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COMMUNITY BOARD APPROVES MAKING RIVERSIDE ESPLANADE PEDESTRIAN-ONLY YEAR-ROUND

turnout-bike-path
The Community Board meeting was packed with people — particularly cyclists — for the bike path vote. Panoramic photo by Willow Stelzer.

By Mark Bollettieri

Despite passionate opposition, the full Community Board 7 approved a Parks & Recreation proposal to create a year-round designated bike path between West 72nd Street and West 83rd Street in Riverside Park.

The plan was approved last month by the Parks and Environment Committee of Community Board 7.

esplanade-riverside-parkCurrently, bikers and pedestrian share a riverside path known as the Esplanade (shown at left). Conflicts between bikers and pedestrians are common on the Esplanade because it is a narrow path used both by commuting bikers and strolling pedestrians. The Parks Department, however, did not have figures on how many collisions have occurred there.

The plan aims to resolve those conflicts between bikes and pedestrians by diverting bikers further inland. Funding for the project was approved as part of Councilmember Helen Rosenthal’s participatory budgeting process, where locals can vote on capital projects.

Many community members who commute by bike on the path were fiercely opposed to the plan. They are concerned that the section of the path which goes over The Rotunda, a structure in the park that supports a traffic circle, is too steep to be easily traversed.

During the winter months, others added, ice and snow may make the new path dangerous to ride. There was also concern that the new path will be unsafe because it is more remote and less populated than the Esplanade. Bicycling advocates had started a petition to keep the esplanade open to cyclists in the winter.

In the words of one cyclist: “All of the amenities that are on the [Esplanade] such as the water fountains, the bathrooms, the superior lighting, the safety in numbers are all going to be taken away from cyclists who are going to be asked to ride through a highway on-ramp off-ramp structure in order to be able to continue on their route.”

Daniel Pearlstein, who uses the path to commute, felt that the issue ought to have been studied by the Department of Transportation. “It would be remiss in such a sophisticated community as the Upper West Side not to seek out the best possible advice from the people that our tax dollars support to do this work,” he said.

Pedestrians who use the Esplanade were generally in favor of the proposal. Many said that they had stopped walking along the Esplanade for fear of being hit by a cyclist.

Mike McCarthy, a parent and West Side Little League coach, was in favor of the proposal because he fears for the safety of his children and the ones he coaches. “We’re dodging bicyclists coming from left and right,” he said. “Change is needed, and change is needed now.”

Board members were split on the issue. Some made the case that Riverside Park is intended for recreation rather than commuting, and added that nearby bike lanes exist on both Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

Shelly Friedman, a member of Community Board 7, proposed an amendment that would make the bike path mandatory only April through October from dawn to dusk. The vote on the amendment was tied 20-20, which means that it failed.

In the end, the Community Board passed the proposal. Construction is expected to begin in the fall of 2017.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 45 comments | permalink
    1. dannyboy says:

      That’s good.

    2. Ish Kabibble says:

      The bikers are whining about an 11 block detour. 11. If you’re riding a bike and have to use the bathroom, I’d like to think they could hold it that short distance. Perspective, bikers.

    3. Cato says:

      Hallelujah! Finally, recognition that bicycles are not all there is on the Upper West Side.

      The disappointed, and now re-routed, cyclists need to understand that they brought this on themselves. This entire effort was made necessary by the need to protect pedestrians from irresponsible bicyclists.

      And of course I acknowledge that not all cyclists are irresponsible, and that there are those riders who showed courtesy to people on foot. I’m sorry that they will now be inconvenienced, but those cyclists should direct their anger about this change to the Lance Armstrongs among their number, who turn any extended flat surface into a race track. And to hell with anyone impudent enough to get in their way!

      It is the self-entitled, get-out-of-my-way-I’m wearing-Spandex racers, not the pedestrians, who made this change necessary. And now, thanks to Parks & Recreation and our Community Board, it sounds like the pedestrian path is one step closer to being safe for pedestrians once again.

    4. Rob says:

      About time the esplanade was returned to pedestrians for which it was always intended.
      Bad enough the bikes have taken over the streets, to allow them to ride unimpeded on paths designed for walkers (both human and the kind many people need to get around) is insane. Hope the CB now bans bikes on the park’s upper level paths between 72nd and
      96th streets as well.

