Final Route 9 Bike Study Moving Ahead

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by Barrett Seaman – 

Transportation consulting firm Nelson/Nygaard of San Francisco gave their final report on November 17 on a proposal for a bike route along Broadway that would extend from the top of Sleepy Hollow to the Hastings/Yonkers line, that is assuming the five villages involved all agree with its essential recommendations and present a united front to the New York State Department of Transportation in a request for funding.

A Steering Committee with representatives from both citizens and officials from Sleepy Hollow, Tarrytown, Irvington, Dobbs Ferry and Hastings-on-Hudson has shepherded the study and offered an array of graphic representations of each segment of the proposed route—first to village officials and later to the general public. The next step will be to make formal presentations to the individual village boards, win their support and take the plan to the state Department of Transportation, which essentially controls Route 9, a state road.

The latest plan fleshes out details, intersection by intersection. It incorporates feedback gathered since the idea first surfaced last fall. Its recommendations include details on where sidewalks, curb cuts and crosswalks are needed, where entire 10-foot lanes can be given over to bike and pedestrian traffic, and how each of the various transportation modes—bicycles, people, cars, trucks and buses—can best navigate specific “pinch points” in highly dense commercial areas along the route. But it is no longer the seamless bike trail initially envisioned by its proponents.

The most obvious change from the last report is in the commercial corridor from Beekman Avenue in Sleepy Hollow to Benedict Avenue on Tarrytown’s south side, where village officials and local merchants were concerned could mean losing between 80 and 100 Street-side parking spaces and thus discourage shopping. Mayors Drew Fixell and Ken Wray of Tarrytown and Sleepy Hollow respectively have long voiced skepticism that a dedicated bike path along this stretch would work.

No other village has the extent of parking exposure along Broadway that Tarrytown does. The final plan does advocate removal of a small number of parking spots on both sides of Broadway south of Irvington’s Main Street intersection, which trustee Mark Gilliland, a member of the Steering Committee, determined “won’t work.” Gilliland had a few other quibbles about the Irvington portion of the plan but concluded that “conceptually”…his colleagues on the board as well as the village’s Traffic Committee “would be in favor of the design approach presented.”

Cycling aficionados are not happy about losing the Sleepy Hollow/Tarrytown stretch of Broadway. Dan Convissor, head of Bike Tarrytown, a grassroots organization that has been vigorously promoting the bike lane concept, said Wray’s resistance to replacing parking with a bike lane in the area of Sleepy Hollow High School disregards the shift in reliance from cars to bikes that would naturally occur if a bike lane were available. But he credited Wray with at least going along with the process, taking its recommendations under advisement.

Convissor was less forgiving of the hard-line position taken by Tarrytown officials, whom he accuses of “changing the configuration, substituting their opinions over expert advice.”

“Just the thought of compromise by people driving caused Tarrytown officials to panic,” Convissor remarked. “They eviscerated the plan, dropping connections to key destinations, eliminating the ability to inspire our residents who want to ride but are too scared to bike.”

Where village officials and bike path proponents part ways is in their assumptions about medium- and long-term changes in public behavior. Bikers see cars as a dying form of transportation, gradually giving way to increased public transport vehicles and bikes.

The Nelson/Nygaard study was paid for through a state grant that spun off of the construction of the new Mario Cuomo Bridge, which has a dedicated “shared use” path for bikers and hikers. Experts think the bridge bike lane will draw anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 cyclists across the Hudson on clear-weather weekends.

Local participants in the process generally approved of the work done by Nelson/Nygaard. Said Donna Cassell, Deputy Mayor of Dobbs Ferry and a member of the Steering Committee: “They were able to take a lot of public and municipal input and consolidate it intro a comprehensive concept plan.” But she added: “The next step will be to produce an engineering plan [that will] most likely make some changes based on more detailed traffic studies and engineering specs.”

Whatever happens next must be paid for, and the assumption among both rivertown’s village officials and cycling proponents is that further funding must come from some sort of grant—and not from village budgets. As Irvington’s Mark Gilliland put it, “The state wanted a Route 9 corridor solution when moving ahead with the bridge. Now let’s see if they fund it!”

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