Funding expansion of the GWB North Path would yield discrete and robust paths for all classes of users—pedestrians, runners and cyclists. It would also preserve spectacular views that have long been part of the region’s heritage.
The result would be a magnificent new linear park—comparable to Walkway Over the Hudson and the Mario M. Cuomo Bridge—easily accessible to the 260,000 residents of Inwood-Washington Heights.
Rendering of proposed GWB North Path bikeway and safety barrier. Cyclists use the new 10 foot wide extension. Pedestrians and runners remain on the 7 foot upper level.
With 1.4 million residents, the Bronx has many communities that are “transportation deserts”—poorly served by mass transit and lacking in bike and pedestrian improvements long enjoyed by other boroughs. Many neighborhoods also lack adequate parks and recreational space.2
The demand induced by a robust GWB bikeway would spur NYCDOT’s plans to upgrade Harlem River bridges1 and connect them with east-west bike routes. An enhanced GWB North Path, and open spaces west of the Hudson, will also be destinations for Bronx residents.
The value to local neighborhoods has been recognized by residents. Manhattan CBs #4, 7, 9, 12 and Bronx #1, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 11, 12 have all passed resolutions calling for GWB path expansion.3
NYCDOT plan to upgrade cycling capacity on six Harlem River Bridges. Image AECOM.
New York City Cyclists
NYC is home to 800,000 cyclists.4 All lack dedicated recreational facilities free of pedestrians and runners. Crowding has markedly worsened in 2020 with the need to socially distance. For NYC cyclists, the GWB represents sole access to bikeable roads and green space.
Upgrading the GWB bikeway comprises an extremely cost-effective public health intervention for cyclists citywide/ This is based on models developed by World Health Organization and the Columbia School for Public Health.5 6
To underscore the awareness, 14 NYC Council Members have co-sponsored a resolution calling on the Port Authority to widen the GWB sidewalks.7
Cyclists with Disabilities
Cyclists with disabilities—those who use handcycles and racing wheelchairs—need a modern bikeway to access the GWB. This demographic is typically ignored in infrastructure plans. It is time to include their needs.
The PA asserts that its rebuilt 7-foot path meets ADA requirements, but those are pedestrian standards. The proposal to widen the North Path is AASHTO-compliant,8 which fully accommodates these vehicles.
Handcyclist in Central Park. Wheelchair racers from the ING-NYRR Marathon.
1 “Connecting Communities, A Vision for Harlem River Bridges,” NYC DOT/AECOM, 2018, p. 3, https://tinyurl.com/yc5ac9h2
2 “Parks serving primarily nonwhite populations are half the size and five times more crowded than parks that serve majority white populations. Parks serving majority low-income households are four times smaller and four times more crowded than parks that serve majority high-income neighborhoods.” “The Heat is On,” The Trust for Public Land, August 2020, p. 2, https://tinyurl.com/y638cmtw
3 “Supporters,” Complete George, 2/20, https://tinyurl.com/yc8x3ypu
4 “Cycling in the City, Cycling Trends in NYC,” NYCDOT/NACTO, 5/19, https://tinyurl.com/hcu5yaz
5 “14,000 cyclists accessing the GWB annually saves 21 lives worth $195 million.” “World Health Organization/HEAT,” Complete George, 11/16, https://tinyurl.com/y88m5ywk
6 “Exercise spawned by wider GWB paths represents a public health intervention 14 times more cost effective than vaccinating kids against the flu.” “QALY,” Ibid, 2/17, https://tinyurl.com/vquh7gn
7 “Resolution 0103-2018 calling upon the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey to widen the George Washington Bridge’s sidewalks. Sponsors: Ydanis A. Rodriguez, Mark Levine, Andrew Cohen, Keith Powers, Carlina Rivera, Helen K. Rosenthal, Ben Kallos, Paul A. Vallone, Daniel Dromm, Karen Koslowitz, Costa G. Constantinides, Antonio Reynoso, Justin L. Brannan, Eric A. Ulrich,” City Council of New York, https://tinyurl.com/y8gb9vuo
8 “National Standards,” Ibid, 8/17, https://tinyurl.com/y7p25wlj