Ineptitude, Delays and Apathy Could Rob Upper Manhattan and the Bronx of Key Bike Routes

Come October, the Henry Hudson Bridge, Dyckman Street, and a key Greenway link could all be out-of-commission.

Thou shalt not pass. This key bridge on the Hudson River Greenway will be out for more than a year. Photo: Liz Marcello
Thou shalt not pass. This key bridge on the Hudson River Greenway will be out for more than a year. Photo: Liz Marcello

Safe cycling routes to Inwood and the Northwest Bronx could soon be harder to find thanks to decisions by city and state agencies that will neutralize key links along and around the northernmost segment of the Hudson River Greenway.

Last month, the Parks Department fenced off access to the greenway’s Fort Washington Park pedestrian bridge so it could conduct “immediate” — but still unscheduled — repairs. A few miles north, the state-run MTA plans to cut off walking and biking access on the Henry Hudson Bridge, the only safe non-auto crossing between Inwood and the northwest Bronx. Meanwhile, the city announced last month it would rip up one of Dyckman Street’s nine-month-old protected bike lanes (though that decision is being revisited).

As the mayor decides what he wants to do with the Dyckman Street bike lane, it has reverted to a double-parking zone. Photo: Ben Jay
As the mayor decides what he wants to do with the Dyckman Street bike lane, it has reverted to a double-parking zone. Photo: Ben Jay

Local biking advocates are furious.

“It’s been kind of a 1-2-3 punch for us uptown cyclists,” said Inwood resident Orin Kurtz. “Literally the day they closed the [Fort Washington Park] bridge, they took off the bike lane on Dyckman.”

The Henry Hudson Bridge foot and bike path closure will begin on September 20, according to signage posted at the bridge entrance. The $86-million rehabilitation project is expected to last 19 months.

The MTA plans to provide shuttle buses over the bridge every half hour between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. during the closure. But that won’t do much for either greenway-bound bike commuters or Bronxites who want to get to Inwood Hill Park by foot or bike: Waiting for and riding the shuttles is certain to make the trip at least 15 minutes longer. At that rate, die-hard cyclists might as well take the treacherous Broadway Bridge. Others will probably give up altogether.

“If you’re taking your child for a bike ride to see Inwood Park or the greenway, you’re not going to get on a shuttle,” said Riverdale resident Craig Weingard. “It’s absolutely ridiculous. No one is going to do that.”

“That Broadway Bridge — charitably speaking, it’s a nightmare,” Kurtz said.

Weingard and Bronx Community Board 8’s transportation committed pushed for safe space for biking and walking during bridge construction after MTA started talking about this rehab project in 2016 [PDF]. The MTA rejected that as unsafe to bridge users and construction crews.

“In order to keep the public safe, the walkway needs to be closed,” MTA Maintenance Superintendent Richard Campisi told the Riverdale Press last year. Other agency reps told CB8 that car volumes on the bridge were too high and bike volumes too low to warrant re-purposing a lane for walking and biking.

“There’s a simple — simple, simple, simple — solution,” said Weingard. “If somebody can make it safe for the workers, if somebody can make it safe for cars, then you can make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists as well.”

Further south, the Parks Department has yet to provide a timeline for when repairs will begin on the Fort Washington pedestrian bridge — or how long those repairs will take. On Twitter, some have speculated that the bridge could be out-of-commission for a long time. A complete reconstruction project, originally proposed in 2009, is long overdue.

Park Department officials suggest cyclists take 181st Street as an alternative, but that route requires navigating steep inclines. Some commuters have instead opted to ride on a poorly kept path in the park, which requires traversing an emergency highway service ramp. In response, Parks covered the path with mulch — supposedly to improve conditions for commuters. Stairs on the southern end of the detour will soon be equipped with rails to assist cyclists carrying their bikes.

“We are aware that regular commuters familiar with this bridge have been using it as an alternate detour,” said Parks spokesperson Crystal Howard. “As such, we have pruned the perimeter of the pathway; done some patchwork to potholes, where able; and mulched the path to cover tree roots and depressions so it’s more conducive to pedestrian access.”

Scott Baker, a Midtown resident who organizes bike rides for the East Coast Greenway Alliance, said the detour is too steep for participants. The 181st Street alternative, however, isn’t much better.

“It’s a huge hill,” Baker said. “It actually gets steeper as you go higher, so a lot of people end up walking [their bikes].”

  • Elizabeth F

    Don’t forget that uptown / NW Bronx commuter routes are also significantly affected by the never-ending battle over “saving” the Putnam Trail — where “save” means leaving it in the current deplorable state.

    With this 1-2-3 punch, your best bet is to take 155 St over to the East Side, then the Harlem River Drive path to Inwood.

    Glad I left Westchester. Now if I bike in, I do so over the GWB.

  • AMH

    Why are bike volumes so low on the HH Bridge? It couldn’t have anything to do with the pathway being far too narrow and rules prohibiting bicycling across.

    I’m really glad I discovered the Amtrak bridge closure while I was on a weekend ride, and now while I was trying to get somewhere. What a disaster.

  • AMH

    I only ride the Putnam Trail when it’s been dry for a week, and I always have trouble finding it in the woods! Like so many things in New York, it could be wonderful if the right people cared enough, and if other people weren’t actively fighting to keep the current decrepitude.

  • MatthewEH

    Well, access from the Bronx side of that bridge is easy enough, but then it dumps you into a little-traveled part of Inwood Hill Park, and it’s necessary to traverse a lot of stairs to get back out to riverside greenways. Low volume is unsurprising, all-in-all.

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