    5. Catherine says:

      I am thrilled to hear this decision. I am one of those people who have stopped walking along the Esplanade for this very reason. The bikers have no regard for the pedestrians, and they have brought this on themselves. They come zooming along at high rates of speed and I have several times just dodged in time and avoided a collision. We have 2 small dogs and have liked to walk them along the Esplanade, but have stopped doing that and instead have been walking up on the path that runs along w the Esplanade while still being in view of the river. Thank you Community Board 7 for this decision. Bikers want things all their own way – even the bike lanes along Amsterdam and Columbus are dangerous for pedestrians because the bikers often go the wrong way, so while you are looking in the direction they should be coming from, very often they are coming from the other direction – especially delivery guys. Thanks!!

      • Stephen O'Kane says:

        Yeah, I’m a cyclist, and I hate to see people go the wrong way on a path or the road, this should be clamped down on hard for 6 months to get the message through (I see it as much worse that running a light). And I do agree with others on here that many cyclist do make it dangerous for pedestrians.

      • marina says:

        I agree and on top of all this, the cyclists have an attitude, meaning if you point out to them they too need to obey traffic rules, such as stopping at lights and having a bell to alert walkers, they become snippy if not really rude. I too am terrified that as I walk I am expected to have eyes in the back of my head to see on-going bikes (usually very fast) and not side step, or trip or allow my dog who is a leash to pull to the side suddenly. I am outraged that cyclists have taken over the road without understanding the concept of SHARING APPROPRIATELY. AND WHY ARE THE RULES THAT THEY ARE SUPPOSED TO CONFIRM TO NOT BEING ENFORCED, AT ALL!!??

    6. Lucien says:

      Reality: Now the cyclists will continue riding on the Esplanade or have the option to ride on the designated bike path.

    7. Effy says:

      I commute on my bike and find a lot of bikers dangerously, murderously reckless. Just walk your bike if the alternative path is slippery or it’s dark. They act like their bikes can’t stop. A lot of bikers don’t even slow down for pedestrians – thinking they’re racing in the Tour de France or who knows what ego maniacal vision is going through their heads in their ridiculous spandex on a flat easy ride along the Hudson. It’s not Colorado people, no one is impressed.

    8. ScooterStan says:

      Re: “All of the amenities that are on the [Esplanade] …all going to be taken away from cyclists who (will)ride through a highway on-ramp off-ramp structure …to continue on their route.”

      Cheer up, me hearties! You can do it!

      You are NYC CYCLISTS! You blast past those slow-moving ordinary pedestrians just like a Maserati blowing-off a Prius!

      You laugh at traffic lights !

      You dress in full Spandex outfits whose total cost surpasses the weekly pay of your favorite Uber ‘Chaffeur’!!

      You wear helmets with those hysterically-ludicrous teensy-weensy rear-view mirrors sticking off the sides !!!

      Remember, when the going gets tough the tough get going…or just sit around and kvetch.

      • UWS_lifer says:

        sort of similar to the issues with people in their wheelchairs, don’t cha think? Remember the bathroom access issue the other day? I bet you do.

        I would think of all people that you would be more sensitive.

        • ScooterStan says:

          Re: “I would think of all people that you would be more sensitive.”

          Sure! Will become “more sensitive” as soon as the cyclists become more sensitive to:
          1) traffic lights;
          2) mere pedestrians;
          3) the fact that they do NOT OWN this world but, like all the rest of us, simply share it.

          Hmmm…don’t hold your breath waiting for all of the above to happen.

    9. Kathleen says:

      That’s right, the park is for recreation, not commuting. Yay Community Board!! It will be safe and enjoyable to visit the river again~

    10. Margaret says:

      This is flat out nuts.

      873 people voted for the following proposal:

      Hudson Greenway Bike Safety Improvements.

      The improvements will include: signage, pavement markings, gates and bollards where required, and repave and regrade sections of the existing park paths to accommodate an alternative bike route to alleviate congestion.

