Riverdale RiverFest 2013 and the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx

Yesterday the family and I went to Riverdale RiverFest, an annual family-friendly festival to celebrate and advocate for Riverdale’s waterfront, and especially the extension of the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale and Yonkers.  The highlight for my daughter was the bouncy castle and the face painting.  But the highlight for me was the unveiling of NYMTC’s Hudson River Valley Greenway Link Study, a plan to extend the Hudson River Greenway into Riverdale.

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My daughter enjoying Riverdale RiverFest.

I’d like to start off by thanking the volunteers and organizers of Riverdale RiverFest.  They pulled off a great festival in spite of the rain.  I saw many friends and fellow Riverdalians in attendance.  I even met a fellow Streetsblog commenter.  I’d also like to commend all the participants in the NYMTC study for their excellent work.  I reviewed the various materials available both in person at the event and online, and the accuracy and level of detail regarding the precise path through which they propose the greenway be extended is exceptional.  I also think that, while I may be coming to this late in the game, the various planners and participants in the process were clearly able to talk to the right people, as I don’t think I would have altered a single choice from their final proposed route if it were up to me.

For anyone truly interested, I’d recommend going to the NYMTC web site and downloading the full PDF of the plan.  At a hefty 81 pages of full-color photos and diagrams with paragraph after paragraph of small-font text descriptions, this is certainly no quick read.  Interested parties should also check out the comments on the plan by Friends of the Hudson River Greenway.  For those looking for just the bottom line, here’s my quick overview.

The plan details a route from the current northern terminus of the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway at Dyckman Street to the Old Croton Aqueduct Trail in northern Yonkers.  Since the former bikeway starts at the mouth of the Hudson in Upper New York Bay, while the latter continues northward virtually uninterrupted until Croton-on-Hudson., the Riverdale and south Yonkers piece of the greenway is the last missing link necessary to complete an epic 40-mile bikeway along the east bank of the Hudson River.

While traveling north from Riverdale to enjoy the progressively more pastoral views along the Hudson by bicycle may be a very attractive recreational opportunity, it is the path south towards Manhattan that is of greatest potential utility to Riverdalians.  In this regard, the proposed route includes many critical upgrades, mostly directly along my route to work.

By far the costliest aspect of the improvement is the construction of a cantilevered side-path adjacent to the current pedestrian-only walkway on the Henry Hudson Bridge.  Although recently it would appear that the local authorities are looking the other way as many cyclists crossing the bridge ride their bikes across, the fact remains that the path is barely passable by people crossing in opposite directions without stopping, let alone bikes.  In addition to the narrowness of this path, there are 3 sets of stairs on this route, and the proposal suggests eliminating all of them.  First, a small set of stairs on the Bronx end of the Henry Hudson Bridge is to be replaced with a ramp.  Second, 2 sets of stairs on either side of a short bridge crossing the Amtrak rail lines are also to be replaced with ramps.  A final 4th set of stairs from Riverside Drive up to the Greenway is already being replaced with a ramp to Dyckman.

Unfortunately, the proposed route does nothing to help cyclists contend with the steep ascent through Inwood Hill Park to the Henry Hudson Bridge.  Nevertheless, given that Riverdale is located on a hill, one way or another you’re going to have to do some climbing to get there from the waterfront in Manhattan.  Furthermore, alternatives on either the Spuyten Duyvil swing bridge or the Broadway bridge limit access at certain times of the day and/or take one away from the main population density centers.  As for adding a switchback to the hill in Inwood, this was considered but the forever-wild status of the park prevents any further development that would harm the existing forest.

Once getting across the Henry Hudson Bridge into Riverdale, the plan calls for a series of on-street routes taking one down to Palisade Ave.  Eventually, the plans also call for the development of a truly waterfront path on the Hudson itself, but considering the topological and infrastructural impediments to such a path, I am very glad the NYMTC chose to go with the Palisade Ave path as a medium-term goal.  A waterfront path would necessarily have only a few access points, with none proposed between 232nd Street and 254th Street.  A path along Palisade Ave would provide convenient additional access points for the many residents of Riverdale’s apartment buildings.  Furthermore, the Palisade Ave path plan also includes the extension of Palisade Ave for bikes only along Riverdale Park from Spaulding Lane to 254th Street, another welcome improvement.

All-in-all, I’m very pleased and excited by the NYMTC plan.  Now it is incumbent upon our local and state politicians to secure funding and begin work on this potentially transformational project.

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8 thoughts on “Riverdale RiverFest 2013 and the Hudson River Greenway in the Bronx

  1. Shocked by the self-centered view that high speed biking through a peaceful residential neighborhood is an essential for the “biker way of life” which ignores gentle walks for the elderly, families and small children as unimportant. Is this the best way to spend $15 million when libraries and other essential services are under attack. A rail trail is a natural spot for such biking which has already destroyed our wonderful city parks.

