2018/09 – Eight Ways “Restore the George” Gets it Wrong

An Asymmetric Approach to GWB Path Expansion


The PA’s Restore the George plan to restore the GWB paths to their 1931 pedestrian layout is littered with bad decisions.  Here’s eight.

#1 – It doesn’t provide safe capacity for current use, let alone growth.

BridgeWalk (1)The PA promises adequate capacity, but the sign over the North Path entrance says otherwise. The mile-long path quickly narrows to 7 foot. Rendering PANYNJ (P. 5).

Peak use across the GWB averaged 521 users per hour in 2015 – well exceeding the 300 UPS threshold AASHTO employs to recommend a 14 foot wide path. Yet the PA still plans to allocate cyclists a single 7 foot path starting in 2024.

AASHTO1American Association of State and Highway Traffic Officers Bicycle Design Guide, 2012.

Peak bike travel across the GWB grew 10.4% per year between 2010 and 2015. That compares to annual growth of 12.5% across NYC overall.  Looking ahead:

  • In 2019, the path on Mario M. Cuomo Bridge will open.  Together with the GWB, that will create a forty mile loop drawing cyclists from across the region.
  • The GWB is linchpin to the nascent 1650 mile Tri-State Trail Network, so there’s ample reason to expect growth.

Screen Shot 2017-09-24 at 2.41.38 PMImage Regional Plan Association.

#2 – Adding “gathering places” to entrances will create new bottlenecks.

Screen Shot 2017-09-29 at 9.40.53 AM.pngProposed New York and New Jersey entrances to GWB North Path. Images PANYNJ.

The NY entrances are at the bottom of graded ramps that cyclists will naturally descend at speed to exit and accelerate to enter.  In NJ, cyclists traveling south on Hudson Terrace will have to make fast left turns against oncoming traffic to access the Bridge.

At both ends, cyclists will have to ride through crowds encouraged by the PA’s plan. Predictably, they’ll be obliged to dismount, backing up traffic on the span.

Screen Shot 2017-09-26 at 12.31.51 AM.pngManhattan Bridge on Bike to Work Day.  Photo Robert Wright.

#3 – It won’t alleviate stationary crash hazards. 

The 1931 pedestrian configuration threatens cyclists with a gauntlet of reinforced suspender cables.  The PA’s plan keeps this configuration in place.

_RAL1346 (2)Photo Daniel Panzer.

The PA’s plan to add “wedges” at the towers will allow cyclists to maintain speed through a the narrow 7′ corridors.  This will increase crashes’ frequency and severity.

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 8.07.26 AM.pngImage PANYNJ.

screen-shot-2017-01-29-at-10-1-40-27-am-1Image The Radavist.

#4 – It will expose the PA to frequent and expensive litigation.

The PA has already acknowledged the potential for increased litigation by agreeing to segregate pedestrian and bicycle traffic … With this decision already made, a flood of lawsuits is likely to follow if it postpones action (i.e., simply sits on its hands) for the years required to complete the Restore the George project.” – Safety, Litigation and the Demise of Cycling on the GWB

#5 – It won’t accommodate bike share.

With bike share expanding up both sides of the Hudson, how will providers load-balance rush hours if cyclists are allocated a single 7 foot path?

image1 (1).jpgCitiBike 12-unit transporter.  Photo by Susan Brennan.

#6 – It won’t accommodate handcycles or racing wheelchairs.

AASHTO guidelines encompasses tandems, trailers, recumbents and other non-standard bicycle configurations. ADA makes no provisions for bicycles at all.

Screen Shot 2017-05-07 at 5.43.19 PMHandcyclist in Central Park. Wheelchair racers from ING NYC Marathon.

#7 – The proposed anti-suicide barriers will block the view.

Generations have cherished views of Manhattan and the Palisades from the paths.  But the PA’s proposed anti-suicide barriers, with its prison-like bars, would permanently, and needlessly, obstruct them.

Compare the PA’s plan (left) with a bi-level arrangement that retains the view from the pedestrian path.  Using a Walkway over the Hudson economic model, those views are worth $42 million per year in new tourist spending.

Screen Shot 2017-10-31 at 5.24.41 PM.pngRenderings PANYNJ (left) and Joseph Lertola (right).

It fails to realize the original designers’ vision of the George as a great public space.

GWB designers Othmar Ammann and Cass Gilbert envisioned the paths as a great public space.  Original design drawings depict 16′ wide portal and paths extending beyond the cables. PA use projections envisioned foot traffic growing 50% faster than cars.

Screen Shot 2018-03-07 at 8.32.14 AMRendering of GWB entrance with 16 foot wide pedestrian portals.  Image Cass Gilbert.

bridge_cross_section_detail_01GWB design drawings.  All configurations include 16 foot wide paths extending out past the cables.  Image PANYNJ and Joseph Lertola.