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Posts from the High Bridge Category

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Eyes on the Street: A Better Bikeway Linking the High Bridge to Highbridge

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This parking-protected contraflow bike lane on 170th Street in Highbridge is ready for some green paint. Photo: Ben Fried

Ten days ago, DOT broke ground on a nice set of new bike lanes linking Upper Manhattan to the reopened High Bridge. Meanwhile, bike access improvements on the Bronx side are already pretty far along.

This is the new contraflow bike lane on 170th Street, leading east from the High Bridge. It’s part of a package of bike lanes (and sharrows) linking the High Bridge viaduct to the neighborhood of Highbridge and the waterfront parks to the north.

As built, this short, two-block contraflow bike lane is a step up from the proposal DOT showed the local community board last year [PDF]. It’s protected from traffic by parked cars instead of putting cyclists between the parking lane and moving vehicles.

The rest of the project includes no protected segments but makes good use of contraflow bike lanes to create coherent routes — mostly on low-traffic streets — tying the High Bridge to the existing bike network.

Update: An anonymous tipster sends a more recent photo. Here’s the view looking toward the High Bridge (looks like the stencils went down too soon):

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The Case for 24/7 Access to the High Bridge

Video of opening day on the High Bridge: Clarence Eckerson.

New York City’s bike network would be a shell of its current self without the segments that run through parks. The most heavily traveled bike route in the city — the Hudson River Greenway — is in a park. Paths in Central Park, Prospect Park, and other public parks provide options for safe, quick bicycle travel that simply aren’t available on the city’s car-centric streets.

But bike routes in parks are not managed like other transportation routes in the city. The Parks Department closes greenways after a rough storm and imposes curfews that shut off legal access well before many people head home for the night.

With the opening of the High Bridge earlier this month, there’s finally a safe route to bike or walk between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. The High Bridge, as it happens, is run by the Parks Department. As tremendous an improvement as the restored bridge may be, its curfew is also emblematic of broader problems with how the Parks Department manages critical active transportation routes.

The city has redesigned streets to make biking and walking to the High Bridge safer and more convenient. Anyone can use those streets 24 hours a day. The parks on each side of the bridge are open until at least 10 p.m. The High Bridge, meanwhile, closes at 8.

Reader Steven Kopstein wrote in to express his disbelief that the High Bridge is publicly inaccessible for 11 hours each day. Here’s his message, lightly edited:

I was anxiously anticipating the re-opening of the High Bridge. As a resident of Upper Manhattan with strong Bronx ties, I was very excited to finally have a way to cross into the borough on my bike without having to either ride on a crowded narrow sidewalk or on a dangerously busy bridge. I was also thrilled at the prospect of having a tourist draw and truly unique feature to show off to and enjoy with friends and relatives. I love the prospect of new recreational facilities being developed in an area that has been blatantly underserved for many, many years.

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The High Bridge Is Open and People Are Walking On It! Here’s Proof…

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Following a much-anticipated restoration that got a huge boost from the Bloomberg administration in 2007, the High Bridge is open to the public today for the first time in 45 years, providing a walking and biking connection between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. Of course, Clarence Eckerson would never miss such a momentous occasion. Here are his photos from the day.

You can also check out Clarence’s Streetfilm from 2009 featuring some of the neighborhood advocates who helped make this happen.

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After 45 Years, the Car-Free High Bridge Reopens to the Public Tomorrow


The wait is just about over. Tomorrow the car-free High Bridge will be opened to the general public for the first time in 45 years.

The High Bridge spans the Harlem River between Washington Heights and the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it is the city’s oldest bridge. The High Bridge stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public in 1970. The Bloomberg administration secured funds to restore the bridge in 2007.

The reopened bridge will provide a key link for walking and biking between the Bronx and Upper Manhattan. Bike riding will be permitted on the bridge itself, but access ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, according to the Parks Department, and cyclists will be directed to take stairs at each end.

We don’t yet know what hours the High Bridge will be open. In 2013 Parks said it will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Parks also said hours could be adjusted based on demand. Bike and pedestrian paths operated by the Parks Department are often prone to restricted or inconvenient access.

Clarence Eckerson shot this Streetfilm in 2009. For more on the history of the High Bridge, check out the short documentary from PBS Thirteen.

