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Cyclists Deserve Their Own Lane During Fleet Week, Like They Had in 2003

7:56 AM EDT on May 23, 2019

In recent years, Hudson River Greenway users have been forced to dismount their bikes during Fleet Week. But That may change.

The city should dust off a more-than-decade old plan to give cyclists their own safe route on the westside of Manhattan during the extremely busy Fleet Week, which kicked off on Wednesday, advocates charge.

Thousands of tourists will flock to the Hudson River Greenway this week to see military vessels sail through the river. And because of all the foot traffic, the NYPD forces cyclists to dismount from their bikes along the path — a policing strategy that is dangerous and creates chaos. Instead, the city should take a page out of its own playbook and take a lane away from cars on the West Side Highway to give to bikers — like it did more than a decade ago.

“It’s incredibly dangerous," said former Traffic Commissioner "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz. "Why not slow down cars and allow for bikes to traverse safely. Don't treat bikers like second-class citizens and be fair, they are part of the transportation system.”

For years during Fleet Week, the city has made cyclists hop off their bikes and walk them for several blocks along the popular riverside greenway — the busiest bike lane in the nation. Back in 2016, the dismount-zone was for an entire 10-block stretch between 46th and 56th streets, and this year it’s from 46th to 50th streets — though it will likely stretch even further because of all the pedestrians and tourists snapping photos.

The path becomes so congested and hard to navigate that some daredevil cyclists would rather try to ride along with cars on the West Side Highway, putting them in danger of being hit, said Schwartz.

“Bikers, please don’t venture on the highway; I saw a few scary moments last year,” he said in his Daily News column.

But there is an alternative — and the city made it back in 2003. Police took away the westernmost lane of the highway from cars and gave it to cyclists and pedestrians, according to a report from Transportation Alternatives.

“The police barricaded off the westernmost lane of Route 9A between 43rd and 48th Streets for through bicycle and pedestrian traffic,” the report says.

That never happened again, but it should — for everyone's safety, said Schwartz.

"Why do we subject both parties to such a horrible outcome when in fact there is a solution?” he said.

It’s alway seems to be cyclists who get the short end of the stick, never drivers.

“We wouldn't tell people to exit their cars and push them along the Cross Bronx Expressway, but nobody thinks twice about forcing people who bike to hop off and walk for nearly half a mile,” said Joe Cutrufo, a spokesman for Transportation Alternatives. "This is the most heavily-used bike commuter route in the nation. There has to be a safe, separate alternative route."

Police did not respond to a request for comment.

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