A simple request for cyclists to dismount along a short stretch of bike path in Riverside Park has been causing contention among park goers this summer.
In June, the Parks Department installed signs bearing the message “Cyclists must dismount” along the path that connects West 72nd Street and Riverside Drive with the Waterfront Greenway along the Hudson River. The area is home to a popular dog run and is frequently used by dog-walkers, pedestrians and cyclists who vie for control of the 5-foot wide path. Safety concerns prompted the Parks Department to put up the signs, but many cyclists aren’t obeying them and irate riders have torn down some of the signs.
Cristina DeLuca of the Parks Department confirmed the problems that people are having with the signs, and said in a statement, “We are working to accommodate multiple, competing park uses in very limited space. Cycling is an activity we fully support and will continue to encourage, but our first priority is always safety.”
Council Member Gale Brewer advocated for the installation of the signs in an attempt to make the park safer for children, seniors, dog walkers and cyclists as well.
“We were shocked that the signs had been taken down at night,” she said.
Her office is organizing a meeting with community members to figure out a more permanent solution to the problems along the path.
On a recent Monday morning in the park, some cyclists dutifully dismounted, and an equal number ignored the signs, though all rode at safe speeds and steered away from pedestrians.
Kristina Kreber walks her dog in the park three times a day, and said that some cyclists make it unsafe.
“I ride my bike also, so I kind of straddle the issue,” Kreber said. “It would be less of a volatile issue if they would just say to bikers, ‘Can you please be more considerate?’”
Ren Tarpley rides her bike recreationally and walks it through the designated area. She said that the problem comes from large groups of cyclists on the weekends, not the occasional lone biker. “You see the bike tours coming through, there are like 30 of them, and they don’t dismount.”
She thinks the signs are a good idea, but only if people obey them.
Jeff Dedrick, another cyclist walking the path with his bike, said that while he normally rides slowly around pedestrians and doesn’t cause problems, he is fine with the signs and the dismount rule.
“I understand pedestrians are concerned,” he said. His wife hates it when bikes whiz by on the narrow paths.
While some are happy to see the signs up, it’s unclear how the Parks Department will enforce the new rule.
Tila Dunhaime, of bicyclist group Upper West Side Streets Renaissance Campaign, said that the signs don’t address more important and complicated issues of how city residents can share space effectively.
“I don’t think that the Parks Department did its homework in terms of establishing that there was a problem and considering a number of solutions,” Dunhaime said.
She emphasized the need for using the “3 E’s”—engineering, education and enforcement—to create viable bike paths, teach people how to use them safely and punish those who don’t.
Dunhaime said that enforcement should come not just from the Parks Department or the NYPD, but that we need “law-abiding cyclists to put peer pressure on the ones who are being jerks. To just lay down the long arm of the law and say everyone has to get off their bikes right now is a backwards way of looking at the problem.”
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