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City Hall Park Bike Path No Danger to Pedestrians, DOT Says

By Julie Shapiro | June 15, 2011 11:51am

By Julie Shapiro

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

LOWER MANHATTAN — The city does not plan to make any changes to the bike path through City Hall Park, despite residents' complaints that cyclists whizzing through the park endanger the safety of pedestrians, the Department of Transportation said this week.

The city studied the bike path at the community's request this spring and found no accidents and very few aggressive riders, said Josh Kraus, a senior project manager at DOT.

"We think it's actually working rather well," Kraus told Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee Tuesday night. "The cyclists are generally well-behaved."

However, the DOT did find that only 56 percent of cyclists on weekdays and 58 percent on weekends are dismounting and walking their bikes through the narrow, heavily trafficked path, as they are supposed to do.

Paul Hovitz, a CB1 member who has been trying to get the city to remove the bike path for years, said he knows many people, including children at the nearby Spruce Street School, who have nearly been hit by bikes there.

"They are a hazard to themselves and to pedestrians using the path," Hovitz told Kraus. "We're not making it up."

Hovitz and others have called for the city to move the path onto Chambers Street, one block north, but Kraus said Chambers has too much traffic, so it would not be safe.

Kraus said the city had received hardly any complaints about the City Hall Park bike path from the time it was installed in 2008 until nearby construction narrowed it last year. In response to the ensuing safety concerns, the city installed "Please Dismount" signs along the path last year.

Once the City Hall construction is finished and path returns to its original width, cyclists will once again be allowed to ride through without dismounting, Kraus said.

The DOT's new study, conducted in May, found 451 cyclists using the park on an average weekday and 645 on a weekend day, compared to nearly 12,000 pedestrians on weekdays and about 3,400 on weekends.

On weekdays, 27 percent of cyclists rode in the correct direction along the eastbound path, but did not dismount their bikes, while 17 percent rode the wrong way. On weekends, 33 percent rode the correct way and 8 percent rode the wrong way.

Kraus said that even though the DOT believes the path is successful, he won't be satisfied until every single cyclist is following the rules.

"The message here is not that we intend to fold our arms and say it's safe and go away," Kraus said. "We'll keep monitoring it."