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Seeking Safer Routes to Walk and Bike Across the Harlem River

Harlem residents point out how to improve safety on streets near the Harlem River Bridges on Saturday. From left: Abena Smith, president of the 32nd Precinct community council; community council vice president Sherri Culpepper; Louis Bailey of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives; and Maria Barry, chair of Manhattan Community Board 10's Vision Zero task force. Photo: Stephen Miller

From left: Abena Smith, president of the 32nd Precinct community council; community council vice president Sherri Culpepper; Louis Bailey of WE ACT for Environmental Justice; Tom DeVito of Transportation Alternatives; and Maria Garcia, chair of Manhattan Community Board 10’s Vision Zero task force. Photo: Stephen Miller

Have you ever tried biking or walking across the Harlem River? Despite a plethora of bridges, walkers and bikers often face crossings and approaches that are confusing or downright hostile. A new campaign from Transportation Alternatives and local residents aims to focus DOT’s attention on making it safer for New Yorkers to get between the two boroughs under their own power.

There are 11 bridges connecting Manhattan and the Bronx, including the High Bridge. Nine currently have paths for pedestrians, though most are narrow, and cyclists are allowed to ride on only two of them. New Yorkers walking or biking on either side of the bridges have an even tougher time, penned in by the car-clogged Harlem River Drive and the Major Deegan Expressway. Nearby bike lanes are a hodgepodge with few clear, safe routes leading to the bridges.

On the East River, the city has built out bike routes on bridges and nearby streets, and bike ridership is climbing year after year. Organizers of the new campaign say it’s time for the Harlem River bridges to get the same attention to safety, and on Saturday they gathered for the first of three summer “street scans” to identify places where streets could be safer and easier to navigate.

“I’ve been saying for years that there should be bike lanes in Harlem, and there were none past 110th Street for many years,” said Sherri Culpepper, vice president of the 32nd Precinct community council.

It’s not just about biking for Culpepper, who also walks and drives in her neighborhood. She learned of Saturday’s event from the Manhattan Community Board 10 Vision Zero task force. “I was happy to see that there is an initiative to make the streets safer. Because we have kids that walk to the park by themselves; they go to the community rec centers,” she said. “Drivers are just driving too fast in the community.”

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Parks Department: City Hopes to Complete High Bridge Rehab This Year

Last year Mayor Bloomberg announced that the long-awaited restoration of the car-free High Bridge would be completed “by 2014.” Work began soon after, and the Parks Department tells Streetsblog the rehab is slated to wrap before the year is over.

“While we estimate that the construction will be completed in December of this year, we are exploring every opportunity to expedite the project,” Parks spokesperson Phil Abramson said via email. “DDC and Parks are working closely with the contractor to finish the project as quickly as possible and we look forward to the day that New Yorkers will once again walk and bicycle over our City’s oldest bridge.”

The High Bridge connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public in 1970. The city secured funding for its restoration seven years ago, and in 2010 awarded a design contract. Bloomberg joined Upper Manhattan electeds for a groundbreaking ceremony in January 2013.

The restored bridge will have new ADA-compliant access ramps. While bike riding will be permitted on the bridge itself, the ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, and cyclists will be directed to take stairs at each end. An eight-foot safety fence will be installed atop the bridge, which Parks says will be designed to minimize disruption of views.

Still at issue is how many hours per week the bridge will be open to commuters and other users. As of 2013, Parks said it will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Highbridge Park in the Bronx is open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and park hours on the Manhattan side are a bit longer.

Project coordinator Ellen Macnow told Streetsblog last year that use of the bridge “will be closely monitored and hours will be adjusted if needed.” Other bikeways run by the Parks Department have had problems with limited or inconvenient access.

Operating hours for the High Bridge “have not yet been determined,” said Abramson.

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Bike Commuters Will Ride Restored High Bridge, After Taking the Stairs

Cyclists will be directed to walk their bikes on and off the High Bridge. Image: Susan Murray Donovan

The restored High Bridge will probably be open for morning and evening commutes, but cyclists will be asked to walk their bikes on and off the bridge, according to the Parks Department.

Project coordinator Ellen Macnow says the car-free bridge, which spans the Harlem River to connect Highbridge and Washington Heights, will have new ADA-compliant access ramps. Cyclists will be permitted to ride on the High Bridge itself, but since the ramps are considered too narrow for shared use, they will be directed to take stairs at each end.

“A compromise was reached between a wish for unconstrained access and for historic preservation — different options were explored at length during the design period,” said Macnow, in an email to Streetsblog. “Widening the ramps enough to meet shared use guidelines would have created large and imposing structures that overwhelmed the bridge. Ultimately, we decided to preserve the historic character as much as possible, which results in smaller ramps and most visitors using the original historic access.”

Macnow says the bridge will likely be closed at night, when the parks at each end are closed. Highbridge Park in the Bronx is currently open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., and park hours on the Manhattan side are a bit longer. “Use of the bridge will be closely monitored and hours will be adjusted if needed,” Macnow says.

