By Leslie Albrecht
UPPER WEST SIDE — With a police crackdown on speeding and red-light running cyclists, Central Park has become ground zero in New York City's bike wars — but the park's two-wheeled users finally have something to celebrate.
The Central Park Conservancy says it will open two paths on the northern end of the park to crosstown bike traffic early this summer.
The paths will open near West 96th Street and West 102nd Street, but the exact routes through the park haven't been determined yet, said Central Park Conservancy spokesman Scott Johnson.
"We're really excited about it, because currently they are pedestrian-only paths," said Lisa Sladkus of the Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, a bicycle advocacy group that approached the Central Park Conservancy about opening the paths a year ago.
Right now cyclists aren't allowed to ride on such paths — they have to walk their bikes — which are shared between walkers, stroller-pushers and other park users.
Cyclists who want to pedal from the Upper West Side to the Upper East Side through the park have to take a lengthy spin around the loop inside the park, Sladkus said.
Crosstown cyclists can bike along the transverses that cars use, but those routes are considered extremely dangerous, Sladkus said.
Opening up more direct crosstown routes will save cyclists like Sladkus at least 15 minutes when she drops her daughter off at school on West 85th Street then commutes to appointments on the Upper East Side.
"For most people commuting to work or running errands, it’s a huge win," Sladkus said. "It will be a huge convenience for people."
If opening the paths to bike traffic works well, the Conservancy will consider opening more routes to the south, Johnson said.
"It's really time for it," Johnson said. "Last year we had 35 million visitors to Central Park. When you have so any people coming to the park, you need to come up with guidelines for people to use the park and not impede each other's experience."