UPPER WEST SIDE — A new cyclist-only lane in Riverside Park is being floated as a way of relieving tensions between bikers and pedestrians along the Hudson River Greenway.
Cyclists currently share the 16-foot-wide Greenway path along the Hudson River with walkers and runners, but there have been crashes and near-misses between the groups as they vie for space, according Parks Department landscape architect Margaret Bracken.
The new plan would prohibit cyclists from using the Greenway between West 72nd and 83rd streets, dedicating another bike-only path along the same stretch but further east in the park, Bracken told Community Board 7 in a public presentation on Monday.
"It’s really most problematic on the waterfront," she said, noting there are enough paths in the park to devote one of them — the one furthest east — to cyclists, she said.
The Parks Department would use $200,000 allocated during City Councilwoman Helen Rosenthal's participatory budgeting process to re-pave parts of this path and add signs indicating the cyclist-only designation, Bracken explained.
But bikers present at the meeting were wary of the plan, saying the rerouting of cyclists onto an inland path was unsafe and represented a far more circuitous route for biking commuters.
CB7 member Ken Coughlin said he supported the plan, but only as a seasonal solution during the busy summer months when the Greenway is most in use.
During the winter, "there are a lot of safety concerns after dark [on the path]," he said. "When it’s icy it could be very perilous going up and down the hills."
Bracken noted that "there’s something to be said for the consistency" in keeping the rules the same year-round.
John Herrold, the park's administrator and president of the Riverside Park Conservancy, remarked that "the cyclists as much as the pedestrians like to have their own path."
Avid cyclist and local resident Liz Patek said that there's been an explosion of people commuting by bike who rely on the Greenway as the most direct route from places as far away as Inwood and Downtown.
"Trying to keep the Greenway very direct is very important," she said.
But Marisa Maack, Rosenthal's chief of staff, said her office hears from many pedestrians who want the Greenway safer. She said the proposal was billed as a "safety update," not as one geared towards cyclist commuters.
"We find that the change, the inconsistency in the rules, is what creates the biggest problems," she said in support of the separate path as a year-round solution.
As this was the first meeting on the project, Bracken said nothing was set in stone. "We’re going to be talking more about this," she said.
In addition to the Greenway funding, the Parks Department also received $500,000 from Rosenthal to fix the paths in Crabapple Grove, between West 91st and 95th streets in Riverside Park.
The pavement along these paths is in "really poor condition," and would be re-paved, Bracken said. The department would also replace broken drains and add granite block edging along the paths. In bare areas, it would add plants and herbs to further beautify the grove, she said.
Another chunk of money for Riverside Park improvements will go toward restoring the eastern stretch of sidewalk along Riverside Drive from Tiemann Place at 125th Street to the southern end of Sakura Park at West 122nd Street, Bracken said.
The funding came from Councilman Mark Levine, who contributed $1 million to the project.
This stretch of sidewalk is "in really terrible condition," Bracken said. "This is probably the worst asphalt we have in the park."
The Parks Department will also replace the fence along the sidewalk as part of the work.
Construction on the Greenway project, once finalized, as well as work at Crabapple Grove and the Riverside Drive sidewalk projects, would begin in mid-2017 and last a year, Bracken said.