Making the World Better for New York Cyclists—One Complaint at a Time:
A Website (mostly) of constructive bitching

© 2013 Richard Rosenthal. All rights reserved.


GOOD-BYE, NYC DOT COMM. JANETTE SADIK-KHAN.
THANK YOU FOR ALL YOUR TERRIFIC WORK.





Cycling onto the George Washington Bridge used to be hazardous to your health. Now coming off it could be.

On July 17, 2008, I wrote a letter to New York City Department of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan.
It was signed by 127 New York area cyclists, including nine past or present presidents of New York cycling organizations.
It plead for the urgent repair of  this.


A scant two weeks later,  it was fixed! Thank you Comm. Sadik-Khan!  But....
The workers who did the work are due less appreciation. Incomprehensibly, they did NOT repair
the uplifted pavement block(s) that are mere inches from what they did repair. Why?

Here are pictures of what they did do...and what they didn't do.



It took almost two more years and several more notes to the Commissioner before it was FIXED!!! However...

...However, it wasn't fixed by the D.O.T. (and, yes, it is the responsibility of the D.O.T., not the Port Authority).
It was fixed by two Port Authority workmen who were filling in cracks on the bridge when they were prevailed
upon to address the lip. A tip of the helmet to them for their initiative and willingness to go outside their job and
their employer's responsibility...and to Alan Resnick, a longtime supporter of this site and what this page has been trying to accomplish.






Now there are three things that remain to be addressed on the sidewalk leading to the bridge.

1. Put an anti-skid compound on the metal plate.

It's dicey for just one cyclist to make that 90º turn onto the ramp. It's made all the more dicey
by having to turn on that slippery metal plate, especially if you're coming down the ramp.
And if there are two cyclists going in opposite directions...fuggedaboudit.

2. Smooth out the pavement below.




3. Most importantly, expand the width of the sidewalk, at least where it meets the ramp.

The street is too narrow here for cars to drive side-by-side, but there is wayyy more room in the street than is needed by the widest truck.
So why not widen the sidewalk where the yellow arc is in the picture below to make the turn easier and safer for cyclists by expanding
the radius of the turn onto/off of the ramp. Hell, why limit the widening of the sidewalk to the space represented by the yellow arc, above?
Why not widen the entire
sidewalk? Again, drivers don't need that space.

Widen the sidewalk where it meets the ramp. Taking street pavement away from trucks and cars imposes no burden on drivers.

 

                           As we wait for the sidewalk to be widened, let's turn our attention to the bridge itself.
The hairpin turn is hairy. Expanding its radius is less doable, but doable.








 



The narrow width at the two gates installed after 9/11 further constricts an already much too narrow path.








Too narrow for two.



In addition to the narrow radius of the 90º turn onto/off of the ramp, here is what else makes cycling on the George Washington Bridge dicey:
The wall near the intersection of the sidewalk and the ramp obstructs sight lines so you can't very well see those coming off the ramp as you
prepare to turn onto it, and see those coming onto the ramp as you prepare to come off it.


 

See the cyclists coming on the sidewalk? No? I didn't think so.



Can we please have the security guards on the path do something potentially useful? Use a hand-held click-counter to
count the number of bicycles crossing, and note the number by each half hour. The guard(s) on the NY side will count
riders heading to NJ; the guard(s) on the NJ side will count the riders heading to NY. This could be useful as we appeal
to the Port Authority to improve the ramp.

There's not a chance the Port Authority of NY/NJ, operators of the bridge, will remove the ultra-constricting gates that
were erected after 9/11. But why is the bridge path closed between midnight and 6AM in the name of security?
Cars and trucks can cross the bridge 24-hours a day. Does the Port Authority believe more explosive materiel can be
transported on a bike than in a car or truck? If they want to admit not having guards during those hours is a cost-saving
measure, fine; but to declare this a matter of security? That's nonsense.

I pause for this scold: Why didn't you move these cones?

If I accuse you of being passive, even parasitic about leaving the improvement of cycling conditions to others,
here's an example of what I mean. You went around these three cones on the NJ side of the bridge and waited
if someone was coming towards you. But did you think to ask, “Why are these here? They’re not warning passers
of anything. They're not protecting anything. There’s no reason for them." No, you just ignored them.

