Bikers beware: Tickets possible on closed down B.P.C. path


By Josh Rogers

The Battery Park City Authority is stepping up enforcement on the closed-off section of the West St. bikeway for at least a month.

Steve Harper, the authority’s vice president of safety, said Park Enforcement Patrol officers are now stationed at the narrow, closed section of the path to prevent cyclists from ignoring the “dismount” signs to speed through a pedestrian tunnel near the Goldman Sachs construction site. He said the officers patrol there an hour before and after the school day because P.S./I.S. 89 students walking to school currently must go through the tunnel. The students’ usual route west of the construction site will be closed for at least another month as Goldman continues to work on the tower and walkway. The work on the western walkway is about 50 percent done, Harper said, and will not take too much longer to complete.

Cyclists could be fined between $50 and $200 depending on how aggressively they are riding in a prohibited area, but the physical presence of the PEP officers has prevented the need to write tickets, Harper said.

“They see the uniform, they tend to modify their behavior,” Harper told Downtown Express. He said they tried the extra patrol for one week a month ago and resumed it this week “until the cavalry comes.”

Harper said the authority is reluctant to pull officers away from B.P.C. parks over a longer period of time because the tunnel area is outside the authority’s purview. The State Dept. of Transportation ordered a half-mile section of the bikeway closed a year ago to complete construction on the adjacent Route 9A, but has not tried to enforce the rule. The area is technically part of the Hudson River Park, but D.O.T. has not asked the Hudson River Park Trust to take over the land since the roadway work isn’t finished. The work is not expected to be done until 2012, which may mean that the bike path from Chambers to Albany Sts. could end up being closed — at least technically — for five years.

Goldman contractors have hired agents with flags to warn cyclists not to ride in the narrow part of the closed-off section, but the flaggers do not have the authority to write tickets and have at times given contradictory information as to whether riding is permitted. Signs on parts of the closed-off path have also been contradictory, suggesting that riding may be permitted to the north.

The dismount signs near the Goldman tunnel, though, are clear in both directions and residents have been complaining for a long time about cyclists who ignore the rules.

Carolyn Happy, co-president of the P.S. 89 P.T.A., said the situation has been getting better in recent days, which she attributed to a meeting she attended at the end of October with officials from D.O.T., the Lower Manhattan Construction Command Center and Milstein Properties, which also has a large construction project near the school. Happy said D.O.T. was interested in finding out who could enforce the dismount rules.

She said the Goldman tunnel has also gotten safer in the last few days because of new mirrors and cuts in the scaffolding at the entrances to improve visibility. Lastly, delivery cyclists, who had been the most frequent offenders according to many people interviewed in a Downtown Express article in August, now seldom ride through the tunnel, Happy said.