Video of Dark Ride Through Riverside Park Shows Perils of New Bike Detour

A dark stretch of the detour near 79th Street.

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.

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.

One section of the path during daytime.

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.

NEWS, OUTDOORS | 32 comments | permalink
    1. Paul says:

      Note the part where the community voted for this.
      Bike riders have nobody to blame but their fellow riders.

    2. your_neighbor says:

      Sure the new pathway needs some kinks worked out of it such as better lighting but overall it is making the park a much more hospitable place for all the users.

      And yes, I do commute on my bike several times a week, 12 months a year.

    3. JL says:

      I witnessed a mother almost crashing into her daughter this summer going up the hill on the easy side(north of 79th) because the child was not strong enough to ride straight’ish.

      I stopped and told the mother they can probably ride down by the water because the child is still learning. She said she didn’t want to get a ticket. I said that would be better than injuries from crashing, or causing downhill riders to crash with multiple people getting hurt.

      BTW, what happened to the path that was supposed to go behind the baseball field from the steps to the basketball courts. That would eliminate the conflict at the sharp turns at 72nd. People will wipe out in the winter with slippery frozen surface. Lawsuits from injuries and lost wages – pay now or pay later.

      I do like the barriers left up with option to use waterfront with a clear and lower speed limit. Especially during low usage periods, like now.

    4. No bikes says:

      No bikes should be riding at night (after sunset) The responsibility and risk is in your own hands.

      • lcnyc says:

        Sunset is well before most people get off of work, so what would you have bicycle commuters do? I have a strong light on my bike, but the path is really, really dark along that detour.

      • Charles says:

        The West Side Bike Path is the busiest commuter bike path in the United States. Do you think people only commute in the day time?

    5. Matt H says:

      Allow me to apologize preemptively to my fellow parkgoers.

      I do not use the detour after dark in colder months, not since early October really. The number of users on the esplanade path at such times, at this time of year, is minimal. I know that I am not imposing any real risk on them by sedately cycling there. I just go around the barriers.

      I do still respect the rules during busier times. And during daylight hours, unless it’s additionally raining or snowing or something. It’s just not a fair deal to observe it at all times.

      • Matt H says:

        I would also add that at the CB 7 meeting where the detour was “approved”, the actual voting was spoiled. (I was actually there, though only at the earlier part of the meeting.) One of the CB members intended to vote only to make this a seasonal closure, but accidentally voted nay on the amendment that would have made it so.

        A travesty of a mockery of a sham on the voting, really.

        • Laur says:

          Thank you Matt, for speaking up. The new detour is not only hazardous, it is intimidating and way too steep. Tried it once; not again. Will go around barriers at off hours, at my usual slow speed.

    6. Gary says:

      As someone who parks in the marina garage, there are numerous almost accidents as bikes often go on the wrong side of the barrier. No their fault…. Poor signage. Bikers are supposed to be between the pillars and the stone wall, and not on the traffic circle side.

    7. UWS Resident says:

      State Senator Jackson is absolutely correct, the photo above shows a cyclist in the vehicle traffic lane in the detour at 79th St instead of in the bike lane! The entire detour is poorly lit, poorly marked and very dangerous! From the poor lighting, steep hills, tree roots, pedestrians crossing the new path, etc, it’s not a viable safe option for anyone, cyclists or pedestrians. A pedestrian was recently struck and injured on the new detour and blamed herself, so it does not appear the detour has been successful in alleviating any issues. Cyclist should have a choice to use the promenade or the detour. Riverside Park belongs to everyone, not just CB7 to make changes that are detrimental to everyone using the Park.

    8. Billie says:

      The detour is incredibly dangerous. I saw two tourists on Citibikes ride directly into the cars on 79 St. They rode outside of the bolsters. I’ve personally had several near misses with Parks Department vehicles blocking the path at dusk. Please allow riders who agree to go slowly back on the well-lit path. Someone will definitely lose their life using the current detour.

    9. Ken says:

      Matt H. is right on the botched CB7 vote and that there is no need for the detour much of the year. Parks officials say that the slopes aren’t any worse than those leading to the Greeenway, but the big difference is that there is a LOT more bike traffic on the Greenway, and hence the detour, than on any of the individual paths feeding it. This is the most-used bike path in North America and with this detour they have added a new element of danger to it: gravity.

    10. Oona says:

      Impossible for many older bikers as the grade is too steep and the path is too isolated in areas to be safe for women even in the summer before the time change when it becomes way to dark and isolated to be anywhere near safe for female riders.

    11. mkmuws says:

      This summer I was an avid pedestrian user of the promenade for my frequent workouts. I am also a cyclist though I only went out a few times and mostly stick to heading north towards GW bridge. I did use the previous detour a couple of times but I don’t think I’ve experienced all of these changes mentioned.

      That said, when I recently went out as a pedestrian on a fairly sunny day in the 50s, later afternoon though a little before full rush hour, I was shocked at how dead the promenade was. almost no pedestrians compared to when it was warmer weather. I definitely think there is room now that it is colder for bikes to be back on the promenade portion. Pedestrians should come first, but bikes are a close second, and really good for the city if we can get it right.

    12. AB says:

      I was riding up to the 79th Street rotary from the south other evening when a New Jersey driver started driving down the path and almost killed me. It happened at the exact place where WestSideRag reports that there was an pedestrian – bicyclist accident earlier. Now I am OK with the new routing, and I recognized that there needs to be an access point for park and emergency vehicles. But, especially now with the rerouting, there needs to be a hard barrier of some sort installed at 79th immediately to protect bicyclists from an errant driver.

