Let’s Have a Bike Ban Now for Roosevelt Island Promenades

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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

Roosevelt Island News

Competing with bikes in fair weather makes Roosevelt Island promenades unsafe.

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.

FDR Four Freedoms Park already bans bikes.

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.

A promenade bike ban would protect walkers along narrow spaces.
Clear to anyone, there’s not enough space along this long stretch of East Promenade near the ferry landing for both walkers and riders. But bicycles cruise through anyway, forcing pedestrians to the side.
Narrow promenade inside lighthouse park

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…

Walk Your Bike Sign, West Promenade...
One of the few well-placed signs where the West Promenade narrows entering Octagon Park. Ignored by bicyclist at nearly 100%.

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.

Without a promenade bike ban, children will not be safe playing here.

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.

eBikes squeeze through tight spaces on the West Promenade and, although illegal, face no objections from RIOC.

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.

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25 thoughts on “Let’s Have a Bike Ban Now for Roosevelt Island Promenades

  1. I’ve been riding my bikes around the island since 1978. Have always been courteous and aware of pedestrians and kids. I understand the motivation behind this ( definitely for ebikes and motorized scooters) but man…Sometimes I wish we just remained undiscovered by the masses. While we’re at it can we set up a ban for people who don’t leash their dogs?

  2. Sadly, it’s the bad apples who damage things for everyone else. Bike riders were not a problem for years; then, two things happened. eBikes began proliferating, and two, RIOC just decided to stop enforcing anything, If PSD had just make it clear that there are rules and they’d be enforced, we wouldn’t be where we are today. Why we spend $4 million a year on this operation is beyond me. PSD either over does it or does next to nothing, and it’s a pattern that’s gone on for years.
    I should add that the most persistent, ongoing violators are deliveries from local businesses. That is, we’re being abused by our own neighbors with off-Island owned businesses.

  3. As someone who is traveling to and from the Island for hospital/doctor’s visits, I (and many people – notably seniors and disabled) rely heavily on Main Street for Bus and/or Car transportation to and from home. On more than one occasion there’s been the challenge of dealing with inexperienced riders using Main Street as their personal recreation path. Driving the wrong way or weaving back and forth across the lanes. Its only going to become worse with Citibikes.
    Forcing bicycles onto our one already overcrowded street isn’t the solution. We need that Queenside bike path developed.

  4. Bikes and scooters should definitely be banned from the promenades. The bikes, electric bikes, scooters and electric scooters are a constant danger to pedestrians, especially senior citizens.
    A lot of irresponsible kids and young people ride these bikes at high speeds on the promenade, come behind pedestrians with no warning and are accidents waiting to happen. I think that RIOC and the other Island authorities would logically bear liability in case of an accident since they have de facto tolerated the bike and scooter traffic on the promenades.

      1. I have also noted that many of the bicyclists crowding the Island promenades are off-Island residents. A simple measure would be to charge a meaningful fee from any non Island person coming here to ride a bike. A $10 fee might be the right price for a 2 -hour permit to ride

  5. Perhaps some kind of compromise, like on boardwalks: No bicycles between 10:00 am – 7:00 pm. That gives the exercisers, who are generally conscientious, their opportunity while easing congestion during times when more walkers are likely to be out. It also covers the time when most deliveries are made.

    1. Compromises may improve conditions, but delivery bikes, for example, should never be using promenades. Streets are for business use, not public promenades. No excuse ever for eBikes. But all that depends on RIOC’s showing some informed leadership, which would be something of a first, and PSD enforcing the rules when they, at this point, can’t even manage signs.
      Exercisers, I think, would be flexible, and people could work together but RIOC’s failure to lead drags on everything.
      Thanks. Maybe good ideas like this will wake them up.

  6. Roosevelt Island has become increasingly crowded. More residents and many more visitors, including those on bikes.
    The Island’ transport infrastructure is barely keeping up with int increases passenger loads. It is of course worse since COVID and social distancing requirements.
    RIOC should have the interests of residents in mind and preserve the island’s quality of life.
    They should stop cutting down trees, and adding concrete!!! Southpoint without the trees will be more exposed to wind and summer heat
    Bicycles should not be allowed on the promenades

    1. You have to understand how much Hudson-Related controls RIOC and sees Roosevelt Island, not as a viable opportunity, but as a marketing opportunity. We lost that war when RIOC’s board of enablers through out Steve Shane to appease Hudson-Related and gain windfall cash.
      If Roosevelt Island’s ever going to get control over itself, it needs to get hard and loud. First and nearest option, help throw RIOC-enabler Rebecca Seawright out.

  7. I agree with a ban on bikes on sidewalks and promenades. Who would enforce the ban with PSD forever absent? Should we not demand on foot patrols, since getting off their cars or even shouting from their car window seems an impossible effort?

    1. After haranguing them for a year, I’m confident that RIOC/PSD is not capable of being part of the solution. One possibility is asking Adib Mansour to help with a citizen-supported sign campaign, one that actually might get bikers attention. Most people who know what they’re supposed to do will do it. Asking Citi Bike to include instructions like they do for their vespa rentals might help too.
      That’s right off the top, but forget about PSD. On Sunday, I watched from a bus window as an elderly woman was trapped in a crosswalk with two bike riders racing through on one side and a car on the other, both ignoring the stop sign. The thing is, a uniformed officer was standing right there, and the best he could do is fumble around for his radio. They don’t have even whistles to get attention, and after all the problems reported, you’d think they’d have the brains to stand IN the crosswalk, not six feet away watching passively.
      PSD’s the definition of clueless, and with Susan and Jack McManus gone, leadership gone too.

  8. Wouldn’t it be lovely if all but absolutely essential vehicles were banned from Main St and it became predominantly for bikes, leaving the promenades to the pedestrians. We’d be like a tiny Copenhagen.

    1. If the bike riders will respect the rights of pedestrians in crosswalks and sidewalks, that would be ideal, Asha. I doubt, though, that RIOC has the guts to assert anything like that however, but we can always cross our fingers and hope for change.

  9. Please post the email addresses where residents could write to RIOC and Albany! Something definitely needs to be done. Useless to wait for help or enforcement from PSD. They’re (a big) part of the problem.

    1. Sure: Locally, email Shelton Haynes, acting president/CEO: Shelton.Haynes@rioc.ny.gov
      Albany representatives: Rebecca Seawright, State Assembly: SeawrightR@assembly.state.ny.us and José Serrano, State Senator: serrano@senate.state.ny.us
      But I would also consider addressing RIOC’s Board. They have a meeting this week on Wednesday. For now, these are online, but if you submit your comments, they will be read aloud before the meeting. Post it here: http://rioc.ny.gov/FormCenter/Meetings-4/Speakup-43
      Good luck!

  10. Dear David Kramer,
    Get the hell off this island and take Citibikes with you!
    And to my neighbors on this wonderful island, tell RIOC, Albany, and Mayor DeBlasio also, enforce the rules including wearing masks and getting PSD out of those damn cars and on their feet to patrol, or else stop wasting my maintenance money!
    Raye Schwartz

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