A Promenade bike ban is best Roosevelt Island. Suggested by a reader, a ban makes sense, creating safer space and opening it up for more uses.
Opinion by David Stone
Table of contents
- What does the dictionary tell us about promenades?
- Update: RIOC Leadership Finally Admits Bike Problems, But Screws It Up
- Why a Promenade Bike Ban Makes Sense
- Returning Promenades to Public Use
- The RIOC Obstacle To A Promenade Bike Ban
- Will RIOC Listen Now?
What does the dictionary tell us 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, acting 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 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 vying for the nation’s most passive?
Why a Promenade Bike Ban Makes Sense
While some think about making Roosevelt Island‘s popular promenades safe 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.
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.
It’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.
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 out for a stroll and motorized delivery bikes have paved roads nearby. No sacrifice required when bicycles, eBikes and other motorized modes of travel use Main Street.
Except that RIOC’s Public Safety Department fails at enforcing traffic laws there, too.
Proof that PSD can’t control promenade bicycles…
Clear enough, bicycle enthusiasts are their own worst enemies, ignoring rule and regulations, making enemies of 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 play and let children, walkers and moms with strollers back in.
Further evidence. The sign above occupies a space at the north end of Octagon Park, and another stands at the south end. In the last month, I’ve seen dozens of bikes use this area, and only once, after three weeks, did I see one walking.
Confronted by a resident, one rider rebuffed: “We’ll pay the ticket,” he growled.
A piece of unintentional humor because the other thing you never see here is PSD. 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 less regard for the community.
Safe from the new flood of two-wheeled vehicles, children once played freely along the riverside. In the above space, chalk drawings 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.
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 has any of dozens of executives lived in the town they govern without being elected.
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 effectively 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.