16/12 – Do-Over

Chairman Degnan. Director Foye. Commissioners.

We all make decisions we later regret.  Some get do-overs.  Infrastructure projects that cost billions and affect millions, do not get do-overs.  In December 2013, you authorized funding to replace the GWB’ stairs with ramps, upgrade the approaches and add anti-suicide barriers.

You chose not to widen the paths, believing that segregation of pedestrians from cyclists would be sufficient and that the proposal would have the support of the cycling community.

Since then, we’ve learned:

  • Port Authority staff failed to perform traffic counts, a prerequisite on any transportation infrastructure project, prior to presenting the Board with options.
  • Subsequent studies would show that GWB has become the #3 most heavily biked bridge in NYC, with current use vastly exceeding safe capacity. [1]
  • Segregating classes of users will yield only incremental improvement, quickly overwhelmed by 10.4% annual growth in bike travel.
  • Daily bike trips across NYC overall rose from 250K in 2010 to 450K in 2015, or at an annual growth of 12.5%, indicating a regional trend. [2]
  • Nationally, 12 times as many cyclists bike for recreation than transportation, portending an outsized demand for weekend travel. [3]
  • Removing stairs and widening approaches will induce yet more demand, putting further pressure on an inadequate facility.

GWB Presentation Boards9.inddNY entrance to “bicycles-only” North Path.  Note the pedestrians. Source PANYNJ.

  • Conforming the paths to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) confers no protection from liability when crashes occur involving bicyclists. This by itself belies the PA’s commitment to maintain the GWB as a bicycling facility. [4]

From a macro perspective, the PA’s plan:

  • Undermines the long-term goals of regional transportation agencies it has pledged to support; and [8] [9] [10]
  • Denies the region durable enhancements to sustainability, resilience, tourism and public health annually worth hundreds of millions of dollars. [11]
  • Has been rejected  by 140 organizations, businesses and communities in favor of a permanent solution at the outset.  [12]

Given all this, would you still vote to restore the GWB a pedestrian facility?

If yes, are you prepared for the fallout from making thousands of cyclists walk what they used to bike?  [13]

Neile Weissman, 2016


[1] Peak pedestrian travel on the GWB is 15-25% of total. Even accorded their own path, 5-10% peds-runners will continue to access the bike path. GWB bike trips grew 10.4% per year from 2010 to 2015., Sources NYCDOT and PANYNJ, Capacity and Demand, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/jpcfphq

[2] “Cycling in the City,” NACTO-NYCDOT p. 11, http://tinyurl.com/ho9gvy5

screen-shot-2017-01-13-at-4-58-04-pm

[3] Nationally, 4.5 times as many bike for transportation and recreation as opposed to transportation alone.  And 12 times greater for just recreation.  As transportation cycling grows, those that ride for recreation (weekends) should grow even faster., U.S. Bicycling Participation Benchmarking Study Reports, People for Bikes, http://tinyurl.com/gs6q7d7

Screen Shot 2016-12-05 at 9.47.25 AM.png

[4] “Survey respondents (state and city DOTs) indicated that they follow the AASHTO standards applicable to bikeways, as well as their own manuals on the design and maintenance of bikeways.”, The Legal Aspects of Bikeways, Legal Digest #53, P. 44, 46., National Cooperative Highway Research Program, http://tinyurl.com/p8c2cl6

[5] Bicycle-Pedestrian Policy Statement, US DOT, 2010 http://tinyurl.com/h3dfg92

[6] Transportation Recommendations, Center for Disease Control, http://tinyurl.com/j6g8ghl

[7] Health Economic Assessment Tools, World Health Organization, http://tinyurl.com/z5vua9w

[8] 45 mentions of the word “bicycle”, 2040 Master Plan, North Jersey Transportation Planning Authority http://tinyurl.com/hqhm993

[9] 119 mentions of “bicycle”, 2040 Master Plan, New York Metropolitan Transportation Council, http://tinyurl.com/gmjr5jr

[10] “Coordinate bicycle facility improvements and inter‐modal connections with regional planning organizations, other regional transportation providers, and local governments.”, Bicycle Master Plan, PANYNJ, 2010, http://tinyurl.com/zrm26lb

[11] Sustainability ($6 million per year), property taxes ($24), regional tourism ($26), local tourism ($42), public health ($195), Complete the GWB, Benefits, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/zbwkfg

[12] Supporters, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/j2nbfj2

[13] Capacity and Demand, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/jpcfphq