The Riverside Park esplanade, looking South from around 73rd Street. The esplanade would become pedestrian-only from 72nd to 83rd Street under a Parks Department plan, and bikers would be rerouted to a new bike path. Photo by gigi_nyc.
A new bike path designed to separate riders from walkers got the go-ahead from a local committee on Monday, but some bicyclists say they’re worried it will make their commute an uphill battle.
At the Community Board 7 Parks & Environment Committee meeting Monday, the committee approved a Department of Parks & Recreation budget request to create a designated bike path in Riverside Park between West 72nd Street and 83rd Street.
Currently, bikers and pedestrians share a path known as the esplanade between these streets. Collisions between bikers and pedestrians are common on the esplanade because it is a narrow path used both by commuting bikers and strolling pedestrians.
The plan will reroute bikers to an existing path further inland and designate the esplanade as a pedestrian-only path. To do so, the Department of Parks & Recreation will implement new signage, pavement markings, and flexible bollards. The Department plans to widen the entrance at 72nd street and soften the transition to the steep sections of the path by the Rotunda by repaving those portions. LED bulbs will also be installed along the new bike path.
Councilmember Helen Rosenthal, who attended the meeting, applauded the plan and mentioned that it makes good use of the limited Participatory Budget funds to solve the issue. The project received $200,000 from Rosenthal through the participatory budgeting process, where locals vote on how to spend $1 million in city funds.
The plan was generally popular with the pedestrians who attended the meeting, but concerned some bikers who thought the portion of the path by the Rotunda might be too steep. The Department of Parks & Recreation maintained that the new path, although steeper than the current one, would be easily traversable by most bikers. They added that splitting the current path on the esplanade into separate lanes for bikes and pedestrians was not an option, because that path was not wide enough.
The park administrator said bicyclists will be able to handle the incline, Streetsblog reported.
Some audience members expressed concern about riding on the steep inclines, particularly during the winter, but [Riverside Park Administrator John] Herrold insisted it was no big deal. “I think it’s overstating the challenge,” he said. “When I’ve stood at the top of the rotunda and watched cyclists go up and down it during rush hour in the morning, it’s not the Tour de France guys. It’s people on Citi Bikes going to work. I don’t see it as an impediment to very many people.”
The Parks & Environment Committee expressed that the success of the plan hinged on enforcing the new rules and ensuring that bikers don’t use the pedestrian-only path. The committee recommended approval of the project with a 4-1 vote. It will go before the full community board on Nov. 1.
The Department of Parks & Recreation anticipates that they will begin repaving portions of the path and adding signs in late 2017. Once implemented, the new rules will be in effect year-round.