Port Authority Commits to Agency-Wide Plan for Better Bike Access

BikeRacksPATH_1.jpgBike racks, like these at the Grove Street PATH Station, could be a more common sight at Port Authority facilities. Image: City of Jersey City

The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is a huge player in the region's transportation system. It manages the PATH train, the world's busiest bus terminal, all the major airports and seaports, and the bridges and tunnels between New York City and New Jersey. Now the Port Authority is adding one more mode to its portfolio: the bicycle.

In a statement earlier this week, Port Authority executive director Christopher Ward announced the agency's intent to support cycling "wherever operationally and financially feasible." 

Ward's March 29 bulletin, posted by the Century Road Club Association, signals the Port Authority's new commitment to get behind the region's upsurge in cycling. Wrote Ward:

Bicycling is a rapidly growing mode of transportation and the New York-New Jersey region is facing increased demand for expanded bicycle infrastructure, safer bicycle routes, access to transit connections and secure parking facilities. While we recognize that many Port Authority facilities currently provide some accommodations for bicycle users, we need to prepare more systematically for the growing use of bicycles as a mode of travel within the regional transportation system.

Ward then listed ways in which the Port Authority plans to promote cycling, from rewriting rules about bike access to the Port Authority's bridges, trains, and terminals, to adding bike lanes and parking at new and existing facilities and developing multi-modal transit hubs. The Port Authority will also use its power as a major landlord in both states -- most famously owning the World Trade Center site -- to work with tenants on becoming more bike-friendly. A Port Authority bike master plan is due by the end of September.

For current and would-be cyclists in New York and New Jersey, the Port Authority is a very important ally.

"I can't recollect the Port Authority specifically mentioning bicycling in a comprehensive way before," said Kate Slevin, executive director of the Tri-State Transportation Campaign. "It's a significant step forward and shows that Chris Ward understands the importance of bicycling in our transportation network."

Slevin highlighted the Harrison PATH station as a place particularly due for a Port Authority bike infrastructure upgrade. "The bikes are just parked double-stacked on this decrepit fence," said Slevin. "You see the demand for bike parking around transit facilities."

Transportation Alternatives is hoping for an end to restrictions on night-time cycling over the George Washington Bridge. "Thanks to new, safer connections on the Jersey side (in which the Port Authority played a part), the George Washington Bridge is primed for a surge in commuters," said TA's Wiley Norvell, "but its closure until 6 a.m. remains a big deterrent."

With the Port Authority officially committed to better bike access, improvements like that are looking much more winnable.