2017/02 – Comments to PA’s 10 Year Capital Plan

When the Port Authority solicited comments on its 10 Year Capital Plan, 252 out of 429 emails concerned the GWB paths. Also 13 public speakers—more than for any other item. Excerpts and video links below.

January 31, 2017Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 8.44.45 PM.pngDavid Vollbach, Bicycle Habitat (0:24:35 – 0:26:53)

Outdoor retail and the cycling industry in particular have had a rough couple years recently. This past year has seen more than a handful of local bike shops close their doors for good in NY.  The last thing that these crucial local businesses need is reduced access to bike routes adding literal roadblocks for their customer base.

Ellen Jaffe, former President of New York Cycle Club (0:36:36 – 0:39:17)

I believe the current plan keeps the George Washington Bridge pathway an afterthought when it could be a destination.  For a city of our stature and at a location so stunning as the one commanded by the George Washington Bridge, I believe the bar should be raised much higher.

This rare opportunity to make change requires a visionary plan for the path….on the level of the Highline; one that leverages the location’s beauty, a plan of such compelling design as to transform this magnificent potential into a destination for tourists and locals alike.

Note the Walkway Across the Hudson, a once derelict rail bridge reimagined several years ago to take advantage of the natural splendor of its location. Shocking everyone with the economic vitality following in its wake, this highly successful civic project has become but one model for transforming the natural attributes of place and infrastructure into an engine of growth for the economy and for the community.

A reconceived and beautiful walkway/cycleway across the GWB, taking full advantage of view and location, would draw people just for itself, creating a spectacular and magnetic public asset at our city’s northern end.

Neile Weissman, Complete George (0:39:44 – 0:42:20)

The 150 groups, businesses and electeds calling for wider GWB path include communities who have borne the brunt of bridge congestion, unsafe streets and degraded air quality for generations. Quoting from the Bronx Community Board #4 letter of support:

CB4 feels these proposed changes will support improved health and wellness for all NYC residents, reducing congestion and demand on public transit, connecting and improving neighborhoods, while expanding opportunities for recreation and exercise and enhancing quality of life.

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 9.04.24 PM.pngDaniel Goldberg, Century Road Club Association (0:43:30 – 0:46:23)

The GWB is an indispensable asset to the local cycling community. Should the Port Authority proceed with the Capital Plan WITHOUT widening the paths, rendering the bridge a “walk your bike” facility, local cyclists, competitive and not, would truly suffer.

Walking the mile plus span of the bridge, in addition to any stairs or ramps in cycling shoes is not only challenging, but also dangerous. Many cyclist clip into their pedals with a cleat that extends from the bottom of their shoes. Walking in these shoes puts an individual in danger of slipping or potentially rolling an ankle.

Those more casual riders may simply opt to not ride their bikes as much. For those in the CRCA community however, the option to ride less is….well, really not an option at all.

Bobby Leong, Empire Triathlon Club (0:47:38 – 0:51:01)

I’m very familiar with the cycling/pedestrian lanes on bridges spanning across both the East and Hudson Rivers. Specifically, the Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queensboro, Triborough, Pulaski, to a lesser extent the Williamsburg and of course – The George Washington Bridge.   Throughout my commuting and training rides, few have matched the growth trajectory that the GWB has experienced in the 13 years that I’ve been cycling.

Susan Brenner, Social Cycling (0:46:47 – 0:47:28)

Bicycle and pedestrian tourism promotes healthy activity and creates revenue on both sides of the bridge.  Governor Cuomo’s proposed $200 million, 750 mile Empire State Trail is just one of dozens of the new and planned bicycle/ pedestrian paths in NY and NJ that will grow the number cyclists that the GWB will be call upon to support.

Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 9.08.57 PM.png                                      David Meltzer, former President of Five Borough Bike Club (1:05:57 – 1:08:40)

Anyone who’s a cyclist in this room has ridden the new connector that connects Randall’s Island to the South Bronx. It increases the vitality of those communities. The Pulaski Bridge, which connected Queens to Brooklyn was a disaster for years. The same type of stuff that is the GW Bridge (now), this narrow shared walkway. This walkway with pedestrians, runners and cyclists jockeying for position. It’s been changed. The pedestrians have their side. And the cyclists are outside. And it works. It’s better.

Infrastructure is growing, and the GW Bridge would be such an important part of these linkages. We’ve connected the Bronx. We’ve connected Brooklyn and Queens. Let’s connect New York and New Jersey. Let’s make it safe for the people who are on this Bridge. Safe for the moms. Safe for the joggers. Safe for the cyclists. Safe for the pedestrians. We all use it.