    • I’m rather confused by your comments. Have you even seen the plans? All the new bikeways are to be installed either on existing roadways or beside a rail bed which is currently off-limits to the public. At the moment there isn’t room for any sort of walking, let alone gentle walks with elderly and kids. On the roadway, the bikes will certainly not be traveling any faster than the cars. Cars tends to kill an awful lot more elderly pedestrians and small children than bikes!

      As for the funding, I would prefer to view it as being diverted from road projects that encourage sprawl than from libraries and parks. In any case, $15 million is chump change for New York City, and the cause is very worthy as right now there aren’t any bike paths in Riverdale where I would feel safe taking my four-year-old daughter cycling.

      I’m not sure where your misguided opposition to this project comes from, but please read up on it before you blithely dismiss it.

    • Marilyn, this is my second attempt to reply IN SUPPORT OF YOU. The first was rejected, probably because I referred specifically to one of the commentators who opposes you here. So without naming anyone now, you can find the dialogue between me and our mutual protagonist in streetsblog at the link http://www.streetsblog.org/2013/12/05/regional-planners-outline-route-for-hudson-river-greenway-in-the-bronx/ Follow the play-by-play, and as of now, it’s his turn. (LOL!) What I wish to point out is that certain causes seem to take on a militance that leads to intolerance of opposition and name-calling of opponents. Such can be the bicycling lobby! So the danger to the youngest and eldest which you correctly cite that MAY BE posed by a stream of cyclists is ridiculed by these advocates in its contrast to the obviously greater DESTRUCTION caused by a driven car. Conveniently overlooked in their narrowly focused view are three facts that make cars statistically safer to pedestrians! 1) Cars seldom “come out of nowhere” to a pedestrian, as bikes often do, and 2) The entire Palisade Avenue stretch for this proposal is WITHOUT SIDEWALKS, and that gives us 3) The pedestrians, who have been sharing the streets with cars forever, will now have to share them with CARS AND BIKES!!! Returning to point (1), I have never been hit by a car, but have had 3 physical encounters with bicycles, and was saved by my excellent athletic reflexes each time – you know, like those of the Riverdale senior citizens!

      You are right on the mark, Marilyn!

      • Mike,

        I’m not sure you realize this is actually my blog, so it is up to me whether or not your comments get through. In any case, I thought I’d let this one through so I could reply.

        I have never had a physical encounter with a pedestrian, but I have had two physical encounters with motor vehicles while cycling. One ended with a few scrapes and the other ended with a permanent scar and significant damage to the bike. I’m not sure how your encounters ended. If you were hurt, I’m sorry for you, but if not then I assure you they were not as close as you think.

        But enough about the anecdotes. The fact is that a pedestrian hasn’t been killed by a cyclist in over 4 years in NYC, whereas an 8-year old boy was killed by a motorist just last week. The boy was crossing the street in the crosswalk with the light.

        As someone that actually follows the statistics, your claim that cars are “statistically safer” is laughable, and with this comment I believe your entire argument loses all its credibility.

        • Tal,
          Of course, cars alone are more statistically more threatening to pedestrians than bikes alone! Pardon my mistatement of the COMPARATIVE danger. What I meant to emphasize was the COMBINED danger! But you insist on ignoring the mathematical reality that a street shared by bikes AND cars is statistically more dangerous to pedestrians than the same street with EITHER bikes OR cars. It’s the same way you just assumed I use street parking in Riverdale on Streesblog.org. (where I’ll probably have to post this statement to have it seen.)

          The only way Palisade Avenue will be less perilous to strollers when bicycles come through is by removing automobile traffic altogether! If that’s what you want, just say so, please. I suspect it is, because it actually is the ONLY way to keep that street as safe as it is now.

          I was not injured in any of my bicycle encounters, due to quick reflexes of mine, and the bikers’ too, I suppose. But you conveniently overlook the number of injuries to pedestrians from bicycles when you compare only the mortality statistics.

  2. Marilyn, please define ‘high speed biking’. Bicycles, as they are powered by human effort, are not high speed vehicles. Your average, fit cyclist cruises at a speed of around 15-18mph. Hardly high speed. I, too live in Riverdale and see cars absolutely FLY through residential streets – even through the new Independence Ave Slow Zone – putting the same elderly, families and small children at tremendous risk every single day. Please recognize the reality that you live in New York City. not Westchester County, and as such, this neighborhood must contain safe and adequate facilities for users of non-automotive modes of transportation.

    • James: Agree with you wholeheartedly. But please don’t differentiate between NYC and Westchester this way. Much of Westchester is urban, and “villages” like Hastings and Dobbs Ferry are as dense many US cities. Yonkers, Mount Vernon, and other “cities” are no different than NYC.

      • Rob, I know this. I work in Yonkers. My point was that the expectations for the use of public space (such as roads) need to be different in a place like Riverdale, located within the NYC boundaries, versus somewhere like Tarrytown, which is a standalone suburban community. Lots of folks in Riverdale seem stuck in a very suburban mindset in regard to how the neighborhood should look, feel, and operate

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