      Parks has delivered something completely different, which seems detrimental to encouraging cycling instead of enhancing it. It was very clear they didn’t use any data. In 4 days, 2000 people signed a petition asking for significant adjustments. Without considering any data, those requests were ignored by Parks and CB7. That’s an embarrassment.

      I’m a jogger, have jogged the whole 32 mile loop all around Manhattan a couple times so I feel like I’ve seen where on the island and in Riverside Park the pinch points are. This isn’t even one of the top five. We all know that there are people on the UWS who will show up to kvetch about bikes till the cows come home. I’m irredeemably disappointed with Riverside Park administrators and the process here. Have supported the park in the past and will start working for better. And it’s scary to hear safety questions for people on bikes in dark winter months answered with “hey the park is safer now than it was in the 1970s.” CB7, that’s not good enough.

      • Joan Conlon says:

        The park is designated for the neighborhood as per the Parks Dept.But there are now many tourists there and they are not expecting high speed bikers.The park is also popular with nannies and dog walkers who can not get out of the way of the bikers as easily as the joggers can.Plus if bikers are speeding how can they avoid pot holes and cracks.But we do need a bike path. For children abd adults who ride safelt.

      • dannyboy says:

        “873 people voted for the following proposal…”, and
        “2000 people signed a petition asking for significant adjustments.”

        to me this is not flat out nuts. I think petitioning governing bodies is a good idea, but that these governing bodies must maintain their responsibility to the larger population that they serve. The petition is useful for indicating support but is not the final vote.

        • Margaret says:

          I agree with you, Dannyboy. The important thing is what’s best for the city.

          The nation’s most popular bike path stands at the foot of a dog run the public literally spent $500,000 on. So the idea that people walking small leashed dogs should now take displace everybody else from a wide and heavily used riverfront path – I’m not sure how that gained currency.

          It stands next to a dock that was just rebuilt at huge public expense after a hurricane flooded the park, updated the city’s flood zone maps and caused billions of dollars in local damage. There is a six-lane highway with car traffic at 60 mph running through this park. I dont hear a lot of calls to eliminate it. So I don’t understand why community board members are willing to say their objective is to keep New Yorkers from biking through the park if they’re commuting. I do think this is misguided and problematic. It doesn’t matter so much if CB7 and Parks decide not to consider or address climate change. Because climate change doesn’t care. It’ll still impact US.

          • dannyboy says:

            “So I don’t understand why community board members are willing to say their objective is to keep New Yorkers from biking through the park if they’re commuting. I do think this is misguided and problematic. It doesn’t matter so much if CB7 and Parks decide not to consider or address climate change. Because climate change doesn’t care. It’ll still impact US.” – Margaret

            i think they were addressing the issue of public safety

    11. jerry luke says:

      We are all entitled to stroll on the Esplanade without feeling we are an impediment to the Lance Armstrongs of this world who seem to multiply on the weekends.
      We need to create a safe environment for bikers by either creating more bike lanes in the streets or eliminating all vehicular traffic on some thoroughfares.
      Overpopulation is the real problem here. There are too many people chasing their leisure with a limited amount of turf to serve us all.
      SPORTS INSIGHT Friday’s 2p – 3:30p

    12. Leon says:

      I spend 98% of my Esplanade time walking, often with little kids either walking or in a stroller. I get incredibly annoyed by the aggressive bikers slaloming between people (though I also get annoyed by pedestrians walking 5 across or letting their leash block most of the path). As I live near Riverside Drive in the 80s, these aggressive bikers flying through red lights going down Riverside also anger me.

      That being said, I also am an occasional biker. I ride fairly slowly and responsibly. I live on the UWS so like to ride down the Esplanade and further down the west side, as far as my out-of-shape legs will take me (getting home is another story!)

      I wish there was a way that slow, responsible riders like myself could still ride there. I guess this is a case of a lot of bad apples spoiling the bunch.

      It seems like bike commuters are among the most upset (I am not one). I would imagine pedestrian traffic is lighter during commuting times, particularly in the morning. Could some sort of an exception be made for, say, 7-9 am and install a few speed bumps to make sure no one gets out of control? Just a thought.

