Increasing Use, Citi Bike In Our Future Demand Planning

Hey, RIOC! Let's do something about the bikes while there's time.

Updated 17 weeks ago David Stone
Lighthouse Park during FIGMENT, last June. Look at this stretch of the East Promenade. Can there ever be room for bicycles too?
Lighthouse Park during FIGMENT, last June. Look at this stretch of the East Promenade. Can there ever be room for bicycles too?
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

Among the many adjustments prompted by the coronavirus crisis, one of the most benign and promising is the uptick in bicycle ridership. But here on Roosevelt Island, that's meant an increase in danger too as it strains promenades built for walking shoes.

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When traffic is light, we find a way to share, but this is a weekday morning. Weekends are much different.
When traffic is light, we find a way to share, but this is a weekday morning. Weekends are much different.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

An elderly friend whose main exercise has been walking the West Promenade for years winced, muttering, "Too fast," after bicyclists in a group weaved through and around pedestrians and occupied benches.

That was the first alert.

Then, after watching people jump aside as bicycle riders whip by on the promenades, hearing complaints about recklessness and speeds and reading about worries posted on Twitter, we took a look.

Will children still be able to play freely with bicycles whizzing by unchecked? History suggests that Public Safety is not up to the task of controlling bikes. So, what do we do?
Will children still be able to play freely with bicycles whizzing by unchecked? History suggests that Public Safety is not up to the task of controlling bikes. So, what do we do?
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

You can't really blame the riders. Most, not all, are conscientious. But congestion created by people turning to bikes to get outside during the pandemic raises issues nobody expected to come at us this fast.

Now, consider that, once things are back to normal, Citi Bike stations will finally arrive in four Island locations, adding dozens of new bikes to the equation.

That's before the planned Palace of Versailles bike ramp RIOC envisions for bring more riders from Queens to Roosevelt Island.

Just finding a place to park bikes already narrows the promenade, blocking some areas from use by baby strollers and wheelchairs. And that's before you factor in riders.
Just finding a place to park bikes already narrows the promenade, blocking some areas from use by baby strollers and wheelchairs. And that's before you factor in riders.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

And that says nothing about the out of control eBike traffic created by food deliveries before the pandemic slowed things down. They will be back, and we already know PSD is unwilling or unable to deal with them.

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If our promenades are to remain safe refuges for folks out for walks and relaxing on benches, where can bicycles safely squeeze in in volume? A radically different space emerges, and RIOC must address it.
If our promenades are to remain safe refuges for folks out for walks and relaxing on benches, where can bicycles safely squeeze in in volume? A radically different space emerges, and RIOC must address it.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

Acting quickly now saves friction and lessens accident risks for the future, but although RIOC tells the Daily they are "aware of the situation and are in the process of addressing it," opening up to unlimited bikes poses significant, possibly insurmountable hurdles.

"The Public Safety Department is working on installing signage throughout the island as well as possibly having stripping along the promenade," a spokesperson adds. 

But the issues are more complex than either solution implies.

Still unaddressed, public spaces are being used as abandoned bicycle junkyards.
Still unaddressed, public spaces are being used as abandoned bicycle junkyards.
© David Stone/Roosevelt Island Daily

In addition to painted lanes, which may be eyesores in the first places, and signs that will be ignored with enforcement, RIOC needs to consider additional measures.

Bike free sections?

Walking only zones?

Limits on how many bikes are allowed on the Island?

They've got their work cut out for them.

By David Stone

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