Improving Promenade Conditions

UPDATE: RIOC Bike Safety Mess

David Stone
UPDATE: RIOC Bike Safety Mess

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp. moved aggressively in response to bike safety concerns raised by The Daily and residents. But a sloppy start leaves most concerns behind and hazards unaddressed.

UPDATE, AUGUST 1ST, 2020: We took a look at the new signs yesterday afternoon, and saying the efforts were disappointing puts it mildly, even as the Roosevelt Islander reported an accident with an infant injured.

Seniors, kids, and moms with strollers repeatedly face hazards from speeding eBikes, electric scooters and bicycles. Heedless of the rights of others, most but not all riders weave in, out and around people on foot along the promenades.

Many seniors now stay away out of fear, and it's no longer common to see kids playing along the waterfront.

And, of course, it's not just the promenades.

Similar hazards trouble Main Street. Riders use sidewalks like bike lanes, increasingly since Citi Bike arrived, and PSD officers still idle nearby as two-wheelers run stop signs and crosswalks with frightened people frozen, trying to get from place to place.

It's especially hard on seniors and disabled, many of whom are already frightened by the coronavirus.

It's On Public Safety

As we witnessed yesterday, PSD remains either unwilling or unable to do anything with the bike safety mess beyond ineffective gestures. Even though electric bikes, scooters, etc. are illegal on public walkways, more than a dozen whipped past us as we walked from The Octagon to Rivercross.

Their awareness that anything goes in the absence of any enforcement is clear, and few even offer a courteous signal before racing up from behind.

At this point, bike and scooter riders pretty much own the West Promenade, and everyone else uses the once open space at their risk. Public safety officer are seldom seen, and when they are, they're tucked inside a vehicle, windows up, oblivious to what's going on around them.

And the new signage effort, pledged to increase safety, doesn't do anything of the kind.

At an entrance to the West Promenade, near the Meditation Steps, (See above.) confusion sets the tone. A poorly designed installation appears to point bike riders toward Main Street, not off it as intended.

And what's an outsider to make of the giant Do Not Enter sign which appears to forbid all traffic? 

This took two months of planning, a consultant and thousands of taxpayer dollars?

UPDATE: RIOC Bike Safety Mess

Just as bizarre is this sign banning bicycles south of the Tram Station, even though there is no such ban and the only option is to stay on Main Street.

Add incompetence to passivity at RIOC's Public Safety Department. There is nothing here that will promote safety or return intimidated seniors to the promenades or allow play space as generations enjoyed in the past.

End of Update

Beginning yesterday, July 30th, RIOC will install more than two dozen signs aimed at moving bicycle traffic away from Main Street and onto the Promenades. No rationale was provided for diverting riders into areas with many pedestrians, kids at play, multiple playground entrances and scarce enforcement.

The campaign establishes directional patterns for cyclists, reminds them to yield to pedestrians at 20 separate locations and orders them to dismount where the Promenade narrows from The Octagon north.

That RIOC's Public Safety Department finally did something about mounting bike safety hazards is relief, but a frustrating pile of remaining worries remains ignored.

And after an initiative started just a month ago was left to fizzle, optimism about follow through with meaningful enforcement is not high.

What's Missing In The Bike Safety Effort

The most glaring omission is PSD's ongoing failure, reinforced here, to control increasing motorized traffic along both Promenades. Electric scooters, eBikes and even motorized skateboards are a daily hazard, wizzing past startled pedestrian. They should not be on the Promenades at all, yet they're abundant.

And ignored by PSD.


Another failing unaddressed by the signs is speeding. PSD already gives bicyclist a free pass for exceeding speed limits and ignoring stop signs and crosswalks on Main Street, and this signals extending laissez-faire to the Promenades.

Why divert to Main Street?

Confusingly, RIOC's announcement says, "The goal of this signage, if followed correctly by riders, is to divert them before they arrive on Main Street."

To begin with, that's impossible. You can't "arrive" on Roosevelt Island without starting with Main Street, whether by bridge, Tram or subway. Yes, it's technically possible by Ferry but rare and unlikely.

Citi Bike rides all begin on Main Street.

Complicating that is PSD's total failure, observable on any walk down Main, to do anything to control safety violations evident for years. And with more traffic, increasing.

Bicyclist coast along sidewalks, cruise through stop signs and crosswalks with people in them and generally do as they please without PSD interference. The only real difference is the addition of motorized skateboards and scooters.


The new sign initiative is a good start but barely more than that, leaving many problems unaddressed after years of appeals. Any continued absence of meaningful enforcement may doom it altogether.

And who's optimistic about RIOC's approach to public safety? Who imagines they'll step up and take on the more serious violations?

Pedestrians continue to be aware, as we've said before. You are on your own in protecting yourself from uncontrolled biking, skateboarding and scootering.

So far, PSD has not shown they are up to the task or even fully aware of what it entails. 

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