      • Cato says:

        “I wish there was a way that slow, responsible riders like myself could still ride there. I guess this is a case of a lot of bad apples spoiling the bunch.”

        That’s exactly right. But what’s worse: As another commenter has rightly pointed out, the “bad bikers” are going to continue zooming down the Esplanade anyway. They are, after all, Entitled.

        It will probably be only the responsible, courteous riders like you, who were never the main part of the problem, who will comply with the new routing.

    13. Steve says:

      That’s right – just blame the reckless bikers and punsish all bikers (including the >80% that are responsible users)

      But dont blame the idiot pedestrians who dont ever look where they are going (also 20% of the population)

      Take some responsiblity for yourself and others instead of trying to regulate behavior that punishes everyone.

      • Jsc says:

        If an idiot pedestrian bumps into someone, neither one will get seriously injured. If an idiot biker crashes into someone, both would be hurt. It’s not the same thing at all.

    14. Tim says:

      I’m sorry but this measure seems rash. I’m a bike commuter. I don’t own any spandex sporting a European slogan. I’m also a pedestrian (like everyone else), so I make sure to maintain respectful spacing, especially around seniors, children or pets. I freely acknowledge that we have some cyclists who treat the greenway like a race course, which it clearly is not. As a pedestrian, I know the feeling of having a bike whiz by just a bit too close. That said, CB missed the forest for the trees here. There is a growing bike culture in the City. Rather than thinking creatively and longterm about adapting the two cultures for our urban setting, CB took the easy way out by moving cyclists to a hilly and awkward path. The esplanade segment, however, is in fact wide enough for everyone to enjoy with a little common sense and discreet measures, whether speed bumps or inverted gateways, designated lanes, slow zone enforcement (yes, ticket the bad guys), off-hours (pre-9am, post-6pm) or off-season adjustments (and yes, contrary to some comments, the path gets relatively little use by pedestrians during winter months). Hopefully over time CB will reconsider.

      • dannyboy says:

        “I’m sorry but this measure seems rash.”

        Tim, an analogy that may ease the unfairness you feel:

        Drivers also vary in the same way as bikers. Some speed recklessly and others are more careful and cooperative.

        However, ALL drivers are affected by the restrictions aimed at curbing the dangerous speeders. Speed bumps along the road is one example.

        • tim says:

          That’s fair – and sure enough, in the analogy, behavior generally changes (emphasize generally). It seems that perhaps a bit more effort could have been spent weighing reasonably-acceptable (and less costly) alternatives, such as those mentioned or even creating a one-way lane only (southbound) and using the new path for northbound, thus reducing bikes by half, theoretically. There are plenty other stretches of the path where cyclists, runners and pedestrians figure out how to co-exist. With a little nudge from Parks, this could have been accomplished here too. At least try first. Then resort to what I call the hilly-winding-narrow path, which raises its own challenges.

    15. Alta says:

      I ride that path almost every day, sometimes in spandex going fast, sometimes in normal clothes going slowly, and I’m ok with this decision. We don’t want to bike on a path full of pedestrians any more than you want to walk on a path full of bikes.

      As long as safe, protective, bike routes still exist, it’s a win.

    16. EG says:

      I am disappointed with this decision. I am a pedestrian, not a biker, but sometimes I walk on the inside path because it is shadier and less crowded. It is way too hilly for bikers. In my opinion, this is a bad change for the park.

      • dannyboy says:

        is there grass between the paths for walking?

        i just think that we can’t have a perfect solution for everyone

    17. Gail Dedrick says:

      I cannot tell you how happy this makes me. My beloved park may be usable gain. And I’m happy to say I was at that meeting and spoke.

    18. allie says:

      I agree with Mr. McCarthy…..that curve around and in front of the 72nd St ball field is very dangerous.
      Unfortunately, the absurdly planned way around this (literally) calls for removing a strip of the dog run and re-routing bikes through the run and the directly IN FRONT of bottom of the stairs from the upper level.
      Make sure to stop and look both ways before taking that last step…..you can be sure that bikers won’t be paying any more attention than they are now.
      Such brilliant planning!

