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Cycling Group to Push for Shared Paths In Central Park

By Leslie Albrecht | July 12, 2011 7:21am | Updated on July 12, 2011 10:57am
Cyclists in Central Park are expected to get two shared bike paths in July. But some say it's dangerous for cyclists to share paths with pedestrians.
Cyclists in Central Park are expected to get two shared bike paths in July. But some say it's dangerous for cyclists to share paths with pedestrians.
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UPPER WEST SIDE The debate over whether cyclists should be allowed to pedal on Central Park's pedestrian paths continues on Tuesday night.

Cycling advocacy group Transportation Alternatives is urging bikers to show up at Community Board 7's transportation committee Tuesday at 7 p.m. to voice support for opening crosstown pedestrian paths to cyclists.

Right now it's illegal for bikers to ride those paths.

"New Yorkers have been clamoring for routes that will allow for safe and legal cross-park access, and now change is finally on the horizon," Transportation Alternatives said in a message to its mailing list. "In order to improve bike safety and transportation access in Central Park, we need you to turn out in support of this crucial issue."

Cyclists heralded the path-sharing idea when the Central Park Conservancy first floated it in March, but since then other park users have piped up, saying they don't like the idea because it could endanger walkers.

The Upper East Side's Community Board 8 Parks Committee recently voted down a Central Park Conservancy plan to straighten out a path at the East 69th Street entrance, in part because residents feared it would make it easier for cyclists to use that path.

The Conservancy wants to allow cycling on paths in the northern part of Central Park — most likely East 97th and West 96th streets and East 102nd and West 106th or West 100th streets — on a trial basis this summer.

A recent New York Times story said Upper West Siders seemed to to favor the path-sharing proposal more than their East Side counterparts, but several Upper West Side residents have shown up at recent Community Board 7 meetings to speak against the path-sharing plan.

Central Park West resident Francine Wilvers told Community Board 7 recently that opening pedestrian paths to cycling ran counter to park designer Frederick Law Olmsted's vision for the park. Wilvers said Olmsted wanted the paths to be a "refuge" from the city's bustling streets, and that allowing bikes would destroy that intention.

A group called the New York Alliance for Pedestrian Safety is also worried about the path-sharing proposal.

NYAPS founder Jeremy Zweig said he has doubts about how well cyclists and pedestrians can share paths. NYAPS observed "hundreds" of cyclists in the park last weekend, and found that very few yielded to pedestrians in crosswalks, Zweig said.

If the shared path plan moves forward, Zweig said NYAPS would ask the Central Park Conservancy to keep close tabs on whether sharing the paths works for both pedestrians and cyclists, Zweig said.

Police recently said they would back off of a ticketing blitz against Central Park cyclists, but would still issue citations if a cyclist doesn't yield to a pedestrian who has the right of way in a crosswalk. Initial results of NYAPS' recent count of cyclists found that fewer than 5 percent stopped to yield to pedestrians who had the right of way, Zweig said.

Community Board 7's transportation committee meets at 7 p.m. on Tues., July 12 at 250 W. 87th Street. Click here for the full agenda.