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City Plays Peacemaker in Battle Between Cyclists and Pedestrians

By Leslie Albrecht | October 19, 2010 7:19am
Tensions between cyclists and pedestrians on a path near West 72nd Street in Riverside Park have resulted in shouting matches.
Tensions between cyclists and pedestrians on a path near West 72nd Street in Riverside Park have resulted in shouting matches.
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DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht

By Leslie Albrecht

DNAinfo Reporter/Producer

UPPER WEST SIDE — As tensions flare between cyclists, pedestrians and dog walkers over how to share a Riverside Park path, the city says it has a solution — but it won't be ready until next year.

Parks officials Monday night unveiled a plan to ease overcrowding on a West 72nd Street path, where tensions between cyclists and pedestrians have devolved into shouting matches as each group struggles to share the narrow path.

To solve the problem, parks officials told Community Board 7's parks and environment committee that they want to shift bike traffic to West 79th Street by creating an entrance there for cyclists headed to the Henry Hudson Greenway.

But even if the plan is approved, it won't happen until 2011, said Parks Department Greenway Coordinator John Mattera on Monday night.

That's not soon enough for the bike riders, dog walkers, stroller pushers, seniors and children who squeeze onto the West 72nd Street path every day.

The groups spar over the best way to share the path, which is popular with cyclists because it's one of a handful of safe access points to the Henry Hudson Greenway, a commuter route for cyclists.

Pedestrians complain that cyclists frequently speed down the path as if it were a Tour de France-style raceway.

"I'm amazed someone hasn't been killed," said Elaine Evons, who walks regularly on the West 72nd Street path. "The bike people are very aggressively trying to get to work. It's supposed to be a place of peace and quiet, but it isn't. It's a road."

But cyclists say they're being unfairly punished for the actions of a few poorly behaved Lance Armstrong wannabes. They say it was wrong of the parks department to post signs telling cyclists to dismount their bikes when they're on the path.

"I cannot think of a more ham-fisted, counter productive way to try to change behavior," said cyclist Peter Frishauf. "We deserve better than this contemptuous behavior of suddenly ordering us to dismount."

Frishauf suggested adding signs instructing cyclists to ride at "walking" speed.

Lisa Sladkus of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance suggested an outreach campaign to educate cyclists on proper behavior.  Cyclists in Europe yell at each other if they see someone break a law such as running a red light, Sladkus said, and similar "peer pressure" could work in New York.

Riverside Park Administrator John Herrold said only a "tiny percentage" of cyclists are creating problems, but those problems are serious. Herrold said he routintely receives alerts on his BlackBerry about cyclists involved in accidents in the park.

"It's the irresponsible, thoughtless cyclist who's riding too fast, who screams in somebody's ear that's the problem, and that's who I'm trying to deal with," Herrold said.