New York City is home to 800,000 cyclists.1 Yet, it offers few recreational facilities dedicated to not crowded with pedestrians, runners, food trucks and service vehicles.
Which is why thousands of city cyclists flock to bikeable roads and green space west of the Hudson, accessible only by the George Washington Bridge bike path.
Image Regional Plan Association.
The GWB: lifeline and threat
At 7-foot wide, the GWB is dangerously overcrowded, drawing 3700 cyclists per day on weekends. This exceeds peak use on East River Bridges twice as wide.2
As part of its $1.9 billion recabling and restoration project, the Port Authority will rip out the 1931-era walkways—then restore them to 7-foot.3 But national standards state that a bikeway needed to safely support this many users should be at least 14-feet-wide.4
By not widening the paths into modern bikeways, the PA will effectively compel cyclists to walk the mile-long span, cleaving the regional network in two.5 6
Rethink the barriers, preserve the view
As part of the restoration, the PA will install 11-foot-high fences along the paths to prevent suicides. In choosing this design, the PA ignored alternatives that would save lives without obstructing the North Path’s landmark views of the Palisades.7
The PA’s design thus creates a visual barrier to green space.
The proposal to widen the North Path would drop the bikeway and safety barrier below the roadway, thus preserving views for pedestrians and runners using the upper level.
Proposed plans for anti-suicide barriers. Images Joseph Lertola and PANYNJ.
A magnificent new public space
The Complete George proposal substantially improves upon the PA’s plan by providing discrete and adequate paths for pedestrians, runners and cyclists while preserving historic views.
Critically, it realizes the original architects’ vision of the GWB as a great public space with 16-foot-wide promenades and mile-long belvederes.8
For the $2 billion in costs ultimately paid by the public, we deserve a magnificent icon to celebrate our shared sacrifices—not a penitentiary that makes us regret them.
1930’s depiction of the GWB with 16 foot-wide promenades. Rendering Cass Gilbert.
1 “Cycling in the City, Cycling Trends in NYC,” NYCDOT/NACTO, 5/19, https://tinyurl.com/hcu5yaz
2 “Capacity and Demand,” Complete George, 9/16, https://tinyurl.com/jpcfphq
3 “Restore the George, Supplemental Information on Bicycle Pedestrian Access,” PANYNJ, https://tinyurl.com/y8evmac6
4 “National Standards,,” Complete George, 8/17, https://tinyurl.com/y7p25wlj
5 “Safety, Litigation and the Demise of Cycling on the GWB,” Ibid, 9/17, https://tinyurl.com/y2gpfc3g
6 “Creating an effective network also means improving existing trails and connections. In particular, the connections between the greater region and New York City include major bridge crossings, such as the Brooklyn and George Washington Bridges, that are likely to be in high demand by many users.” “RPA Proposes Extending and Connecting Regional Trails to Form a Unified Network,” Regional Plan Association, https://tinyurl.com/y27u8m8s
7 “The cliffs of the Palisades were designated a National Historic Landmark in 1965. About 12 miles long, 1/2 mile wide, and comprising about 2500 acres of shorelands, uplands, and cliffs, the Palisades Interstate Park provides visual and physical access to natural grandeur for millions in the metro area.” “The Palisades,” National Trust for Historic Preservation, https://tinyurl.com/y9kq4m78Image mybergen.com.
8 “What Would Othmar Do?” Complete George, 12/17, https://tinyurl.com/vlhhm55