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Riverside Park Ambassadors Smooth Bike Path Conflicts

By Leslie Albrecht | September 15, 2011 1:45pm

UPPER WEST SIDE — Most people learn about sharing in kindergarten. In Riverside Park, adult cyclists and pedestrians are getting a refresher course on how to play nicely together.

Cycling advocates handed out fliers reminding bikers to ride slowly and dog walkers to keep their leashes short on a crowded path that connects West 72nd Street to the Hudson River greenway on Wednesday.

The heavily used path has been the site of shouting matches between cyclists and pedestrians, and for several months the Parks Department posted signs telling cyclists to dismount on the path.

Recently, the Parks Department put up new signs warning cyclists to go slow and yield to pedestrians. Wednesday's outreach campaign by Transportation Alternatives and Upper West Side Streets Renaissance was meant to remind all park users that the path is now shared territory.

Some were more receptive to that idea than others.

"I feel like it's very dangerous and scary," a woman walking her dog told Upper West Side Streets Renaissance organizers Tila Duhaime and Lisa Sladkus, who were stationed at the north end of the path handing out "share the path" fliers.

Another man told Sladkus and Duhaime that cyclists ignore signs and routinely speed through the zone. "We've got people walking with kids, and elderly people, it's not right," he said.

Duhaime said she doesn't try to argue with people who want to rant about cycling in general — something that's become more common as New Yorkers adjust to the growing number of bike lanes across the city.

"It's too big a beast if it's about cycling in general," Duhaime said. "It's much more productive to have a conversation about specific, correctible behaviors."

For example, Duhaime and Sladkus smiled at passing cyclists and said "Please go slowly" in a friendly tone, and applauded some bikers with comments such as "What a courteous cyclist you are."

Meanwhile, Jes Howen a bike ambassador with Transportation Alternatives, collected signatures on a petition supporting more bike lanes.

"This spring especially there's been a strange backlash against bike lanes," Howen said. "What we want to do is show the community boards, the city council members and the mayor that there are people in New York that care about biking."

Upper West Side City Councilwoman Gale Brewer recently launched an online survey to collect opinions about the year-old bike lane and street redesign on Columbus Avenue. Share your thoughts here.