Summer 2001, p.6-7

Serious Safety Flaws Mar Hudson Path

Breaking News
As we went to press, the State Department of Transportation hosted a meeting intended to address many of the safety concerns and recommendations mentioned in this article. To its credit, SDOT has consistently championed the Hudson River Greenway and we are optimistic the agency will make significant safety improvements. This said, we felt it important to run this piece to highlight the critical safety problems and ensure they are acted on.


As expected, the Manhattan portion of the car-free, Hudson River Greenway multi-use path is already hugely popular with cyclists, skaters and pedestrians, all of whom enjoy the spectacular river and skyline views. The long awaited path will be completed in September but has been heavily used since April, ranking it one of the ten busiest and most strategic paths for everyday cyclists in the United States. Unfortunately, despite enormous potential, the state built serious safety flaws into the section of the path between Battery Park and 59th Street putting cyclists at risk of being killed or maimed by cars that turn across the path at high speed. Additionally, because the path lacks clear markers, bollards and signage, some cars unlawfully make the Greenway their freeway, driving down the path and parking across it. One observer recently saw a car illegally driving down the path almost collide with another car turning at high speed across it.

Cars First Design
The root of the path's safety problem is that the intersections across it are clearly designed to maximize the number of turning motor vehicles rather than ensure the safety of vulnerable human powered users. Where the path crosses entrances and exits, such as in front of the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space Museum at 46th St., it dips sharply so it is flush with street level. This allows motorists to cross without being slowed by a hump or trough.

In contrast, non-motorized users are slowed by the path's sharp dip, which is emphasized with brick pavers. Slowing path users at intersections would be okay if motorists were also compelled to slow when crossing the path. However, they are not - indeed they are encouraged to turn quickly by the design.

The State DOT set itself a good example south of Vesey Street at the World Financial Center where it kept the path above street level at intersections. From the motorist's perspective the path becomes a speed hump. Drivers are forced to slow when crossing it. The State DOT must move very quickly to install this safety improvement further uptown or vulnerable path users will be killed and injured.

The Route 9A portion of the Hudson River Greenway is the product of intense negotiation that took place between community and civic groups (including T.A.) and the State DOT in the early 1990's. T.A. and our community allies viewed it as one of the redeeming features of the enormous Route 9A project, whose extra lanes help pour more motor vehicles than ever before into lower Manhattan. During the subsequent, heated debate over potential commercial use of Hudson River Park, T.A. feared that placing many attractions on the waterfront would draw heavy motor vehicle traffic, interrupting travel on path and jeopardizing the safety of its users. The existing car-friendly design of the Hudson River Greenway path and its intersections with Route 9A suggest that our fears may have been well founded. We urge the State DOT to prove us wrong by putting the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and skaters before the movement of motor vehicles.

Stop signs like these erected by the Hudson River Park Authority on the greenway path are well intentioned but counterproductive and actually dangerous. The signs contradict traffic signals above them and are so plentiful they create a nuisance which is rightly ignored by passing cyclists and path users.Safety Recommendations for Hudson River Greenway:
The Battery to 59th Street
The Next Two Weeks

  • Remove stop signs from path and replace with "bowling pin" array of safety cones or plastic bollards at approaches to street intersections. Agency: State DOT.
  • Narrow the space available for vehicles turning from Route 9A across the path by using large plastic bollards to slow vehicles. Accompany this with large "Yield to Cyclists and Pedestrians" signs (use symbols.) Agency: State DOT.
  • Mark the path with five times as many cycling and pedestrian marking symbols. Agency: State DOT.
  • Retime traffic lights to give pedestrians and cyclists a three second head start (Leading Pedestrian Interval or LPI) when they cross Route 9A to and from the greenway path. Agency: State and City DOTs.
  • Retime traffic lights on 9A to reduce speeding. The posted speed limit is 35, T.A. has found that most cars exceed 50 mph during most of the day. Route 9A is supposed to be an "urban boulevard," not a highway. Agency: State and City DOTs.
  • Replace "Walk / Don't Walk" with international pedestrian crossing symbols on all Route 9A signal heads. Agency: State DOT.
  • Clearly sign and mark the separation where pedestrians and cyclists share the path. Path users are confused about where to walk. Agency: State DOT.
  • Station a bike cop from the NYPD Traffic Control Division on the path between 30th and 50th street from 7am-10am and 3pm to 9pm to ticket dangerous motorists. Agency: NYPD.

The Next Six Months

  • Raise the path - like it is south of Vesey Street - at all crossings from Route 9A to significantly slow turning vehicles. Agency: State DOT.
  • Narrow and redesign the crossings from 9A to slow turning motor vehicles. Agency: State DOT.
  • Install traffic signals with red blinking turn arrows for vehicles turning across the path. Agency: State DOT.
  • Eliminate conventional traffic signals on path. They are ignored by path users and cause motorists to assume right of way. Agency: State DOT.
  • Eliminate one of the vehicular crossings. Agency: State DOT.

Meanwhile Uptown on the Path

Cyclists, please slowdown and yield to pedestrians, slower cyclists and skaters on the Riverside Park Promenade - especially between 68th and 83rd street. There have been a number of very serious collisions between pedestrians and fast cyclists.

Now the latest news for uptown path users:

1. Cyclists now have an unrestricted passage through Riverbank State Park, 135th to 145th Streets. Pedestrians are banned from this temporary access way. The permanent segment of the Hudson River Greenway is expected to be completed sometime this year adjacent to railroad tracks east of Riverbank.

2. The gap and detour between 83rd and 91st will remain until a path cantilevered over the river is constructed sometime in 2004. T.A. and friends have petitioned the governor and mayor to widen the planned path from 14 feet to 20 feet at this critical link. Unfortunately, given the environmental permitting process and construction time, T.A. is unable to hasten completion of this much needed section. In the interim, use the detour through Riverside Park at 83rd St. and descend back onto the water side path at 91st street or continue to 96th and use Riverside Drive.

Read the latest news on this subject.


HUDSON RIVER PATH MAIN ACCESS POINTS

When construction is completed there will be an access point every two blocks south of 60th St. This list may not be complete.