2021/03 – PA’s briefing to Manhattan CB12 Traffic & Transportation Committee

On March 1, 2021 the Port Authority briefed the Traffic and Transportation Committee of Manhattan Community Board #12 on its program the Restore the George.  Here are the takeaways from the presentation by PA spokesman Christopher Lee.

The NorthWalk will open Spring 2022 and be shared by pedestrians and cyclists for four years. Then after the SouthWalk is open in 2026, both paths will remain open.  Cyclists will still be directed to the North Path, while the South Path will be reserved exclusively for pedestrians.

But Mr. Lee added that We will not preclude any pedestrians from using the NorthWalk as well … and both sides will be available to pedestrians and cyclists.” (YouTube, scroll to 19:30).  So it’s unclear how much much effort the PA will make to enforce separation.

The mile-long main span will be restored to 6’ 9” between the cables …


… but will feature a new access ramp with an alcove to view the Palisades …Screen Shot 2021-03-08 at 7.45.58 AMPANYNJ.

… and a “gathering area” at the entrance.BridgeWalk (1)PANYNJ.

These amenities appear nice but are wholly incompatible with a facility whose peak use regularly exceeds 600 users per hour.  Cyclists will now descend to exit, and accelerate to ascend, through areas where crowds are encouraged to gather.

Compare the current South Path which feeds cyclists directly onto roads.cyclists exiting GWB South.jpg Daniel Panzer.

Since 2015, when NYC DOT performed their traffic study, the South Path has operated at an “F” level of service—which means people are crashing into each another. This is confirmed by the PA who reported 39 cyclist-related crashes on-or-near the George between 2010 and 2016.

GWB South, 2015 - peds+bikes
Spreadsheet Federal Highways Association.  Calculations by Neile Weissman.

The projected grade for the North Path (est. 5% annual growth) when it opens in 2022 is even worse.

GWB North, 2022 - peds+bikes

Since 2015, NYC’s bike grid has tripled to 1300 miles and annual bike share trips to 20 million.  Bike travel across East River Bridges surged 30% in 2020 alone.  NYC now houses 800,000 cyclists with little access to bikeable roads and green space.

Yet, rather than widen the paths to comply with national standards, as hundreds of organizations, communities and public officials have called for, the Agency’s plan will accelerate its decline of service by inducing more pedestrians to clog the narrow path.

The question is: Will the Agency pull the plug on bi-state bike travel before the North Path opens … or are will it wait for the first fatality?

And then what?  Diverting a few thousand cyclists north will overload the Mario M. Cuomo as well.

Mario M. CuomoWABC-TV.

Also see: Ten Ways “Restore the George” Gets it Wrong and Safety, Litigation and the Demise of Cycling on the GWB

Neile Weissman heads up Complete George—200 organizations, communities and public officials who’ve called on the Port Authority to expand bike capacity across the George Washington Bridge as part of its $1.9 billion recabling and restoration.