    19. Sunny says:

      YEAH!!!!!!!!
      FANTASTIC!!
      Now I and other senior citizens with mobility problems that make us walk a little slower can enjoy the Promenade again without feeling like it’s suicidal.

      Now let’s get rid of all bikes in Manhattan!! They have taken over and ruined this city. I work in Midtown and every friggin’ week I am almost hit by some jerk bicyclist whizzing around pedestrians as we try to cross a street with the light. It has made me a nervous wreak. It’s not even the CitiBikers who tend to do this, and the messengers are bad, but not the worst. The worst are the damned joy riders. A-holes on two wheels. So bloody sick of them.

      • Sprinkles says:

        Man, if you hate bikes, you’re REALLY gonna hate these things called “cars” that are all over the streets, killing 200+ people per year in New York City…

        • Sunny says:

          Nope, I do not hate or fear cars while walking in NYC. I have been nearly hit by damned bikes, though, several times a week and only in the last few years, since the bike explosion caused by CitiBikes, Bloomberg, et al.

          The bike culture has changed dramatically in numbers and in a-hole behavior and aggression and it has made it a living hell for me and others merely trying to traverse the city sidewalks and streets. Bikes swoop up onto sidewalks and career around pedestrians. Ride against traffic constantly, even in those god-damned bike lanes they have been given all over the city. Never, ever, ever, ever felt this fear with cars. Have lived here all my adult life, too.

    20. larry garber says:

      I’m handicapped and can’t climb the proposed detour hills so remember it’s not only commuter who use the esplanade

    21. bill WIlliams says:

      Pedestrians are aggressive and do not pay attention to markings on the paths. They are unaware of their surroundings as they walk talking on their phones and listening with ear phones. CB7 has ruined the westside. First teh travesty of West End and now this. Job 1 is ridding ourselves of Rosenthal. Here’s to our complaining neighbors crossing red lights, stepping off curbs and otherwise meeting their maker at the hands of vehicles of all types. They deserve it.

      • Cato says:

        This is a valid complaint about pedestrians in streets, or even in bicycle paths as on Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues.

        It has no validity, however, when applied to pedestrians walking on pedestrian paths like the Esplanade. They (we) shouldn’t have to stay attuned to whims of whoooooshing zooooming metal bicycles while strolling along the river.

        Go ride your bike in the road, where bicycles belong.

      • Sunny says:

        Bill, I am a pedestrian and I do not talk on my phone, jaywalk, step off the curb, or walk against the light. I used to do all of those things, except the phone, but no longer. No longer. Never will I do those things. The bicyclists have made it too dangerous. I have never hit another pedestrian, biker, or car, either, while walking. I don’t walk aggressively. The new bike culture of recent years has made mere walking in Manhattan a nightmare. I am quite sincere about this.

    22. Scott says:

      I’m a bike rider, but the Esplanade shouldn’t be used for bicycles. Too many kids and pets. The bike lanes on Columbus Ave. and Amsterdam are where bicycles belong. Those lanes are amazing btw.

    23. David Blum says:

      the areas with observable problems are at 72 st. junction where to paths meet and there is an object that juts out making the area narrower than it needs to be. That is resolvable either by cutting a path for the bikes over a foot of grass for 3 feet of length. the boat dock area has barriers that are bigger than they need to be that make the path narrower. The rest of the problem is socialogical. Ive seen people blocking bikes on purpose – and am sure the opposite is possible. That is a human interaction issue that needs to be worked out

    24. Agree, but - says:

      This is a long needed standard of living increase. I want to say however that children under 16 should be exempted. We need to keep our wonderful kids with their smaller bikes enjoy their riding where we can see them. So I am proposing an informal exemption for little girls/boys on their Schwinns. No harassment for kids, you Park Rangers, please. They are not the issue here and very far from the king of the road maniacs in chromatic spandex that in an instant can spell certain catastrophe if you veer 2 inches to the side. So Let the kids ride even if the rules prohibit but the adult bikers indeed need their own sanctioned road warrior slipstream.

    25. City walker says:

      Sanity has prevailed! But perhaps a compromise could be effected by permitting bike riders to use the promenade on weekdays only between 7-9 a.m. and 6-8 p.m. for commuting purposes. Never on weekends or holidays however.