I recommend you, ladies and gentlemen, please, take a walk across it one fine day. See what it is. Look for yourself. Please help us out. And please, it’s important that this be added to the Capital Plan.

Daniel De Nigris, Owner Echelon Cycles (1:12:44 – 1:15:34)

In it’s existing condition, the 4760 foot distance on the GW bridge is the scariest, most unpleasant, and most dangerous part of the day’s ride.  If you’d like to understand what I’m talking about, I and my crew would be very happy to loan you and/or your people bikes for the day and take you out for a ride.

February 16, 2017 (video)Screen Shot 2017-02-17 at 4.40.54 PM.pngNY State Senator Marisol Alcantara presented by Vanessa Agudelo (0:57:13 – 1:00:28)

If the region is to grow population and jobs while minimizing spending on roads and mass transit and maintaining affordability, then growing bicycle mode share is the most cost effective means to increase throughput on existing architecture.

For our district specifically, a widened GWB would accelerate the growth of a bike grid across the West Side and draw bike share up to Inwood-Washington Heights.

By increasing cycling, you also increase affordability for residents, saving $1,300 per year over mass transit and $10,000 over owning a car.

Brad Taylor (1:21:40  – 1:24:39)

I am a member of Transportation Alternatives, Bike New York, and am a newly minted Ride Leader in the Five Borough Bicycle Club. Those organizations signed on to a letter …. asking you to “look into the possibility of constructing paths around the towers.”

While a laudable goal in-and-of itself, this does not address the basic need to expand the capacity of the cycling path to conform to national standards for current and anticipated bicycle traffic.

The GWB is a remarkable feat of engineering but it is also a remarkable example of forward thinking by an earlier generation of planners. I strongly urge the PA to carry that visionary tradition forward to meet our changing needs. You would do so by voting to include widened GWB pathways that meet national standards in your Ten Year Capital Plan.

Doing it now while other improvements at the bridge are underway is fiscally prudent and a once in a lifespan opportunity. Our generation and those to come will be forever grateful.

Screen Shot 2017-02-21 at 12.26.38 AM.pngDustin Fry – QALY (1:24:11 – 1:26:42)

But improving public health is about more than just preventing deaths, it’s also about preventing disease. One way to measure disease prevention is through the quality-adjusted life year, or QALY. One QALY refers to one person living one year in perfect health, so it conceptualizes both longevity and wellness.

Given limited resources, it is important to identify and fund interventions that add the most life-years to society for the lowest cost. For example, adding drivers’ side airbags to cars costs $30,000 per life-year gained, while vaccinating children against the flu would be $12,000 per life year gained.

Doctors from the Columbia School of Public Health determined that the increased physical activity supported by widened GWB paths will add, over its 90 year life span, 100,000 quality-adjusted life years.  At an estimated construction cost of $90 million, that’s $883 per QALY .  That’s a tremendously cost effective public health intervention. 

Susan Rodetis – Empire State Trail (1:26:50- 1:29:55)

My name is Susan Rodetis, I am an experienced ride leader, long distance cyclist, triathlete and League of American Bicyclists Certified Cycling Instructor.

Your plan for the GWB has a number of fixes. And some groups are asking for tiny additions. But this is the opportunity to do it all and to do it right.

Between the Empire State Trail and the new Tappan Zee Bridge, New York will invest half a billion dollars to support active transportation in the Hudson Valley.  And a widened GWB would complete the PA’s own $300 million investment in the Goethals and Bayonne by connecting Hudson, Essex, Union, Middlesex and Monmouth.

Yet, despite these investments, bicycle tourism could show a net decline if an overcrowded GWB ceased to function as a cycling facility.

Charles Komanoff – also see May 2014 (1:48:41 – 1:51:29)

You have a fabulous resource in the George Washington Bridge.  Not that not just that it is the busiest motor traffic bridge in the world, but that it is the only way for walkers and bike riders to get between New York and New Jersey.  That it’s a beautiful facility that could be a magnet rather than, at this point, kind of an agonizing and scary chokepoint.

I just biked down here from Hunter College in the 60s and I’m often more scared negotiating the narrow pinch points of the George Washington Bridge on my bike then I was just biking down through Manhattan traffic.

It should be a magnet, it should be a place where where 8 year olds and 20-year-olds and 40-year-olds and 69-year olds like myself and 80 year olds go because it’s a beautiful thing in itself. It’s a spectacular place to be. The feeling that you have when you’re on it and you’ve crossed it and you navigate it and you look at in the distance and say “Wow, they built it and I rode it.” And it is a gateway to extraordinarily beautiful places. So I urge you to think way ahead and project yourselves into the future.

The expansion that’s in the works now with the recabling. It’s not bad, but it’s not enough. Please go the entire distance. Thank you.