56 North Jersey municipalities representing 950,000 residents, have called on the Port Authority to widen the George Washington Bridge paths as part of the $1.9 billion reconstruction.
Remarks to the Port Authority – 10/26/2017
This summer, I started speaking before North Jersey “Mayor and Council” sessions to ask for letters of support calling on you to widen the GWB paths.
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 overcrowding would degrade level of service to “walk-your-bike.”
Conversely, wider paths would spur construction of a connected grid such as envisioned in the Bergen Park Master Plan5 and Northern Valley Greenway6 and that the combination comprised a viable strategy to reduce bus trips into Manhattan.7
“This is important.” I explained “We may have survived the summer of hell, but winter is coming.”
Game of Thrones Image HBO.
And by that GoT allusion, I meant that over the coming decades, we can expect periodic, widespread disruptions to bus and train service resulting from planned upgrades to the PA Bus Terminal and Penn Station. Also from sudden unplanned weather or man-made events, including emergency repairs to the Hudson rail tunnels which would cut bi-state capacity 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.8
After due consideration, 56 North Jersey municipalities representing 950,000 residents,9 have called on the PA to widen the GWB paths:
Allendale, Alpine, Bergenfield, Bogota, Carlstadt, Cliffside Park, Closter, Cresskill, Demarest, Dumont, East Newark, Edgewater, Elizabeth, Elmwood Park, Emerson, Englewood Cliffs, Fair Lawn, Fairview, Fort Lee, Garfield, Glen Rock, Guttenberg, Hackensack, Haledon, Harrington Park, Hasbrouck Heights, Haworth, Hawthorne, Hillsdale, Ho-Ho-Kus, Kearney, Leonia, Little Ferry, Lodi, Mahwah, Midland Park, Montvale, New Milford, North Bergen, Northvale, Norwood, Oradell, Paramus, Park Ridge, Ramsey, Ridgefield, Ridgefield Park, River Vale, Rochelle Park, Saddle River, Secaucus, South Hackensack, Teaneck, Tenafly, Waldwick, 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.10
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
 56 municipalities representing 958,681 residents, 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.” Even for an experienced cyclist, that’s brutal. 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 fifty-odd appearances, I came away with a keen appreciation of small government. The obvious pride in their communities that suffused the sessions. The unglamorous, detail work required to ensure efficient delivery of services. The rigorous scrutiny applied to fiscal, technical and legal matters. The sympathy and respect afforded residents and the courtesy to an outsider with a regional concern.
The experience has been a privilege and a pleasure and one I will never forget.