A video of a ride through Riverside Park on a new bike path shows the perils of navigating the area at night — particularly as the sun goes down earlier.
Plenty of dark spots on @nycparks’ anti-bike detour in Riverside Park last night at rush hour
By far the darkest is on the fast (S-bound) descent from 79th St roundabout (:38 to :45)
Note CitiBike rider forced to walk up steep grade at :29
Video is 2x speed to fit on Twitter pic.twitter.com/Q2jqb73VBO
— Bike New York (@bikenewyork) November 5, 2019
The bike detour installed in Riverside Park between 72nd and 83rd Street this summer has gotten mixed reviews. It kept bicyclists from conflicting with pedestrians along the Hudson River, but some say it has created new problems.
The path has been criticized by bicyclists for several reasons, including poor signage, low lighting and visibility in sections, and steep hills that lead to fast descents and too-difficult climbs. A cyclist crashed into a pedestrian while riding on the detour on October 12.
State Senator Robert Jackson wrote a letter to the Parks Department raising a “grave concern” about the path around the 79th Street Boat Basin section, where the roundabout puts vehicles and cyclists in closer contact. The bollards separating cyclists from cars in that section are not substantial enough, he writes. And the angle of the roadway at the southern part of that bypass is steep and not well-marked, creating new problems for pedestrians and cyclists. See the full letter here.
Council Member Helen Rosenthal, whose office directed funding for the bike lane detour after residents approved funding through the participatory budgeting process, wrote on Twitter that the area should have better lighting. “I’m so sorry this hasn’t been fixed. We allocated funding for lights.”
The Parks Department tells West Side Rag that it will replace lights along the path. “To enhance the lighting on the path, DOT has committed to replacing the current luminaires along the detour with LED lights,” a spokesperson wrote.
But even if the city installs new lights, other problems remain, according to Streetopia UWS Executive Director Lisa Orman. Streetopia UWS is a relatively new nonprofit focused on changing street design to deprioritize cars and emphasize other uses and transit options.
“Fundamentally, the Parks Dept is not in the business of building bike lanes,” Orman wrote in an email. “They didn’t consult the bike community on their plans.”
Orman also wrote letters to the Parks Department and Riverside Park Conservancy urging them to change the new path. The path is too steep at critical spots, has roots that make cycling hard, and often has objects in the way — including a dumpster that was apparently left there. Ride-hailing and parks vehicles use it too.
“There have been several reports of cyclist injuries since the bypass became mandatory and there will certainly be more if a better solution is not found,” she wrote. One idea would be to allow cyclists to use the promenade path again, as long as they don’t go too fast. “We propose, as one possible solution worth trying, signage allowing bicyclists to choose the esplanade with speeds capped at 8-10mph and directing higher-speed bicyclists to the detour.”
The Parks Department, however, wrote in an email to West Side rag that the path appears to be working well.
“Feedback from pedestrians and many cyclists has been positive,” the department noted, and “The steepness of the slope is on par with nearly every other slope accessing the Greenway in Riverside Park.” The department is reviewing signs in the park to make sure they’re clear.