An early proposal called for the rehabbed bridge to be open only during daylight hours on Saturdays and Sundays. While weekday bike hours will help, the stairs may limit the value of the bridge as a transportation link. Other bikeways run by the Parks Department face similar problems with limited or inconvenient access.

Few would question the historic significance of the city’s oldest standing bridge, but the addition of bike ramps seems minor compared to what happened in the 1920s, when part of the High Bridge was demolished and replaced by a steel span to make room for passing ships.

It’s also difficult to square concerns over aesthetics with the plan to erect an eight-foot safety fence atop the bridge, which in addition to bike access was a point of contention during the public input process. A fence will be installed, Macnow says, though it will be a cable mesh designed to minimize disruption of views.

At a groundbreaking ceremony last week, Mayor Bloomberg said the High Bridge, closed since the 1970s, will be open to the public by next year.

An aside: After the jump, we’ve posted an excellent mini-documentary from PBS Thirteen, featuring a primer from Macnow on the past, present and future of the High Bridge.

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Bloomberg Says Car-Free High Bridge Will Be Open by Next Year

Mayor Bloomberg and electeds from Upper Manhattan and the Bronx at today's groundbreaking. Photo: @EspaillatNY

After talking up bike-share on the airwaves this morning, Mayor Bloomberg headed uptown, where he and other electeds broke ground for the restoration of the High Bridge.

The High Bridge is the city’s oldest standing bridge, and connects the Highbridge neighborhood in the Bronx with Washington Heights. Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, it stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970. Its restoration is years behind schedule, but will be complete “by 2014,” according to a press release:

“In 2007, when we launched PlaNYC, our long-term sustainability plan, we committed to restoring and re-opening the High Bridge — one of our city’s great treasures,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “The $61 million restoration of this this bridge, and its reopening to pedestrians and cyclists, will also open up new opportunities for communities on both sides of the river. It will bring people here from all over the five boroughs, and even all over the world, to see some of the most spectacular views in the city.”

The project received $50 million from the city, plus $5 million from Congressman José Serrano and $7 million in federal funds, according to the press release.

Unfortunately, in an editorial that pretty much takes credit for the whole project, the Daily News says the bridge will be topped with a much-maligned eight-foot mesh fence. Other items at issue during the public input process were bike access and park hours. An early plan called for the bridge to be open only on weekends, and only during the day, which would severely limit its viability as a transportation link. Parks representatives have said in the past that the city would make use of existing park trails and bike routes for cycling access, but it’s not clear what the current plan calls for.

We’ll follow up with Parks and flesh out the details in a future post.

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High Bridge Restoration Off and Running

It's about a year-and-a-half behind the schedule announced in 2007, but the rehabilitation of the High Bridge, a pedestrian and cyclist link between Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, is off the ground.

Per an email from project coordinator Ellen Macnow of the Parks Department, via Inwood and Washington Heights Livable Streets

A contract has been signed with the firm Lichtenstein Consulting Engineers, and they will start work soon. Lichtenstein is charged with producing designs for the bridge, including structural improvements, new ramp access and new protective fencing. Their work will result in a contract to be bid out for construction, which is funded by Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC program.

Public comment meetings will be scheduled in the spring.

Macnow says the High Bridge Coalition "will be working hard this year to engage the local and advocacy communities in the design." (Parks has already conducted at least one round of public input, in August of '07.) There was also concern upon the project's announcement nearly three years ago that access would be limited to daytime weekend hours, a fear Macnow tried to mitigate. "We want everybody who wants to use the bridge to use the bridge," she said.

Built as part of the Croton Aqueduct in 1848, the High Bridge spans the Harlem River to connect Washington Heights with the High Bridge neighborhood. It stopped carrying water in 1958, and was closed to the public completely in 1970.

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Streetfilms: Turning NYC’s Oldest Bridge Into Its Newest Bike-Ped Amenity

At October's Walk21 Conference, I got the chance to tour the High Bridge, a viaduct connecting Manhattan and the Bronx which has been closed to the public for nearly 40 years.

Opening the High Bridge to pedestrians and cyclists has been a long-held goal for many New Yorkers. (I remember reading about this effort back in 1998, during a postcard campaign directed at then-Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.) Many community groups, non-profits, and public agencies have advocated for its restoration, including the City Parks Foundation, The High Bridge Coalition, and C.L.I.M.B.

Over the years, many target opening dates have been announced, but recently momentum has really picked up. Very early in 2010, community input and design will finally begin. Then, if all goes well, it shouldn't be long until we can all walk and bike across this magnificent structure.