Crabapple Trees Near Blossoming, Motorgate Public Space
If allowed, RIOC will destroy a small grove of healthy crabapple trees as part of the helix bike ramp debacle.

About The Helix Bike Ramp RIOC Plans Forcing On Us Now Without Community Consent


This week, RIOC plans forcing a dangerous helix bike ramp on Roosevelt Island without community consent. And it’s not just that. In fact, the state’s rushing through the worst of all proposals, justifying it with twisted logic and falsehoods.

By David Stone

Roosevelt Island Daily News

Only with a board as inept as the one waiting to anoint this awful proposal would this assault on safety be possible. And it’s startling, reviewing the layers of falsehood and manipulation RIOC staff builds in dishing dangerous nonsense.

It’s as if RIOC, working with its partner Dewberry, picked a plan… And, then, set about building a rationale around it.

About the helix bike ramp and how we got here…

Safer access for bicyclists coming to Roosevelt Island rings positive, right out of the gate. Who’s against it?

Nobody, of course.

But that’s not what we get here because the chosen plan decreases safety and introduces new risk. And as collateral damage, it also defaces public park space. In fact, it’s so bad, someone ought to pull back the covers and understand why the state’s all in.

That’s harder here for media because the current rendition of RIOC management stopped honoring FOIL requests under pressure in 2020, retreating further into bunker mode.

Getting here started simply enough. With interest in the Island growing as Cornell Tech neared completion and flocks of tourists discovering Four Freedoms State Park, alternatives to auto access became more attractive.

Crabapple Trees Near Blossoming, Motorgate Public Space
If allowed, RIOC will destroy a small grove of healthy crabapple trees as part of the helix bike ramp debacle. RIOC’s neglected this space for years. No landscaping, surrounding it with debris, and now claims the trees are not what they obviously are: healthy.

To that end, new neighbor Cornell Tech hired a firm that designed a bike ramp off the Roosevelt Island Bridge. The idea steers two-wheelers away from the helix ramp shared with cars and onto planned bike lanes on the East Promenade.

See that design on Page Six of the attached document.

But RIOC rejects this design, and its reasons are eye-opening…

According to RIOC senior project manager Prince Shah, the Cornell Tech design would “…extend 600 linear feet and travel past the Capobianco Field, require pier supports throughout the Motorgate Plaza area, and restrict emergency vehicle access along East Promenade. Maintaining emergency access is a requirement per the General Development Plan. Due to these requirements, east waterfront layout#1 based on the existing 2015 study is not feasible.”

But that’s peppered with falsehoods.

First, it adds 40 feet and pretends that the ramp passes Capobianco. Yet, a brief look at Cornell Tech’s designs shows it barely reaching the north edge of the field.

And “…pier supports throughout the Motorgate Plaza area…?” That’s false, too. The pier supports engage only the open east side of the plaza, an area RIOC made into a Tram junkyard, years ago.

Of grave concern is Dewberry’s reworking of that design, forcing it to match RIOC’s claims. On Page 8, a ham-handed redo shows a ramp far longer than the original. And uglier, too.

More important, the original Cornell Tech plan does not “restrict emergency vehicle access along East Promenade,” but the redesign does. In other words, the RIOC sponsored redo gives the state the out it wants by simply inventing it.

What’s so awful about the helix bike ramp…?

In short, the helix bike ramp Shah asks RIOC’s board to approve is as dangerous as it is misrepresented.

As Frank Farance pointed out when this horrible plan resurfaced, last fall, the Dewberry/RIOC design moves bicycles away from the car helix only through birthing worse hazards than those now in place.

Best seen on Page 20, the dimwitted Dewberry/RIOC plan forces bike riders in both directions to cross lanes of car traffic, which doesn’t happen now. Worse yet, riders must share not one, but two bike lines with cars, one on each side of the bridge.

The plan’s so daft and so lacking in elegance and safety, it should’ve hit the trash heap before it escaped the drafting table.

By no means does it live up to the standards set by the Cornell Tech design.

RIOC says their helix bike ramp “will utilize a space currently not used.” But that’s not true to begin with, and it’s light use is largely explained by RIOC’s neglect. Picnic, anyone, alongside the mold and graffiti infested area under the car helix?

And just for added flavor, it destroys trees and park space long neglected by RIOC, using questionable claims for an “arborist study” it does not provide.

Other resident concerns RIOC doesn’t address at all…

Intensified recently, RIOC’s contempt for resident input is glaring here.

To begin with, there’s the question of directing more bikes onto the Promenades when recent history shows that RIOC’s negligence let them evolve as a menace, not a benefit. In the seven years that this topic’s been on the table, RIOC hasn’t painted a single bike lane, making riding safe for everyone.

That neglect intensified with the addition of eBikes racing through people hoping to enjoy a waterside stroll. Many older residents stay away now out of fear, and children no longer play safely on the paved surfaces.

That’s all on RIOC, unless you believe last summer’s useless bike safety signs did anything worth the investment. The signs were not just confusing, but bicyclists ignored them with the same sense of entitlement shown elsewhere in the city.

And what’s with going to so much trouble in steering bicycles away from Main Street? Wasn’t the whole idea of drawing visitors key to helping local businesses?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to paint bike lanes along Main Street and eliminate parking as has been discussed on Twitter?

As far as we know, RIOC never considered that angle, instead opting for taking away riders who now cruise down Main Street, offering hope for struggling businesses.

Had they spent any time talking with or, God forbid, listening to residents, the story would be different.

Helix bike ramp conclusion…

Because RIOC’s board never says, “No,” to even the most dubious of proposals, as this one surely is, expect them to okay the plan. The resulting damage will be irreparable, and when accidents happen, the state will roll out it’s usual defense: “That was a different administration. You can’t blame us for that.”

But you can blame RIOC’s board, some of whom sat through the worst of it without batting an eye or accepting responsibility.

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