Current GWB PathCurrent GWB. (1) 7′ path for pedestrians, runners and cyclists. Photo by Hassan Diop.
Between 2018 and 2025, the Port Authority of New York & New Jersey will rip out and restore the 1931-era, 7 foot paths on the George Washington Bridge as part of a $1.9 billion program to Restore the George.
The George is the sole bike-able connector between North Jersey and NYC. Its paths are already dangerously overcrowded at 3700 cyclists per day, on weekends, and growing 10.4% per year between 2010 and 2015.
If the paths aren’t widened to comply with national standards for a high use cycling facility (AASHTO), the George will become a solely pedestrian facility.
This will hobble the growth of cycling across the region for generations, impacting durable enhancements to tourism, public health, affordability, competitiveness, sustainability and resilience annually worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
- For six months in 2015, NYCDOT recorded an average 3700 trips per day on weekends, making the GWB the #3 most heavily biked bridge in NYC.
- Also, the fastest growing at 10.4% per year between 2010 and 2015.
- Yet at 7 foot wide, the George has by far the narrowest path.
- Between 2010 and 2015, bike trips across NYC overall grew 12.5%, driven by expansion of its bike grid and the debut of bike share.
- At 521 users per hour, travel across the GWB paths well exceeds AASHTO‘s 300 user-per-hour threshold to widen the paths to 14 foot.
- Remarkably, this growth has occurred on a facility with an FHWA level of service of “F – Failing“.
The PA’s “Restore the George” plan for the paths would:
- Replace stairs on the North Path with ramps.
- Widen the NY-NJ approaches.
- Assign one path to pedestrians-runners and another to bicyclists.
- Restore paths on the mile-long span to 7 foot, in compliance with ADA.
Unfortunately, PA’s plan won’t improve the GWB’s current level of service.
- Peds-runners comprise just 25% of current peak use.
- 5-10% of pedestrians and runners will still use the bike path.
- Melt-refreeze of snow accumulation will continue to restrict winter access.
- Safety barriers will obstruct views of city skylines and the Palisades.
- ADA won’t insulate the PA from liability in crashes involving cyclists.
- If current levels of growth sustain, its grade will remain “F – Failing”.
Complete George’s AASHTO-compliant proposal would cantilever a pair of 10 foot bikeways and safety barriers below the existing 7 foot paths which would both be reserved for pedestrians and runners.
- This would result in four paths totaling 33.5 foot.
- It would maintain unobstructed views of pedestrians and runners.
- No cables intruding on bikeways allow them to be fully snowplowed.
- Increased capacity would be available as soon as 2021.
- AASHTO-compliant paths insulate the PA from liability.
- FHWA grade for this proposal in 2025 will be “A – Excellent“.
Neile Weissman, 2020