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BY LEVAR ALONZO
Community Board 1 passed a resolution this week supporting a proposal from the Battery Park City Authority’s bicycle working group to direct cyclists off the crowded waterfront esplanade and onto the bike-friendlier greenway, according to the working group set up by the authority.
The BPCA is hoping that signs placed along the heavily walked promenade and a modified New York City bike map will encourage cyclists to use the Hudson River Greenway along West Street, which offers less hassle when riding north or south.
Battery Park City resident and cyclist Steve Wilson said that he could see why the authority would want to nudge bikes to the greenway.
“Bikers and walkers can’t interact safely,” he said. “When I bike I tend to stick to the greenway — or if I do come down on the esplanade, I look out for walkers and joggers, because in the end its about everyone’s safety.”
Battery Park City Committee of CB1 passed a resolution endorsing measures to encourage cyclists to avoid the esplanade by a vote of 5-1 on Sept. 7, with one member saying it didn’t go far enough to protect pedestrians along the waterfront walkway. The full board passed the resolution at it’s monthly meeting on Sept. 26.
The resolution, crafted by a bicycle working group of representatives from the BPCA and residents, called for placing signage along the esplanade encouraging cyclists to use the greenway, asking the Department of Transportation to modify the NYC bike map to clearly mark that the esplanade is not a bike path but rather a shared space for cyclists and pedestrians, and pushing to relocate Citi Bike docking stations that are currently near the esplanade.
As the waterfront area around Brookfield Place and North Cove Marina has gotten more crowded, the BPCA has seen a need to slow cyclists along the esplanade in the interest of pedestrian safety. Last summer the authority imposed a cyclist-dismount rule at the North Cove Marina and formed the bicycle working group with residents to formulate new bike-safety policies, with the aim of making the esplanade a enjoyable place for locals to relax, rather than a track for cyclists — which is really what the nearby greenway was designed for.
“This resolution is to improve safety on the esplanade, to give people a greater experience there,” said acting Battery Park City Committee chairwoman Tammy Meltzer at the Sept. 7 meeting. “The greenway gives cyclists more freedom.”
Liberty, West Thames, Albany and Vesey streets are the routes being considered for signage to redirect cyclists off the esplanade and onto the greenway. Other signs would tell cyclists that they are entering into a dismount zone, with still other signs warning that they must slow down and yield to pedestrians if they continue along the esplanade.
The authority was at pains to stress that it is not pushing to ban bikes along the BPC waterfront, but rather suggesting measures to encourage cyclists use the greenway that was designed for them.
“We are not banning cyclists from the esplanade,” BPCA director of communications Nicholas Sbordone told the committee. “We are just trying to let folks know that there is easier access to get to the Battery or uptown.”
To that end, Meltzer said the resolution calls on the DOT to modify the city’s bike map and the ground markings to make a clearer distinction between the esplanade, which must be shared with pedestrians, and the greenway, which is a dedicated bike lane — not only to keep cyclists from treating the esplanade as a bike path, but also to keep pedestrians from treating the greenway as a sidewalk, which is just as dangerous.
The group also agreed to push Citi Bike to relocate the docking station at 200 Liberty St. at the north end of South End Avenue, moving it farther east on Liberty Street, closer to the greenway.
“If the Citi Bike station was closer to the bikeway, you could see that people would think that it was for [the greenway] there,” Sbordone said. “But you can also see that if it was closer to the esplanade, people might make more use of it for there.”
Sbordone said that the new signs are likely to be rolled out over the next 18–24 months. Currently, signs along the esplanade point cyclists to use the lower part of the esplanade closer to the water and others ask cyclist to dismount as they approach the North Cove Marina.