38 North Jersey municipalities call on the Port Authority to widen the GWB paths

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38 North Jersey municipalities, representing 650K residents from Bergen, Hudson and Passiac, have called on the PA to widen the GWB paths as part of the $1.9 billion reconstruction. - Mayor & Council 

 

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Neile,  Are these towns aware of the current plan to make significant improvements to the bridge’s access ramps, path around the towers and that the pedestrians and cyclists will be separated?

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Robert,

First, I take issue your use of the term "significant".  The op-ed by Regional Plan Association characterizes the PA's improvements as "more an afterthought than a true civic amenity".

And former PA Executive Director costed the GWB path work at "up to $50 million, including anti-suicide barriers" (PANYNJ Board Videos6/30/16 Board Meeting, Director Foye’s remarks start 12:01).  Since the PA has separately priced the barriers at $37-47 million. So it appears that very little of the $1.9 billion reconstruction is being spent on the paths themselves.

Second, the PA held a closed (no public allowed) Restore the George briefing for NJ electeds in June, 2016.  I don't know the full list of attendees, but the two who I know who did attend - Fort Lee, Tenafly - are calling for wider GWB paths.  

Third, yes I did.  While the thrust of my remarks pertained to the adequacy of allocating thousands of cyclists per day a single 7 foot path, what you refer to was included in the printed handout (as below), and currently on the Complete George website.

Neile

--------------------

Port Authority's ADA-Compliant Plan, 2024

Port Authority’s Plan: (1) 7 foot path for peds-runners plus  (1) 7 foot path for cyclists.  11′ high anti-suicide barrier.  Rendering by Amman & Whitney.

  • Replace the stairs on the North Path with ramps.
  • Widen the NY-NJ approaches.
  • Restore paths as ADA-compliant, 7 foot pedestrian paths.
  • Assign one path to peds-runners and another to bicyclists.

 

However, the PA’s plan will fail to improve the GWB’s current level of service.

  • Peds-runners comprise just 25% of current peak use.
  • 5-10% peds-runners will still use the bike path.
  • ADA does not insulate the PA from liability in accidents involving cyclists.
  • Snowdrifts between the cables will continue to restrict winter access.
  • The PA design for the anti-suicide barriers will compromise the view.
  • FHWA grade for the GWB in 2024 under PA’s Plan remains “F – Failing”.

 

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The PA was designed to insulate itself from local politics

Keep in mind that the design of the PA, controlled indirectly by the Governors of NY and NJ was intended to insulate it from local and parochial political pressures. Petitions by residents, importuning from congressman, local mayors, etc. etc. have to by filtered through the governors, who each have a state-wide constituency to respond to.

Additionally, it is misleading to compare the present path width with a utopian plan to make it wider. The current PA plan effectively doubles the width of the present path because when the work is finished both paths will be open and pedestrians and cyclists will be segregated. 

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Jerry

First, I take issue with your use of the term "utopian." The advocacy to widen the GWB paths has been consistent in calling on the PA to abide relevant guidance from US Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration and American Association of State and Highway Traffic Officers, aka National Standards

Also best practices by cities around who are investing billions in cycling infrastructure, including of course New York City.  If you can't advocate for a modern facility on the GWB, then how do you advocate for "utopian" facilities on the Verrazano, Tri-Boro and Henry Hudson Bridges?

Proposed bike-ped additions to Verrazano Narrows.  Estimated cost $300-400 million.  Image WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff

Second, the PA has pedestrian use at peak periods at 25% of total.  So giving them their own path doesn't double cyclists' capacity.  Also, segregation is never complete, 5-10% of pedestrians users will always use the bike path and vice versa.

Third, the PA is a public benefit corporation derives its authority from the state legislatures. They can modify the PA's charter if they concur that the Agency is failing in its mission.  The municpalities comprise significant portions of half a dozen North Jersey legislative districts.

The Governors appoint the Commissioners (seven new ones over the summer and two in NJ whose terms are up in 2018) and have veto on the Capital Plan.  NJ Governor-elect Murphy has publicly called for wider GWB paths (Brian Lehrer Show, 17:40) and the NY Governor has just spent half a billion on cycling infrastructure on the Empire State Trail and TPZ/Cuomo Bridge.

Finally, both the current PA Chairman and one Commissioner are former Mayors.  

Neile

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Neile,  I appreciate your diligence with this issue.  I am just not sure if the PA will consider anything else at this point.  I understand that the cost to widen the path in a way that does not compromise the integrity of the bridge would be prohibitively expensive.  I am not even convinced that widening the path will stop accidents since they many are caused by speeding, reckless cyclists.  Making roads narrower by adding curb push outs and reducing the number of lanes are common traffic calming measures for cars.  I assume that would apply to cyclists as well and that the opposite (wider) would make cyclists go faster.  What do you think?

