40 North Jersey municipalities, representing 650,000 residents from Bergen, Hudson and Passiac, have called on the PA to widen the GWB paths as part of the $1.9 billion reconstruction.
Remarks to the Port Authority – 10/26/2017
Chairman O’Toole. Director Cotton, Commissioners. This summer*, I started speaking before North Jersey “Mayor and Council” sessions.
I explained that the George is the sole bike-able connector to New York City; that overcrowding threatens its viability as a cycling facility, that unless its paths are widened to comply with national standards (AASHTO) that a “walk-your-bike” GWB would hobble the growth of cycling across the region for generations.
This in turn would impacting tourism,1 public health,2 3 sustainability4 and resilience annually worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Conversely, wider paths would spur construction of a connected grid such as envisioned in the Bergen Park Master Plan5 and that the combination comprised a viable strategy to reduce bus trips into Manhattan.6
“This is important.” I said. “Because while we may have survived the summer of hell … winter is coming.”
And by that GoT allusion I refer to periodic, widespread disruptions to mass transit over the coming decades that will predictably result from planned upgrades to the Bus Terminal and Penn Station. Also from sudden natural or man-made disasters, including emergency repairs to the Hudson rail tunnels which would cut train traffic by 75% for two years.
Under any of these scenarios, AASHTO-compliant GWB paths could support 10,000 bike commuters per day. Even if they drew mostly from communities near the Bridge, that still reduces congestion and frees up capacity for the rest of the region.7
After due consideration, 40 North Jersey municipalities, representing 650,000 Bergen-Hudson-Passaic residents,8 have called on the PA to widen the GWB paths as part of the upcoming reconstruction: Allendale, Alpine, Bergenfield, Bogota, Cliffside Park, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, East Newark, Edgewater, Elmwood Park, Englewood Cliffs, Fair Lawn, Fairview, Fort Lee, Garfield, Glen Rock, Guttenberg, Hackensack, Hasbrouck Heights, Haworth, Hawthorne, Ho-Ho-Kus, Kearney, Leonia, New Milford, North Bergen, Northvale, Norwood, Oradell, Paramus, Park Ridge, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, Rochelle Park, Saddle River, South Hackensack, Teaneck, Tenafly, West New York
Cycling is a natural complement to mass transit. New York City has promoted cycling to three quarter million residents by building out its bike grid to 1000 miles and growing bike share to 10 million trips per year.9
From the broad support evinced by local electeds, cycling across North Jersey will explode once it gets the needed infrastructure. A widened GWB is the necessary catalyst.
“Despite the 23 mile distance, Glen Rock has a surprisingly large number of bicycle commuters and we’d love to see this number grow as each additional biker is potentially one less car on the road.” – Borough of Glen Rock
“The planned renovation presents a unique opportunity to build sidewalks that would be able to safely and comfortably accommodate the increasing number of pedestrians and bicyclists expected to use the bridge in the decades to come.” – Borough of New Milford
“We believe that widened GWB paths will enhance sustainability and resilience as well as competitiveness and tourism throughout the region. Widened paths will connect communities on both side of the Hudson river for travel, exercise and commuting.” – Borough of Englewood Cliffs
“We believe at the upcoming $1.9 billion reconstruction, during which the already overcrowded paths will be ripped out and restored, represents the ideal opportunity.” – Borough of Tenafly
“Over the past several years, the Borough has installed bike lanes, promoted bicycle safety and has served as the host community to bicycle races and similar functions. Widening the paths would serve as a perfect compliment to improvements and policies that we, and neighboring communities, have implemented.” – Borough of Fort Lee
 647,299 residents for the 38 municipalities, 2010 U.S. Census
*The idea to speak before local Mayor and Council sessions started when I began taking my bike onto NJ Transit to Ramsey for a mid-week ride before biking back to NYC.
South to Rochelle Park was fine, but east to the GWB was miles of “four-lane, high-speed, no-shoulder.” Brutal even for an experienced cyclist. Small wonder that bicycle mode share in North Jersey is near zero. So part of my goal was to raise awareness and support nascent efforts to create bikeable-walkable facilities in those communities.
After 40-odd appearances, I came away with a keen appreciation of small government. The unglamorous, detail work required to ensure efficient delivery of services. The obvious pride these elected officials. The respect and sympathy shown individuals who spoke during public comments. The rigorous scrutiny applied to technical, legal and fiscal matters. And the diligence afforded an advocate who came before them with a matter of regional importance.
The experience was a privilege and a pleasure and one that I will never forget.