What was under them? Nothing. Not a damn thing. You could have moved them yourself. But you didn’t. Why not?


Summary of Bridge Rant:
Alas, I'm sure what cyclists want counts for just about nothing to the Port Authority because we are not a constituency
that is vocal or powerful and we are not a source of revenue for them. Because improving the path would entail
substantial cost, my expectations for it are just about non-existent.
I'm not opposed to having the P.A. charge cyclists, skaters, joggers, and pedestrians an amount proportional to the weight
or volume of cars if that would get path users more consideration from them. Of course I'm being facetious since the amount
collected wouldn't pay for the toll collector: based on the present $7.50 - $12.00 round trip charge for cars (depending on
whether the driver uses E-Z Pass or not and the time of day), that would work out to about 4-6¢ for someone on foot and 9-14¢ on a bike.

Here's what five Columbia freshmen engineering students—Donald McKinnon, Tim Reichann, Khadine Singh, Christie Taylor,
and David Xu, under the guidance of Randy Cohen and this site's author—created in the fall of 2009 in a project to redesign the
ramp. Read the students' wonderful and important work at  http://community.seas.columbia.edu/cslp/project.cgi?id=657






AN EXAMPLE OF MINDLESS POLICING: TICKETING ON HUDSON TERRACE

Now let's turn to the turn onto the bridge from Hudson Terrace, an absolute favorite revenue-raising site of the Ft. Lee Police Department

which has this very bad habit of ticketing cyclists for turning left just past the overpass...which, oddly enough, cyclists do because:

1: It leads directly to the bike path across the bridge; and
2: It's not illegal, notwithstanding the issuance of tickets.
   
Oh, turning is illegal? Show me the "No Turn" sign.






Well, OK, but there's some sort of sign after the turn, isn't there? Yeahhhh. And so?





Then there is the matter of ticketing cyclists for not riding on the far right when they want to turn LEFT!
"Oh, no," say the Ft. Lee police, "You can't turn left. You have to walk your bike across the four lanes of traffic."

Yeah, right, better to walk across four lanes of traffic where there is no stop light for cars
and with your smooth, hard, plastic cleats slipping against the pavement with each step
than quickly riding across two lanes.



What's that? You think there IS a traffic light stopping cars, at least
on two of the four lanes at the crosswalk? There isn't.





Surprise! There isn't. (It might help if that red line actually existed. It doesn't other than here.)



Perhaps it's time for a bit of Continuing Adult Education for the Ft. Lee Police....

NJ Vehicle & Traffic Code: 39:4-14.2, 39:4-10.11 Operating Regulations.
A bicyclist may move left under any of the following conditions: 1) To make a left turn from a left turn lane or pocket;


So why do they do it? Why do the police ticket cyclists for riding that isn't illegal? Answer: It's easy. And safe.
But, of course, the police trot out that ol' cop cop-out and canard whenever they're acting punitively:
"It's for your own safety."


Here is what police would do for cyclists' safety: Ticket drivers for turning left
in front of us as we head south down Hudson Terrace, making us brake, and it is illegal.
Drivers wouldn't do that in front of cars traveling the same speed.
Ticket drivers for failure to use a turn signal. Or passing too close to a cyclist.
Or pulling in too close after passing a cyclist. Or honking unnecessarily.
But, hey, that would entail a chase and who knows what drivers have in their cars?

 I've been making that left turn onto the bike path for thirty-two years and have yet to learn
of a single cyclist being injured in the course of making that turn. (I've also yet to hear
of a single instance of a driver injured by a cyclist.
) But, c'mon, nabbing little snot-nosed,
privileged kids (in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and, yes, 70s because we know bikes are kiddie things;
real adults drive cars) recreating while they, the police, are working—
now that's satisfying! And safe. And easy.

And ticketing cyclists produces revenue so the police can pay for the gas to keep their motors running with their
air conditioners on for the forty-five minutes they take to write tickets, while keeping cyclists waiting
and standing out in the hot sun. (Yes, that's an actual number.) And the rest of the time they sit in their cars.

(If you're wondering, no, I haven't been ticketed here. Yet.)



Now, while keeping an ever jaundiced eye on the bridge,
 if you haven't already pored over that page and my dypepsia about it,
 go back to the page about riding in Central Park....