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

In recent years, Hudson River Greenway users have been forced to dismount their bikes during Fleet Week. But the city should designate a lane of the West Side Highway just for cyclists like it did back in 2003.
In recent years, Hudson River Greenway users have been forced to dismount their bikes during Fleet Week. But the city should designate a lane of the West Side Highway just for cyclists like it did back in 2003.

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.

  • Vooch

    one lane of 12th avenue should be ‘reallocated’ to active transportation from Memorial Day to Labor Day, 4vr

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    Bill de Blasio’s NYPD will never waste an opportunity to make cycling harder to use as a daily form of transportation. Happy Bike Month!

  • r

    It’s also Polly Trottenberg. She doesn’t give a shit either, otherwise her DOT could come up with a safe and suitable detour for cyclists on any of the major avenues. Oh well! Someone might die riding on the West Side Highway, but at least Polly won’t ruffle any feathers!

  • Daphna

    I have ridden on the West Side Highway during fleet week rather than dismount and walk many blocks. But it was scary. If all cyclists would do this, claim a lane of the highway, there would be strength in numbers.
    The NYPD make the Hudson River greenway extremely dangerous and uncomfortable for cyclists during Fleet Week even on the parts where dismount is not required. They park their vehicles with the blinding lights blinking and the high beams directed right into the eyes of oncoming cyclists at sections where you are supposed to be able to ride (just north of the dismount area). That kind of glare makes it impossible to see. Very dangerous! I spoke to the NYPD about repositioning their vehicle and it’s lights and they did not care and did not move it.

  • Wilfried84

    Just wondering. Can she do anything the Mayor doesn’t allow her to do? Does she have any leverage without his backing?

  • com63

    I feel like this topic comes up too late every year to actually do something about. Seems like activists should get this on the local community board agenda sometime in the winter and spring and haul in DoT and NYPD to demand they come up with a solution.

  • r

    She could go to him with creative ideas for how to solve big problems. She could embrace good ideas from her staff and encourage them to come up with more. She does none of those things. It’s not all the mayor’s fault.

  • Wilfried84

    Do we know she doesn’t? Or had in the past, and got shot down and told to shut up and toe the line? I’m not trying to defend her, but wondering what the dynamics are, and where the power lies.

  • NYCyclist

    I rode past this area last night around 10:30pm. No one around, and no requirement to dismount. However, I couldn’t help but notice at least a dozen NYPD vehicles in the area. So much security theater, so much waste!

  • Joe R.

    Based on everything I’ve seen so far, it sounds like she doesn’t do anything until deBlasio says “Polly want a cracker?” And then she does what the Mayor says, and only what he says.

  • Trottenberg cannot do anything that the mayor doesn’t order. Whatever private conversations she has had with him, we have no idea. But without the mayor’s explicit authorisation, even the most genius plan cannot be revealed to the public.

    The only commissioner who acts independently from the mayor is the one who needs the most oversight: the police commissioner.

  • ItsEasyBeingGreen

    This is a state route but that doesn’t stop the NYPD from crapping on it and it wouldn’t stop DOT from coning off the westernmost lane and sending out staff (like the Street Ambassadors) to direct people cycling into the detour.

    Maybe the cops would even get a clue and help out too.

  • djx

    ” I spoke to the NYPD about repositioning their vehicle and its lights and they did not care and did not move it.”

    Glad you tried, but I literally cannot imagine NYPD ever moving a car from where they put it. Never. They would feel so emasculated by not being able to stop wherever the F they want. They’d never do it.

ALSO ON STREETSBLOG

The Debate Over Physically-Separated Bike Lanes Continues

|
A physically-separated bike lane on a shopping street in Copenhangen, Denmark Two weeks ago "Gridlock" Sam Schwartz wrote an op/ed for the Sunday Times advocating for physically-separated bike lanes in New York City. The next weekend, John Allen, a Waltham-based regional director for the League of American Bicyclists replied that separated bike lanes are dangerous and bad idea. […]

Is DOT Doing Enough to Make NYC Bike-Friendly?

|
The question was debated, albeit briefly and in slow motion, by two New York City Department of Transportation employees in the pages of the New York Times last week. Last week, in a Sunday City section op/ed piece, Andrew Vesselinovitch argued that DOT is not doing enough for New York City cyclists. Vesselinovitch is the […]