If you’ve spent any time on the west end of Manhattan, you know the Hudson River Greenway is truly beautiful and crowded. It’s one of the busiest bikeways in the entire country, making it a key artery in our public transit system for New Yorkers who want to get around by bike. With congestion pricing around the corner and the potential for even more New Yorkers to ditch their cars for bikes, now is the time to make the Greenway even better.
We should expand the greenway to include an additional protected bike lane on the West Side Highway.
Implementing the congestion pricing program will present an incredible opportunity for New Yorkers to make our streets safer, improve congestion and air quality, and fund public transit. The environmental assessment released in August showed that the impact of this program will be profound, reducing road accidents and fatalities, making it easier for New Yorkers to get around in need of a car, improving the quality of air and reducing greenhouse gas emissions, while funding desperately needed public transit upgrades. that will make subways more accessible, more reliable and more efficient.
For this transformational agenda to succeed, we must ensure that New York City is prepared for more of us to travel by bike, scooter, bus, and train. And we need to invest in alternative transport infrastructure now, rather than trying to catch up later.
This summer, my office spearheaded a transportation campaign designed to urge the city and state to fight traffic congestion, improve street safety, and create more space for New Yorkers. This campaign has included the call to better pedestrianize Broadway between 14th Street and Times Square, pushing the Department of Transportation to raise the cap on the increasingly popular and growing Citi Bike e-bike fleet; ask the MTA to implement all-door boarding on our buses to improve bus speeds across the borough; make recommendations to ensure congestion pricing is fair and efficient; and building new infrastructure for cyclists, who currently do not have enough safe ways to get around Manhattan and the five boroughs.
The huge success of Hudson River Park, Riverside Park and Fort Washington Park has made the Greenway a key artery in our transit system. Every day, New Yorkers commute between Inwood and Battery Park City.
But as the greenway has grown in popularity, congestion has gotten significantly worse. At peak times of the day and on weekends, cyclists have to squeeze around runners with headphones. Pedestrians must protect themselves against bicycle traffic in both directions. Cargo bikes weave their way through narrow entrances to bike paths. And e-bikes find themselves forced onto the West Side Highway with cars going over 50 mph.
The daily news flash
Days of the week
Find the five best stories of the day every afternoon of the week.
That’s why, alongside local community councils, elected officials and transit advocates, I’ve called for the creation of an additional protected bike lane on the West Side Highway adjacent to the River Greenway Hudson, commencing at Chambers St. and proceeding to Inwood.
By dedicating a traffic lane or even a single parking lane to cyclists, we could create dedicated space for e-bike and scooter users who are currently legally prohibited from using the green lane, and reduce congestion so that more New Yorkers can move quickly and efficiently while reducing the risk of conflict with pedestrians. It would also be an opportunity for delivery men transport goods to move efficiently and legally throughout the island.
This isn’t the only infrastructure upgrade the city and state need to make in the run-up to congestion pricing. But adding a protected bike lane could easily be done without drastically affecting current or future traffic patterns.
No doubt some of those driving would see the new lane as an intrusion. But the West Side Highway would still have five lanes of traffic (six if the bike lane is in a parking lane), and with congestion pricing expected to reduce the number of vehicles traveling on the West Side Highway below 60th. between 7% and 13.4%, and to reduce the total number of vehicle-kilometres traveled along the corridor between 15.8% and 20.5%, the impact on traffic should be minimal.
We can get this major upgrade off to a quick start with just the cost of barriers and paint. To make sure our plan works, our broad coalition of community members, environmental and transit advocates, and elected officials requested a traffic and feasibility study from the state as a first step in Implementation.
Ultimately, every New Yorker, no matter how they move through the city, deserves infrastructure that protects them and aligns with our long-term goals to make our city healthy, equitable, and more resilient. I’m committed to making sure every New Yorker can get around our city easily, and the Hudson River Greenway is a great place to start.
Levine is the borough president of Manhattan.