      • Toni says:

        As a senior citizen I no longer use the new bike route. I choose to stay on the street. The pass is cumbersome and too difficult in places and definitely not safe. I don’t see why there could not be better signage on the old path with more defined lines as to where bikers should be as well as cyclist.

    13. chase says:

      you should have a light on your bike for when it gets dark. I have one. that simple.

    14. Lisa Orman says:

      Hey Parks, Please share your feedback from bicyclists and pedestrians who say the detour is working well. It is the single most discussed issue when we speak to bicyclists, and I can only count ONE bicyclist who doesn’t think the detour is a complete flop. As we said in our letter, we’d love to bike and walk the detour with you to get your firsthand experiences. We recommend a bike with at least ten gears. We’d also love to conduct outreach and surveys of park users. Lastly, the walking and biking community clearly have a whole slew of ideas for improving the situation. It’s on YOU to fix this.

    15. Kindly Dr Dave says:

      I have personal experience of the danger of the bypass. It is so steep that I (and many other cyclists must either dismount or wobble into the path of others or crash onto the concrete (my experience). The steep, unlit, auto traffic-infused “detour” is certain to cause accidents and subsequent lawsuits to address the city’s culpability.

    16. Benjamin Rubinstein says:

      As someone who mostly uses this stretch as a run commuter around 7pm, I would feel much safer sharing the riverside path with bikes than I do now, when pedestrian traffic is seasonally lower. It’s safer for everyone (peds and bikes) to have a critical mass of route users on the path.

      And I recently rode the bike reroute for the first time after dark. I agree with most of the comments here – it is too steep, too dark, and too poorly marked to be safe.

      What a shame for the busiest bike route in the country. Parks ought to fix this right away.

      • mkmuws says:

        Great point. Was kind of my next thought left out of my post above. As a walker / runner, who also cycles sometimes, I was out on foot on a nice day recently and was shocked to see still very few pedestrians out in the cooler temps, the sun was also going down quickly. Before full rush hour. Becomes sketchy very quickly for pedestrians out alone.

        As for the comments about the video lighting being intentionally misleading, there are plenty of other areas of the overall path that look that way, the lanterns really don’t do enough and all you see are small bike lights peeking out of the dark. So I don’t doubt the video.

    17. Ted says:

      “They did not consult the bike community on their plans”. Gosh I wish the government consulted with me before they did anything that affects my lifestyle.

      The video is the cheesiest ploy ever. If the exposure and ASA were set properly it would look bright as day. Instead the auto exposure is attempting to make the streetlights dimmer and is exposing for them. Remember all a light meter does is try to make the world look like 18% gray.

      I walk the path daily and there are always scofflaws riding where it’s prohibited. I see them disrespecting parks police that are just doing their job.

      While many cyclists follow the rules there are certainly more than a few that have a privileged, entitled attitude that breeds resentment towards the community.

    18. Richard B says:

      I have always believed, and still believe, that the best solution is real speed bumps on the promenade starting at 80th Street and going down to 70th. Real, physical speed bumps (not lines of inlaid bricks) that are high enough to break the wheel of any bike that is going too fast, and spaced closely enough to prevent speeding up between them. This would stop the hot shot racers from mowing down the rest of us. I biked for years along the old path, and gave up because of the aggressive racers. It is even more dangerous to walk there or stand in one spot looking at the river, when they are in operation. Stop the racers — the ones who yell “Get out of my way!” at infants and elderly people — and maybe the new detour won’t be necessary. I suppose the emergency services don’t want speed bumps there. But their vehicles should still be able to manage.

    19. Peter Drummond says:

      The pathway alongside the Hudson is too narrow to accomodate bikes going north and south IE 2 lanes and pedestrians doing same thing IE another 2 lanes.Everyone likes to share and share alike but byciclists tend to speed andin the general noise as a pedestrian you cannot hear them and that leads to accidents.Surely the steeper grades can be corrected.
      I agree the lighting on the new routing needs to be improved.Perhaps bikers can use the lower paths after dark when less likelihood of clashes,especially in bad weather.It is true however that for pedestrians,without speeding byciclists on the stretch referred to,the walk is so much pleasanter.

      • Matt H says:

        Nonsense. When the park isn’t crowded (like, say on 20 to 30 degree days in November) there is plenty of space for everyone. This is actually one of the widest alignments on the whole Greenway. The detour a) does not bar pedestrians, weirdly, and b) is actually narrower than the esplanade path, by a good margin.

        The only thing at issue is in nicer conditions, the path does get too crowded to negotiate safely. This in mostly down to increased ped volumes and partly to increased bike volumes. At least in the days before the rules change. At those times, imo, the detour makes sense. It’s not something inherent to the path itself absent its users.

    20. Cyclist says:

      I’m actually in favor of the diversion as that section was always scary except:
      1) Can you keep the pedestrians OFF the route? (had a woman walking on the northernmost part with a dog on a 10 foot lead blocking it all). If bikes cant be on river, how about a quid pro quo!
      2) That bit on the top with the bollards is *really* narrow – add more bollards 6 feet west (jersey barriers better) and have a two way lane..

    21. Anthony says:

      as someone who uses that daily my biggest concern is lighting at night, which there isn’t. i have strong lights but many don’t and if there’s a bike or ped walking right before the hill they may not be seen.

      it shocks me to see cyclists at night without any lights both there and in the street. .. people, cars and other cyclists can’t see you!

      the steep hills don’t bother me, but i’m not 70 years old. why can’t cyclists just walk up the 2 hills until they are strong enough?

    22. Chock says:

      If the bicyclists were more responsible and less careless, maybe they wouldn’t have needed to make this change.

      I am a walker who has had many close calls with bikers in the area now closed off to bikers.