We’ve written quite a bit about the conflicts between the various kinds of people who use Central Park’s loop road — bicyclists, drivers, runners and ho-hum pedestrians all tend to come into conflict with each other at one time or another. Usually, the conflicts consist of angry facial expressions and muttered epithets, but sometimes they end in accidents. The city and Central Park Conservancy have tried various strategies to avoid the conflicts. We wrote about a recent cyclist education project here.
But the city’s newest plan is a bit more radical — in fact, it looks like the parts of the loop road will lose an entire driving lane, doubling the amount of space available to pedestrian and bicyclists.
And based on the drawings, it looks like the city will erect a physical barrier between runners and bicyclists. Another interesting issue: it appears from the image above that the city is giving bicyclists quite a bit of extra space when cars aren’t allowed in the park, assuming that runners and walkers will be forced to stay on the left side of the barrier. Presumably, during car-free hours, the bicyclists will get to expand into the car lanes. Car-free hours are listed here (basically cars can go through parts of the park during rush hours).
As to the upcoming changes, this is how the Department of Transportation explains it:
“The project is designed to clarify lanes and is tailored to the changing lane configurations in different parts of the park. For example, along the Upper Drive areas the pedestrian lane will double in width, bringing a total of 14 feet of pedestrian space, the bicycle lane width will increase to 11 feet and a 12 foot vehicle traffic lane will remain available during hours vehicles are permitted in the park. See the project presentation for full details.
Similar improvements made to the Prospect Park Loop Drives, installed in May 2012, now allow for one full lane each for joggers, cyclists and motorists, thus eliminating the previous lane shift during car-free and sections at which joggers were previously enclosed by a rail.
Observations from the Prospect Park lane redesign as well as DOT’s traffic analysis in Central Park suggest the lane redesign along the drives will result in an efficient flow for all users.”
The plan still needs to be discussed by community boards. Check out the comments on this piece to get a smattering of opinions about how the city and conservancy ought to manage these conflicts. We’ll keep you updated as officials present the specific plans.
Parks are for people, not cars. Any change reducing the presence of cars is an improvement. The use of bicycles for travel, instead of cars and taxis, is a worldwide responsibility and should be encouraged in NYC too. Accordingly, bicyclists should have a dedicated, safe lane in Central Park with sensible rules to follow, such as yielding to pedestrians at intersections. This will reduce conflicts and accidents, making for a healthier city for everyone.
Bloomberg’s “War on Cars” continues. If he illegally changes the rules so he can have (yet) another term, I expect us to return to horse and buggy.
Historically, one main reason Central Park came into being was when wealthy New Yorkers in salons decided in mid-19th century that they wanted to be “seen” by other wealthy New Yorkers riding in horse-and-buggy. So the commenter above is prescient.
Robert Moses, though, brought the “War *of* Cars” to New York with his brutal highway program in the 1930s.
I’m glad to see the proposed changes. But one thing won’t change. Tourists–and, while it sounds xenophobic, non-American tourists–often bike the wrong way. These changes just give them more options to do so.