A Year After Eric Ng’s Death, Greenway Hazards Remain Unfixed

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This piece was written by Transportation Alternatives:

On December 1, 2006, Eric Ng was riding his bike up the Hudson River Greenway. He was on his way to meet friends. He never made it, because a drunk driver named Eugenio Cidron took his life. After leaving a party at Chelsea Piers, Cidron got behind the wheel of his car and drove it on to the Greenway. Eugenio Cidron sped down the Greenway, a car-free path, for a mile at 60 miles per hour, before crashing into Eric Ng and killing him.

A little over a year ago, the government agencies that have something to say or do with the Hudson River Greenway, along with Transportation Alternatives, convened a task force to develop improvements that will reduce conflicts between drivers and Greenway users, but today little has changed on the ground. The Hudson River Greenway was never designed to have high volumes of cars and trucks crossing it. Regardless of whether or not government knew this when the biking and walking path was built, it knows it now and is often guilty of aiding and abetting the increase on driving across the path.

There are over a dozen City, State and Federal government agencies that have some say in what goes on along the Hudson River between Battery Park and 59th Street, but no one has taken charge. On the Greenway itself, it's a jurisdictional nightmare. The State DOT designed and built the Greenway and continues to be responsible for path redesigns. The City DOT maintains and times the traffic signals along the Greenway. The Hudson River Park Trust maintains the Greenway path. The NYC Parks Department tries to ensure design consistency between this Greenway and the ones it builds and maintains around the boroughs. There are myriad groups, including the City Economic Development Corp, the MTA, the Passenger Ship Terminal, Chelsea Piers and private ferry operators (who often drive buses across the path), that weigh in on the need for driveways across the Greenway.

Each day, thousands of people in New York City head to the Hudson River Greenway on bicycle and foot. It's one of few car-free places where people can commute, exercise and feel comfortable away from the risk of traffic and motorists on our streets. The Hudson River Greenway is supposed to be a safe and protected place, yet it is not. And despite fatal crashes like Eric's, little has been done to change this.

There are a host of improvements that will reduce motorist-Greenway user conflicts, including:

  • Close unnecessary driveways where motorists cross the Greenway
  • Install fixed bollards where streets and driveways cross to keep drivers from driving onto the Greenway
  • Narrow driveways crossing the Greenway to slow and control motorist turning movements
  • Install curb extensions on streets crossing the Greenway to make pedestrian and cyclist crossing easier and safer
  • Install bike lane treatment where streets and driveways cross to make drivers more aware of the Greenway and pay attention to cyclists and pedestrians
  • Coordinate signal timing between the bike traffic signals on the Greenway and the motorist traffic signals on Route 9A to avoid turning conflicts
  • Lower Greenway traffic signal heads to same height as pedestrian signals
  • Install shades on Greenway traffic signal heads to limit motorists' view of them and reduce confusion
  • Display safety messages on overhead highway signage along Route 9A warning drivers to drive safely and be aware of cyclists and pedestrians.

In a 2007 survey of bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers along the Hudson River Greenway, more than a third of Greenway users reported cars driving on the Greenway. Transportation Alternatives has identified seven crossings where motor vehicles repeatedly violate the car-free path.

  • Warren Street
  • Chambers Street
  • West Houston Street/Pier 40 driveway
  • Christopher Street
  • West 17th Street/Chelsea Piers driveway exit
  • West 30th Street
  • West 40th Street
  • West 42rd Street

With the sentence of Eric's killer handed down, the NY State Department of Transportation and NYC Department of Transportation must rededicate themselves to the immediate implementation of safety improvements to ensure this tragedy is never repeated.

Photo: Emmanuel Fuentebella for Transportation Alternatives