UPDATED: Parks Dept. Halts Greenway Repair to Mull Creating Safe Detour for Cyclists

The city heeds the calls of local bikers who warned of a detour's dangers.

A sinkhole on the Hudson River Greenway, looking south above 183rd Street. Photo: Inwood Owners Association
A sinkhole on the Hudson River Greenway, looking south above 183rd Street. Photo: Inwood Owners Association

The Parks Department has delayed its repair of the crumbling upper section of the Hudson River Greenway while the agency responds to concerns from cyclists by considering creating a safe detour rather than forcing riders onto dangerous Broadway.

“The project is on hold while we explore options,” Parks Department spokeswoman Megan Moriarty told Streetsblog, which had revealed the unsafe route change earlier this month.

Parks was set to start a four-month closure of the greenway last Monday, in order to begin the repair of the collapsing retaining wall and pothole-scarred path on a mile-long stretch of the greenway between West 181st and Dyckman streets. The department had planned to direct greenway users to ride on Broadway — a dangerous, congested road that is upper Manhattan’s main truck and freight route.

The recommendation, however, raised a hue and cry among those who rely on the greenway —  the nation’s busiest cycling path, the only safe north-south corridor for bike commuters traveling to or from Manhattan and the west Bronx, and the southernmost leg of the 750-mile Empire State Trail — especially because they had appealed for safer routes before the closure. Last year, Community Board 12 asked the city to consider converting an underused lane on the northbound Henry Hudson Parkway as a temporary protected bike lane during the repair. (The existing bike path runs alongside the westernmost lane of the northbound lanes of the highway.)

Last week, former city Traffic Commissioner Sam Schwartz endorsed that plan as a “far superior and much safer” route than the city’s plan. Then, Council Member Carmen De La Rosa stepped in, and the Park’s Department was forced to reconsider its plans.

Moriarty added that Parks had “reached out to” the state Department of Transportation, which controls the Henry Hudson Parkway.

SDOT confirmed that it “plans to discuss a number of path-related issues” with Parks and the city DOT soon.

A crumbling wall on the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Inwood Owners Association
A crumbling wall on the Hudson River Greenway. Photo: Inwood Owners Association

De La Rosa had met last week with local advocates and emerged saying that she was miffed by a “lack of communication” from the Parks Department. De La Rosa said the next step is to gather “the stakeholders,” including Parks and the city and state departments of Transportation, to find alternative routes.

The original detour — routing cyclists and walkers onto Broadway via Dyckman or 181st — was “pretty crazy,” she said, not only because of local traffic, but also because of all the motorists who exit the parkway there. “Hopefully we can come to a good solution and minimize the disruption,” she told Streetsblog.

From May 2020 through April 2022, there were 255 reported crashes on the surface streets selected for the detour, injuring 20 cyclists and 18 pedestrians, according to city data, with more collisions during the summer, the greenway’s peak-use period.

Carmen De La Rosa
Carmen De La Rosa

According to participants at the meeting, alternatives discussed included the Henry Hudson Parkway proposal and another routing cyclists through nearby Fort Tryon Park. The former idea appealed to them more: As detailed in the proposal that swayed CB12, a temporary protected bike lane could be set up inexpensively using jersey barriers. The latter idea, meanwhile, presents its own problems: Fort Tryon’s paths are quite steep and are used extensively by pedestrians and climbers, which would create conflicts with bicycles. De La Rosa said that Henry Hudson temporary lane might be preferable because it “went through the community board process” and had CB12’s recommendation.

Inwood cyclist Allegra Legrande called De La Rosa’s effort “very encouraging.”

“I am hopeful that she can do for our parkland greenways” what CM Carlina Rivera of the Lower East Side “did for surface street bike routes: Construction permits on parkland greenway paths should be predicated on an equally safe detour route — and real-time status updates should be centralized on a map viewer” on the city’s web site, Legrande added.

Legrande also doesn’t see a detour through Ft. Tryon Park as viable — “unless we all enroll in Tour de France training.”

As Streetsblog has reported, the proposed Broadway detour is only the latest instance of what bikers describe as poor treatment by the Parks Department. The agency has failed to provide safe routes for cyclists through Central Park, where a beloved doctor was killed in 2019. In Brooklyn, bikers have faulted Parks for declining to ensure a safe route during a year-long repair of the Brooklyn Greenway. Prolonged closures of the East River Greenway  for sinkhole fixes and remediations occasioned other complaints. The Hudson River Greenway has been a repeated scene of strife; in 2018, Parks only moved on fixing a pedestrian bridge there that spans the tracks at West 181st Street after Streetsblog highlighted the issue. A repair of the Cherry Walk section of the greenway in Riverside Park two years ago led to complaints about lack of notice and poor signage, and the rerouting of cyclists from the main greenway onto a hilly side path around the 79th Street Boat Basin some years back still rankles many. The deteriorated Ocean Parkway bike path is also an ongoing flashpoint.

The city DOT did not return repeated requests for comment. The city DOT commissioner, Ydanis Rodriguez, represented Inwood and Washington Heights in the City Council until this year.

This story was updated to reflect SDOT’s comment.

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