Friday, June 7, 2013

Running on the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway

Heading north on the Greenway with the Hudson River
(and New Jersey! at left), George Washington Bridge
in the distance
Myself and the Missus were out visiting the City last weekend for a family wedding. I went out exploring for some new trails since I've run out most of Central Park during previous visits (NYC marathon sons!). I took aim toward the green area on the map we had and I found the Hudson River Greenway, not far from where we were staying on Manhattan's west side. I had no idea New York had cycling lanes and running trails that ran from Battery Park at the island's southern point, all the way up past Columbia University and the George Washington Bridge to the north. Apparently the Waterfront Greenway system stretches most of the way around Manhattan now with a few on-street connectors and gaps yet to be built out. Hardly needs to be said but that's badass.

So I was on my way, clicking through the miles on a sweet trail that I didn't know existed only minutes before. It's heavenly when this happens. Advantages to trail running on the Greenway are the following: No traffic crossings, great views, an aircraft carrier (seriously), New Jersey coastline, art installations, cool boats, etc. (did I mention New Jersey? heheh, only kidding). I happened to be out running very early on a cool and rainy morning so there wasn't much in the way of bike traffic to watch out for. I noticed that all of the bikes were road bikes which I thought was odd until I got to thinking that there probably isn't anywhere to ride a mountain bike for miles. A strange reality actually.

Southbound on the return trip
Nearer to downtown, One World Trade Center beams 

My route took me from 48th St up to about 104th then turned around. Wanted to make it to '11', you know, always want to take it to 11, but I was kind of tapped out at 100 and ran up to the next junction and it happened to be 104th. Best I can tell that was about 3miles one way, so roughly twenty blocks to a mile. I was kind of hopping into some of the little side parks along the way, but that's a decent distance approximation.
Citi Bike near Times Square
Another item of note witnessed on this trip was the rollout of Citi Bike, New York's new bike share program. It's no non-profit rainbows and lollipops venture, it's a full on pay-as-you-go public transit system (along with the subway, the bus network, and the taxi services), privately funded by Citibank. You pick up a bike at one station (with a credit card swipe), ride it several blocks toward your destination and dock the bike to the nearest station. A fifteen minute walk becomes a 5 minute bike ride. The bikes are built sturdy and for ease of riding. They're not performance machines but the seats are adjustable.

This is a big deal that could potentially lead to a launch of similar programs in other large metro areas, as well as maintain the current popularity and momentum of urban trail development nation-wide. It's had its glitches though, mostly with the docking stations. If it falls on its face it would likely fuel loads of angst from the anti-bike people who were understandably apoplectic about having cool new blue bikes that cost a fraction of taxi fare and received start-up funding from the private sector.  I'm going to wager that these people don't drink beer or have friends. Seriously though, who doesn't like bikes?

Memorial Day was the official first day of Citi Bike. We were strolling the Pistol around so we couldn't really get in a first-ies spin unfortunately, but I did excitedly take pictures while the Desert Babe pretended not to be with me! Reports were that the system logged 6,000 individual trips that day, and that 15,000 annual subscriptions had already been purchased. A 24hr pass is priced at $9.95, a 7-day pass is $25.00, an annual pass is just $95.00.

Citi Bike station with bike lane
Citi Bike meter and instructions. 

View Manhattan Waterfront Greenway - New York in a larger map


  1. I think the reason you didn't pass many people is that in New York, it rains somewhat regularly, so that when it does rain they don't put on their gym shorts and run outside whoopin' and hollerin', like we do here.

    How do you think the bike program would work in someplace like Santa Fe? Is population density critical? Are there cultural barriers?

    What if a city government just bought everybody a bicycle and combined it with some disincentives to driving? I'd bet they could quickly pay for the bicycles with savings in road paving, road building, road repairs, law enforcement, health care costs, etc. etc.

    Nice post.

  2. Hey Frank - I think you're probably right about the rain. It was a real treat for us (or for me at least) to have water just falling from the sky. Amazing. I do find that some of my most enjoyable runs around Santa Fe are on late afternoons where there's rain or snow and I quite often have the whole trail, or the whole mountain, to myself.

    As for whether a bike program could successfully get off the ground in a place like Santa Fe - I very much doubt it. In NYC, car ownership is restrictively expensive. Transit systems (subway and bus) and taxi systems substitute for car ownership and can also be expensive though less so than a car. Bike ownership and walking are the least expensive methods of getting around, but bikes are often restrictive because they're not always easy to store (in tiny 400ft flats) or to hike up several flights of stairs to the same apartment. Citi Bike (if it works) fills this low cost niche in an elegant way.

    In Santa Fe I can drive just about anywhere in town in 15min and always find parking for less than $5, and no risk of being towed. I can get just about anywhere in town by bike in 30min or less, lock my bike without trouble, and store it at home in my garage. People like me generally ride our bikes around town because we like too, not because we're banking mad dollar or time savings. If the cost to car ownership were high enough - say $6 gas, or $30 /hr parking, or London-like tolls on downtown streets - economists would probably tell you that all types of alternate transportation would see a boom around town. Absent those real dollar costs, I'd imagine the result of giving everyone a bike would be a lot of bikes gathering dust in garages and a very depressed price for used bikes on Craigslist.

    The approach being taken by transportation planners in Santa Fe and around the country is infrastructure investment. More bike/pedestrian routes, more recreational trails, bike stows on buses and trains. The infrastructure will last decades and benefit many generations of users. In many cases the trail investment converts a crumby part of town into an asset (Railyards and rail lines). The long-game as I see it, is that some semblance of bike-culture and/or public walking spaces will develop organically after several years. Models of reference include places like Boulder, Portland, Durango, Davis CA, Minneapolis, and NYC.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...