City Ignoring Dangerous Conditions on Hudson River Greenway Despite Upcoming Bulkhead Repairs

A cyclist recently on the Cherry Walk portion of the bike path through Riverside Park. Photo: Google.
A cyclist recently on the Cherry Walk portion of the bike path through Riverside Park. Photo: Google.

Talk about a speed bump.

Cyclists will have to wait at least two more years for a smooth, safe bike route along the nation’s busiest bike path, despite the Parks Department’s awareness that a long stretch of the Hudson River Greenway on the Upper West Side is dangerous because of cracks and bumps caused by old tree roots.

Last month, the Parks Department announced it would close the Cherry Walk bike path in Riverside Park between W. 100th and W. 125th streets to fix damage caused by Superstorm Sandy almost a decade ago. But the work, which is part of a $1.5-million federally funded reconstruction project, will only fix “shoreline” damage caused by the 2012 storm, not the poor conditions along the greenway, an agency spokeswoman said — an odd shortcoming, given that the crumbling bike path is, and has been for years, riddled with ridges that have caused at least two major crashes in the last three years.

“The city is poised to close the same section of the greenway to do repairs from Superstorm Sandy — but not of the root damage that caused the serious injuries in our clients and others. With the bike boom we have all seen, this continues to be a dangerous problem,” said Peter Beadle, an attorney with Vaccaro & White, who represents victims of traffic violence.

The Hudson River Greenway is the busiest bike path in the nation.

Cracks caused by tree roots in the Cherry Walk, near 104th Street. Photo provided by Peter Beadle
Cracks and bumps caused by tree roots in the Cherry Walk, near 104th Street. Photo provided by Peter Beadle
104thstreetcherrywalk
Cracks and bumps caused by tree roots in the Cherry Walk, near 104th Street. Photo provided by Peter Beadle

The Parks Department initially said work on the Cherry Walk would start on Sept. 28, and last about three weeks, but the work has yet to begin because of “internal delays” with the contractor, spokeswoman Megan Moriarty said.

And the Parks Department is planning to fix the bike path as part of another major $2.3-million capital reconstruction project to smooth out the upheavals caused by tree roots — but not until 2022, the spokeswoman said. The work, funded by the mayor’s office, will address “path irregularities while protecting and preserving the healthy trees along the route,” said Moriarty. (See Streetfilms’ video below.)

The Cherry Walk is in Bad Shape for Cyclists and Has been for 10 Years! from STREETFILMS on Vimeo.

The city should just do all of the work in one swoop before another cyclist gets severely injured, like victim Leslie Adatto, who suffered a serious brain injury after falling off her bike onto her head on Jan. 24, 2017, said Beadle.

“[The Parks Department] knew this is dangerous, people are getting seriously hurt all the way up to brain damage and they’re now closing down to do physical work,” he said.

The second crash victim, who asked to remain anonymous, just settled his case with the city for an undisclosed amount after flying over his handlebars and onto the pavement after hitting a bump. He doesn’t remember the actual crash, but his tracking device luckily recorded exactly when and where it happened — near 104th Street right by a big crack that to this day the victim says hasn’t been repaired.

“I stopped in a mess of asphalt and broken up pavement that I believe is still in that same state of disrepair,” he told Streetsblog.

Riders like him have warned the city about the pathway for years, including written complaints that have made their way right onto Parks Department staffers’ desks, according to the deposition of one employee on March 28, 2019.

One complaint included in the deposition, for example, says:

“The asphalt in the Hudson River Greenway between 96th Street and 175th Street is buckling and is very dangerous as it can lead to collision between bikers and pedestrians. Can you please repave the path? It has been in disrepair for many years.”

Yet the Parks Department hasn’t taken care of it, despite testimony that reveals the agency has been aware of the dangers of the crumbling bike path, and the urgent need to fix it.

Parks Department supervisor Mary Smalls — who oversees green spaces in Manhattan, including Riverside Park — told Beadle during her testimony that she has taken pictures of the “buckling” in the bike path and shown her superiors in hope of a quicker fix. But the problems were too serious for just a simple work order, she said.

“Work to correct the reported condition is under review for a capital project. The condition of the path is known, and NYC Parks has been coordinating with other departments including capital projects to handle the process,” Parks Department staff wrote in response to complaints, according to the testimony.

Smalls told Beadle that she had inspected the Cherry Walk bike path back several times back in 2017 and deemed it “unsatisfactory” due to unevenness from tree roots and warned that people could hurt their ankles.

“When you’re walking you could turn your ankle because it was a variation in the height,” Smalls wrote in one of her reports, according to her testimony.

Smalls said the Parks Department had performed some “patching” jobs to fix the dangerous condition but it still remained a unacceptable condition and would until getting funding for a major capital project.

But waiting until at least 2022 could risk other bikers getting severely hurt on the path, said one of the crash victims.

“It’s a shame it’s in such bad shape still. I’m just dumbfounded, it’s an obvious safety issue that hasn’t been taken care of,” he said.

Moriarty declined to comment on the two lawsuits.

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The Hudson River Greenway is the most heavily used bike path in the United States, carrying roughly one-seventh of all cyclists entering Manhattan below 50th Street. In Upper Manhattan, where there are fewer bike lanes and much less on-street protection for cyclists than further south, it is truly the backbone of the bike network. Despite […]