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Cyclists Ride Through City Hall Park After Dismount Signs Removed

By Julie Shapiro | August 8, 2012 2:06pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — Cyclists are riding freely through City Hall Park once again — and some Downtown residents are not happy.

The city recently removed the park's "Please Dismount" signs, which asked cyclists to get off their bikes and walk them through the busy park just north of City Hall.

Local parents and community leaders had praised the signs as a way of slowing bike traffic along the park's shared walking and biking path, where some feared speeding cyclists could pose a danger to children on their way to school.

But the dismount signs were only temporary — the Department of Transportation put them up two years ago when construction narrowed the bike path — and once the construction finished, the city recently took the signs down, allowing cyclists to ride through without dismounting.

Concerned Community Board 1 members held a closed-door meeting with the DOT Tuesday afternoon in the hopes of convincing the agency to change its mind — but the transportation officials held firm.

"DOT refused to put the signs back up," said John Fratta, chairman of CB1's Seaport/Civic Center Committee, who attended the meeting. "They feel they've done their study and their study shows there aren't [cyclists] being aggressive."

The DOT's May 2011 study found no bike-pedestrian accidents in City Hall Park and very few aggressive cyclists, Josh Kraus, a senior project manager at DOT, said last year.

"We think it's actually working rather well," Kraus told CB1 in June 2011. "The cyclists are generally well-behaved."

But Fratta and other residents said they have seen many near misses between cyclists and pedestrians, including close calls involving the many children who attend school in Tweed Courthouse.

In September, the new Peck Slip School will open with just kindergarten classes in temporary space in Tweed, where the school will remain until its new building is ready in the fall of 2015.

"It's a very dangerous situation," Fratta said. "People are going to get hurt."

CB1 will do its own study of the bike path to measure aggressive cycling, Fratta said, and last week the community board overwhelmingly passed a resolution urging the city to reinstall the "Please Dismount" signs.

Even when the dismount signs were up, only about half of the cyclists traveling through City Hall Park dismounted as they were supposed to, the DOT found last year.

During Tuesday's private meeting, the DOT did agree to add larger signs urging cyclists entering City Hall Park from Broadway to yield to pedestrians, Fratta said.

A DOT spokesman confirmed that more visible yield signs would be added soon. The spokesman did not comment on the removal of the "Please Dismount" signs.

The City Hall Park bike path was installed in 2008 as part of a key cycling route that connects Hudson River Park to the Brooklyn Bridge via Warren Street.

Some residents who objected to the bike path running through City Hall Park suggested that the city move it one block north to Chambers Street instead, but the DOT and cycling advocates said Chambers Street was too dangerous for bikes.

Community Board 1's Seaport/Civic Center Committee will discuss the City Hall Park bike path Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. at 49-51 Chambers St., Room 709.