It would be great for your group to look at other cycling-related issues.  I understand that the access to/from the Tappan Zee bridge needs some work, just to name one.  Broadway in Tarrytown is a nightmare too.

Thanks,  Bob

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Bob

First (sorry but it helps to keep discrete points), accidents will occur on the GWB with or without improvements, but if the PA widens them to comply with AASHTO, they are effectively immune from the same threat of litigation that compels the MTA to maintain a ban on cycling across the Tri-Boro, Marine Parkway, Cross Bay and Henry Hudson Bridges.  

Second, I think the PA's proposed modifications are not thought out and will actually comromise safety and capacity: Ways the PA's GWB Plan Gets it Wrong

The four towers straddling the length of the paths comprise their scariest parts. Unless the paths themselves are widened, adding “wedges” to allow converging cyclists to maintain speed will increase crashes’ incidence and severity.

Image The Radavist.

Third, I agree that TPZ/Cuomo will be creating issue on both sides of the River for years to come. However, I have enough on my plate for now and there's an excellent advocate, Dan Convissor of Bike Tarrytown, who could use the support.  If you have the time. 

Neile

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I for one am very excited

I for one am very excited about the improved access we will have to the GW Bridge.  No, it won't be as good as widened bicycle paths, but wide ramps entering and exiting the bridge as opposed to the treacherous narrow hairpin ramp we now negotiate will be pretty teriffic.  Improved site lines around the towers - how great does that sound.  No pedestrians - no way anyone will ever convince me that separating bicycles and pedestrians won't be absolutely great!  No stairs - yeah!  All sounds pretty wonderful to me.  And Neile's research indicates there were 39 bicycle related accidents on or near the bridge in the past 7 years - a little more than 5 per year.  With the thousands of bicycles that cross the bridge annually, 5 accidents on the one mile long path, none of which resulted in a death, sounds to me like the GW Bridge bicycle path might already be the safest bicycle path in the whole wide world.  And with the improvements already planned for it, it will be even safer.  Here's a novel thought - perhaps other bridge crossings should use the GW Bridge as their model.  Wow!

No, I am  not going to disparage the improvements planned for bicycle access to the GW Bridge.  Rather, I am very grateful for the hard work that went into negotiating these improvements for us. And I can't wait to ride my bike across the improved path.

Christy

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GWB

Hooray for Christy Guzzetta's sanity and reasoning.  Let's stop beating the dead horse and get on with life!

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Christy

The 39 instances of cyclists getting injured on the GWB are the Port Authority's figures (not mine). And even the PA doesn't claim that those are the only instances of cyclists getting injured (just you).  Got anything else to support your contention that the GWB was/is/always will be safe and adequate?  

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I looked back as far as I

I looked back as far as I could.  Though I could not find the exact date the bridge was opened to bicycle traffic, it seems it was sometime in the late 70's, early 80's.  In all that time, I could not find any record of anyone dying as a result of a bicycle related accident on that bridge -  and I looked hard.  I don't have statistics detailing how many bicycles crossed the bridge in those 40 or so years, I'd estimate about 16 billion and a half, maybe one or two more.  Not one death.   40 years.  That's a good indicator, right?  

The bridge is one mile long, right?  If I traveled at the bicycle speed limit on the bridge - 15 mph - while riding across, I'd complete the journey in all of 4 minutes.  I'm too scared to go that fast, to scared to go the speed limit.  Heck, there's pedestrians up there, french poodles, tour de france racers, all kinds of crazies on that bridge.  So I only go 10 mph, I am so so so careful - and that takes me all of 6 minutes to travel the 1 mile span. I am sooooo careful.  If I could make everyone in the club do something, I'd issue a Presidential edict making everyone cross the GW Bridge at no more than 10 mph - take the 6 whole minutes, enjoy the view, the people watching, and don't crash for gosh sakes!  Don't be one of the 5 or so bicycle related accidents the chart Neile showed us happens in a year.    

Indeed, the bridge gets crowded on a nice summer's day, sometimes congested, even mobbed . . . .  for all of 6 minutes.  And it's going to be so much better when the improvements the Port Authority are planning are complete - I can't wait, I am so excited.  We are never going to be required to walk our bikes across the bridge.  Never!  Not us, not our children, not our grandchildren.  That's just an attempt to create fear and hysteria amongst us.    

In fact, some might even call this whole thing "much ado about nothing".  Not me of course, but some others might.

Christy

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