16/03 – Cycle Tourism

Chairman Degnan.  Director Foye.  Commissioners.

With BergenRocklandOrange, Ulster, Dutchess and Putnam calling on the Port Authority to widen the GWB paths to support the the growth of cycle tourism, I’d like to quantify the impact of PA’s plan to accord all users a single 6.75′ wide path between 2020 and 2023.

CAB178 - AMMAN & WHITNEYPA’s plan for 2020-2023: (1) 6.75′ path for peds and cyclists.  Amman & Whitney.

Active transportation added half a billion dollars to NJ’s economy in 2011, or $56 per resident. If we extend this to the 3.1 million residents of the Lower and Mid-Hudson Valley, that’s $174 million per year. [1]

In 2020, the PA expects that GWB North Path will open and that all users will share it for three years.   If trends continues, bike traffic across the GWB will be 50% higher than today [2].  And with spectacular views of the Palisades, the North Path could draw tens of thousands of new pedestrians per year. [3]

The combination of expected and induced growth would be funneled onto a 7′ wide path whose level of service that already grades “F” per FHWA‘s rating system at 2014 levels of use.  [4]

Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 9.12.23 AMFHWA grade “F” – “Significant conflicts should be expected.”

manhattan-bridge-bike-jam (1) Manhattan Bridge on Bike to Work Day.  Photo by Robert Wright.

Without widening the paths, the increased demand would cause crowding so severe that cyclists would be compelled to walk their bikes, reducing throughput across the span and throughout the region, thus realizing the Yogi Berra paradox: “Nobody goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.”

If the PA’s failure to widen the North Path causes cycle tourism to drop 10%, that’s a loss of $17 million per year.

Conversely, if the PA widened the GWB to support projected and induced growth, that should boost revenues.

These estimates are “back of envelope”, but if anything, I believe they understate the potential impact.  On a recent Saturday, both sides of the GWB were closed until 9AM until the North Path, with its ten flights of stairs, was opened.  So I checked in with a Piermont eatery popular with cyclists.

Business was off 30% for the day.

Thank you.

Neile Weissman, 2016


[1] Per a Rutgers study, New Jersey’s economy benefitted $497 million from active transportation (biking and walking) in 2011.  NJ’s population in 2010 was 8.8 million.

Lower-Mid Hudson Counties: Westchester – 949K, Bergen – 905K, Putnam – 100K, Rockland- 324K, Orange – 373K, Ulster – 182K, Dutchess – 297K. Total “WeBePROUD” – 3130K

3.1M * $56 per person = $174 million annually

5% of $174 million = $8.7 million

$8.7 million * 3 = $26.1 million

Other studies:

Vermont found biking and walking to add $83 million per year, or $133 per person.

– Colorado – $1 billion across the state from cycling, or $200 per person

[2] PA reported that weekly bike traffic on the GWB grew from 9,020 cyclists per week on 2010 to 11,900 per week in 2014 … or 7.2% annually … or at a rate to double in 10 years.

[3] Camoin Associates, who did the economic forecast for the Walkway over the Hudson projects that a dedicated pedestrian facility on the GWB could draw an additional 289,000 new visitors per year or nearly twice the current 150,000 pedestrians.

[4] PA-GWB bike-ped traffic for 2020 presumes 50% growth in bike travel and 50% growth in pedestrian travel from 2014.