_bollard_hazard.htm

  • Edwin V

    Assuming that we have to have some sort of bollard or anti-car blocker, I’m not so against the placement. Though its too narrow for two even very competent cyclist to pass through together (unlike the cement jersey blocks where two could pass), the space on the right is now wide enough to encourage joggers to stay on that side of the bollard which I think is good. Should the joggers be on the bike path – no, of course not. But that was never going to be enforced in a hundred years. All that said, I pretty much avoid the path anyway. I prefer 10th/11th aves now.

  • I can see giving up on the Greenway. But don’t give up on riding altogether!

    The avenues are much better, anyway. The Greenway was nice for a while; but it was always too remote. When you are riding in Manhattan, you want to feel the City around you.

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