2020/01 – Nine Ways “Restore the George” Gets it Wrong

#1 – The PA’s plan to restore the GWB paths doesn’t provide adequate capacity for even current use, let alone growth.

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 fails to alleviate existing crash hazards …

The current configuration features pairs of vertical columns every sixty feet. The PA’s restoration maintains this arrangement.

Casual cyclist on GWB sandwiched between lines of racers. Photo Daniel Panzer.

… but does create new ones.

The PA’s plan to widen the entrances to the the towers (“wedges”) will encourage groups to maintain speed through 7 foot wide tunnels.  Even a 15 mile per hour speed limit will result in collisions of up to 30 mph.

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 – Failure to upgrade the paths during reconstruction will expose the PA to frequent and expensive litigation.  Their practical alternative is require all path users to walk.

“While many complain that Penn Station, the Port Authority Bus Terminal and [the Airports] are congested, uncomfortable, and not up to today’s mass transportation standards, none present users with same threat of bodily harm, if not death, in the normal course of use as does the pedestrian/cycling path on the GWB.

Yet, billions of dollars have been, or are being, funded to address traveler concerns at these facilities. A much smaller sum must be found to take the steps required to address the much more serious safety concerns on the GWB.” – Safety, Litigation and the Demise of Cycling on the GWB

BridgeWalk (1)The sign over the North Path entrance signals the PA’s plans for how it should be used. Rendering Ammann and Whitney (P. 5).

#5 – It won’t accommodate bike share.

Bike share is expanding up both sides of the Hudson.  But how will providers replenish empty docking stations during rush hours if cyclists are restricted to a single 7 foot path?

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

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

The PA’s planned ADA configuration makes no provision for non-standard bicycle configurations – including tandems, trailers and recumbents. In fact 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 – It won’t prevent closure during winter months.  

GWB paths are often closed, sometimes for months, due to unplowed snow that thaws and refreezes across the surface.  Also from the threat of ice falling from overhead cables.

Enclosing the bikeways would allow them to operate year round and eliminate the expense of snow removal.  It would also remove the need to close paths for years when the bridge gets repainted.

Screen Shot 2015-04-09 at 10.18.14 AMGWB South Path.  Photo by Hassan Diop.

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

Generations of path users have cherished views of city skylines and the Palisades. But the PA’s configuration of anti-suicide barriers obstructs them – needlessly.  Compare the PA’s plan with a bi-level arrangement that retains the view from the upper level.  

Those vistas have significant economic value.  Employing a model developed to measure the economic impact of the Walkway over the Hudson, a linear park across the George would generate $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).

#9 – It doesn’t realize the designers’ vision of a great public space.

Based on contemporaneous drawings, data and precedent architecture, GWB architects envisioned the paths as great public spaces, including 16 foot wide entrances and mile long belvederes.

bridge_cross_section_detail_01GWB design drawings all feature 16 foot promenades.  Image PANYNJ, Joe Lertola.

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


Also see An Asymmetric Approach to GWB Path Expansion