A Promenade bike ban is best for Roosevelt Island. Suggested by a reader, a ban makes sense, creating safer spaces and opening them up for more uses.
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes
Opinion by David Stone
What does the dictionary say about promenades?
Promenade: a paved public walk, typically one along a waterfront at a resort…
ORIGIN: mid 16th century (denoting a leisurely walk in public): from French, from se promener ‘to walk’, reflexive of promener ‘take for a walk’.
Update: RIOC Leadership Finally Admits Bike Problems, But Screws It Up
As a brief afterthought in comments for the hopelessly self-serving RIOC News, September 2nd, 2020, president/CEO Shelton Haynes had this to say:
“With the increase of cyclists on the island and the installment of Citi-bike docking stations, concerns regarding island-wide bike safety is (sic) at the top of the list of matters to address. We are currently in discussions with representatives of Bike New York and Citi-Bike/Lyft for additional guidance.”
What’s missing here?
A true outsider, Haynes goes to Bike New York and Citi-Bike for guidance, not residents, and he can’t bring himself to acknowledge local complaints or what they’re about.
And why does he need Citi-Bike telling him that bicycles don’t belong on sidewalks, that uncontrolled bikes on promenades are a bad mix and that enforcing the simplest traffic rules is a minimum standard?
Isn’t he already signing off on a six-figure salary for a Public Safety Director and millions more for a bloated staff …?
…to whom, “concerns regarding island-wide bike safety” are hardly “at the top of the list.” Far from it…
What do you think? Your confidential vote on a bike ban for Roosevelt Island Promenades
Why a Promenade Bike Ban Makes Sense
While some suggest making Roosevelt Island‘s popular promenades safer from newly increased bike hazards, a reader came up with a better idea.
“Bikes are transportation means and belong to the roads. They should NOT be on pedestrian promenades. If bikers want to enjoy Manhattan views on the West promenade they should get off the bikes and walk.”
“Bikes should be on streets, not sidewalks or pedestrian promenades,” another commented on our recent article.
Not only were our readers ahead of us, so is FDR Four Freedoms Park where bikes have always been banned. Riders use parking spaces near the entrance. RIOC’s dragged its feet on bike safety for years, but repeatedly pledges action… that never arrives.
There’s an important lesson supporting a bike ban. That is, we built promenades and parks for recreation, not transportation or fast food delivery.
Will RIOC learn the lesson?
The reasoning is simple. The Promenades ringing Roosevelt Island were never designed for bicycles, let alone speeding eBikes and motorized scooters. In many areas, they’re just too narrow.
Visitors at FIGMENT NYC, June, 2019, along another patch of promenade where it’s too narrow to share. Farther south, from the firehouse to Coler’s parking lot, it’s even narrower.
The upshot is that all these areas too narrow for pedestrians competing with bikes already have paved roads nearby. No sacrifice required when bicycles, eBikes and other motorized modes of travel use Main Street.
And there’s a big potential benefit: Local businesses see more traffic.
But RIOC’s Public Safety Department fails at enforcing traffic laws on Main Street, too.
Proof that PSD can’t control promenade bicycles…
Clear enough, bicycle enthusiasts are their own worst enemies, routinely ignoring rules and regulations, offending anyone else wishing to safely use the space.
But a Promenade bike ban becomes even more necessary because PSD famously can’t control riders on Main Street, under their noses, in front of their headquarters.
Take the Promenades out of the universe for bicyclists and let children, walkers, terrified seniors and moms with strollers back in.
Further evidence. The sign above sits at the north end of Octagon Park, and a companion sits at the south end. In the first weeks after they were put up, I watched dozens of bikes cruise through this area, and only once, after three weeks, did I see one walking.
Confronted by a resident, a rider pushed back: “We’ll pay the ticket,” he growled.
A bit of unintentional humor because another thing you never see here is PSD. If you see a uniformed officer on foot north of Motorgate, consider it like a Yeti sighting. So, who’s going to issue a ticket?
PSD could barely get up the energy to post the signs after more than a year’s worth of appeals.
Returning Promenades to Public Use
There were always a few bicycles on the promenades. An older friend rode for exercise. But there were never many, and riders were courteous residents like him, not visitors with little regard for the community.
Safe from the new flood of two-wheeled vehicles, children once played freely along the riverside. In the above space, chalk drawings and Hopscotch diagrams filled the z-brick lane with creative slogans and images.
But not anymore.
One good reason for a promenade bike ban is the return of safe play for children.
The RIOC Obstacle To A Promenade Bike Ban
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. has never been known for its sensitivity to community values. Not once in three decades, for example, has any of dozens of executives lived in the town they govern by appointment from Albany.
Cluelessness abounds, lightened by an occasional influx of good sense.
Not that some haven’t tried to be part of the community, it’s more that being on the Island only during during regular working hours, with a few exceptions, simply isn’t enough.
And the RIOC board, intended to represent residents, has long been manipulated by handlers in Albany.
That allowed an endless string of insensitive actions. Recently…
Long valued foliage has been systematically reduced over the years. Most recently, a brutal chopping of twenty-year-old trees denuded the shoreline between the pier and Meditation Steps.
A reckless campaign remaking Southpoint seeks conversion to a suburban shopping mall esthetic.
And appeals for bike safety on Main Street, now more relevant, fall on deaf RIOC ears.
Will RIOC Listen Now?
Is it too late for RIOC’s changing course in support of residents?
It might be.
A recent appeal, asking action on increasing bike hazards, brought a lamer than lame signage effort.
And needless to say, residents were not consulted during planning.
Plus, we’ve all learned that our elected officials should not be confused with effective officials. Lip service never gets anything done.
Nevertheless, good ideas repeated often enough sometimes crack the ice, and hoping for better consideration may not be totally futile.
Let’s all get behind a promenade bike ban and try pushing it through RIOC’s resistance to change.