UPPER WEST SIDE — Community Board 7 confronted a classic New York puzzle Monday night: squeezing too many people into too small a space.
In this case the space is a 10–foot wide path in Riverside Park that cyclists, dog walkers, moms with strollers and seniors out for some air all share.
The crowded path has become a trouble spot, prompting weekly "incidents" involving bikers and pedestrians and a "couple of accidents," said Crista Carmody, a city park and recreation manager, at Monday night's Community Board 7 parks committee meeting.
"We were getting a lot of complaints," Carmody said.
In response, the parks department posted signs telling cyclists to get off their bikes and walk on the path, which starts at W. 72nd Street and slopes down to the Hudson River.
Cyclists say they weren't consulted about the signs. Others claim the cyclists speed and are inconsiderate to other path users.
Monday night was a chance for all parties to discuss solutions to the problem, which officials say will only worsen as more bikers head to the recently completed Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.
Parks officials say they've gotten complaints about bikers speeding on this path near W. 72nd Street. (DNAinfo/Leslie Albrecht) The path is one of the busiest entrances to the Greenway because it's one of the safest for cyclists, Carmody said.
Tila Duhaime of Upper West Side Streets Renaissance, a group that advocates for cycling, said forcing bikers to dismount sends a message that the city doesn't respect cycling.
"The problem with something like a dismount zone is that it says if you have a bike, you're the problem," Duhaime said. "It delegitimizes biking."
But others argued that the signs were needed because the path, shared by small children, dogs and would-be Lance Armstrongs, is a disaster waiting to happen.
Some park users claim the path is too narrow to be shared safely by pedestrians and cyclists.
"There are too many people who use it for too many things," said Community Board 7 member Suzanne Robotti. "Everybody's got rights, and nobody's got the right-of-way," Robotti said.
She suggested that New York take a cue from Amsterdam, where cyclists and pedestrians live together in relative harmony.
Community Board members and the public tossed around several possible solutions to the problem, including: speed bumps, stop signs, speed limits, painting a separate area for bikers on the path, and mounting an education campaign to make cyclists more aware of other park users.
Community Board 7 member Phyllis Gunther suggested bringing in experts to design a wider path. Board member Ken Coughlin nixed that idea, saying, "What we need are psychologists to figure out how you mold behavior."
Board members took no formal action Monday night. They said they'll revisit the issue at the parks committee's Sept. 20 meeting.
Before then, Carmody said she hopes to get a count of how many people use the path and what time of day it's busiest.
By Leslie Albrecht
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