2017/07 – A View from the Bridge

Three shortcomings in the Port Authority’s plan for the GWB paths:

  • It won’t alleviate dangerous conditions.
  • It will increase congestion.
  • The design for anti-suicide barriers will needlessly sacrifice one of the region’s most precious assets—views from the Bridge itself.

Dangerous Conditions

The current path is bisected every 60 feet with sets of cables that jut out a foot and a half. They narrow the effective path width to 7 foot, creating a stationary crash hazard every three seconds. This will not change under the PA’s plan. [1]

That the thousands of who daily bike across the GWB don’t report more crashes [2] speaks to their skill as cyclists, not safe design. Injuries will rise with use and as the percentage of less experienced cyclists increases. [3]

Cyclists descend East River bridges at far greater speeds, but those facilities are considered safe at 11-14 feet across. [4]

_RAL1346 (2)Casual cyclist in front of a line of racers.  Photos Daniel Panzer.

A View from the Bridge

Generations have cherished path views of Manhattan and the Palisades, but the proposed anti-suicide barriers, with its prison-like bars, would permanently and unnecessarily obstruct them.

Compare a bi-level arrangement, which offers no less protection, but retains the view.  In economic terms, using a Walkway over the Hudson model, that’s worth $42 million per year in tourist spending. [5]

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 5.24.41 PM Renderings PANYNJ and Joseph Lertola.

A Wholly Inadequate Plan

As a whole, the PA’s plan appears conflicted and underfunded. [6] It disregards USDOT guidelines to accord biking and walking equal priority with other modes of transport [7] and the 170 organizations, businesses and communities calling for wider paths. [8]

Nor will it save the Agency money.  Not if operating an out-of-spec cycling facility creates an unsustainable liability. [9] Certainly not if thousands of cyclists who now have to walk, joined with those pissed about losing the view, compel the PA to rip it out and start over.

Neile Weissman, 2017

[1] 14.3 miles per hour = 20.97 feet per second divided into 63’ between cables equals 3 seconds, calculateme.com, http://tinyurl.com/54r5rw

Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 11.54.50 AMCyclist executing a pass in the gap between cables in under one second. Screen Shot 2017-07-10 at 11.51.40 AMAnother cyclist passing, but this time within the 7 foot neckdown.

[2] 39 claims from bike accidents on GWB were filed against the PA between 2010 and 2016, PANYNJhttp://tinyurl.com/ycnaac8k

[3]  Peak bike traffic across the GWB grew form 2252 per day in 2010 (PANYNJ) to 3699 in 2015 (NYCDOT) or 10.4% per year. This compares to 12.5% per year across NYC overall., Capacity and Demand, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/jpcfphq

[4]  AASHTO guidance calls for a 2 foot separation between cyclists and the path edge and 3 foot from other cyclists.  That works out to 11′ to 14′ for (2) bi-directional paths plus a shared passing lane.  Or 15′ for (2) paths plus (2) passing lanes – a configuration wholly justified by even current use., National Standards, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/gotz6r3


[5] Linear Park, Complete George, http://tinyurl.com/howhova

Visitors who wanted to catch a view would have to stop and stare through the bars. This will further increase congestion and potential for accidents.

_RAL1369 (2).jpg

[6] “The Agency has budgeted up to $50 million for path improvements (as part of the $1.9 billion program to Restore the George).”, Executive Director Patrick Foye 6/30/16, PANYNJ Videos. Mr. Foye’s GWB remarks start 12:01, http://tinyurl.com/znlnpjq

[7] Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations, USDOT, http://tinyurl.com/yccn8qmo

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

[9] MTA Bridges and Tunnels requires cyclists walk facilities under 10 foot.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 4.09.33 PMMarine Parkway Bridge.  Photo by John T. Chiarella.