2006-12-06 More Cars on Park Path - Villager

More cars on park path

http://www.thevillager.com/villager_188%20/letterstotheeditor.html

To The Editor:
I am a cyclist who rides the Hudson River greenway every day from my home in Washington Heights to work at Borough of Manhattan Community College on Chambers St. In addition to being a cyclist, I am a volunteer with Time’s Up!, a volunteer environmental advocacy group that promotes bicycling and other environmentally sustainable lifestyle choices.

The bicycle path is my route of choice at all hours not only because it is the fastest and most convenient way to travel from my home to work, but also because it is a car-free safe space to ride where I do not have to worry about cars. I say that because I am hearing impaired. This makes city riding even more challenging for me. In fact, on my way to work recently, I was hit by a car that passed me illegally on my right while riding on the street!

This is the second time someone has been killed on the bike path, and each time I hear about these deaths I think that it could have been me. When a car goes onto the path, it is very easy for a cyclist to be hit, because from a distance car lights are difficult to distinguish from bike lights, and the sound of the engine blends with the sound of the West Side Highway/West St. traffic. Most important, one should not expect any cars to be on the path.

Over the more than two years I have ridden the length of the path daily, I have been disturbed by the rising number of vehicles on the bike path. I have seen passenger cars, limousines, taxis and contractors’ vehicles, including those of the Police, Sanitation and Parks Departments. The metal posts that prevent cars from entering the bike path are often removed, left on the side of the path and never replaced. These posts appear to be designed to lock into their bases and probably have to be removed with a special tool or key. I suspect that drivers and contractors remove them and do not replace them. I think they use the bike path so that they do not have to stop at traffic lights and to avoid traffic.

One night in June, I was riding up the bike path after dinner with my partner, and on our way home we saw the aftermath of an accident on the bike path. The victim of this accident was Dr. Carl Henry Nacht, who was also riding home after dinner with his partner when he was hit by a Police Department tow truck. Although I did not know Dr. Nacht, I later participated in a memorial ride organized by Time’s Up! to dedicate a ghost bike to him near the scene of the accident.

The area around Chelsea Piers is a confusing mix of car, bus and taxi lanes that crisscross each other, but there are no signs directing drivers where to go. Sometimes there is a plastic cone at some of these intersections, but most times there is no barrier. Even if there is a cone, these can be easily driven over. Several weeks ago I saw a taxi on the bike path near the north end of the Chelsea Piers. He actually asked me how to get onto the highway, saying that he was lost. Fortunately, he was driving slowly and paying attention to cyclists. Had he been going fast and/or had been drunk, it would have been a lethal mix.

I am deeply saddened by the death of Eric Ng and hope this will bring about a complete ban on car use on the Hudson River greenway.

Philipp Rassmann