Saturday, September 19, 2009

The 9W Bicycle Phenomenon - Part 2

Continuing north on 9W past those annoying "Bicyclists are required by law to ride single file" signs, the road is soon surrounded by the Palisades Interstate Park on both the east and west sides. Here is where the ride begins to get rather scenic and is reminiscent of roads much further away from New York City. This is part of the allure that brings so many New Yorkers over the GWB and onto 9W in the first place. At this point 9W has a nice wide shoulder on both sides that is mostly swept free of debris which provides for relatively relaxing riding.

Things are pretty uneventful along the route until we reach the site of Jessica Purcell's severe crash that Jen Benepe reported about last month. Short before 9W cross into New York State there is a traffic light that allows motorist to make a left to enter the Palisades Interstate Parkway. This light is located at the bottom of a valley and bicyclists easily reach speeds in excess of 35 mph so they can maintain their momentum to help get up the other side. When we passed through the light was green and there were no issues but I can see how a cyclist could get distracted for a moment and not be able to stop if a car stops for the light at this intersection. Unfortunately the right side shoulder was eliminated recently to make for a left turn bay for cars to increase motorist safety but this has left no run-off room for cyclists.

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What I did notice however was that the center yellow gore striping went on for quite a ways on both sides of this intersection. While done to increase motorists' safety by making sure to keep cars separated around the blind curve leading up to that intersection, the nature in which it was done eliminated the shoulder on both sides. As such cyclists have no where else to ride in except the travel lane. While not such a big deal in the north bound direction, the elimination of the shoulder becomes a big deal going south since there is a considerable climb and bicyclists' speeds are sure to be rather slow.

Interestingly enough an older streets view image shows this stretch of 9W prior to the recent restriping.

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What is sad here is that during the reconfiguration of the roadway, the engineers did not seem to take into consideration the needs of the thousands of cyclists that use the roadway, as evident in the design. While undoubtedly safer for motorists, the new design sure did not feel safer to this cyclist. What is somewhat annoying from a cyclist's perspective is that the center gore striping leading up to the intersection pictured at top seems excessively long. It wouldn't be so bad if it were for a 100 or 200 yards but it goes on for nearly half a mile!

Anyway soon after this we enter New York State and took a right turn down to the exquisitly beautiful riverside town of Piermont. Riding north now along quite Piermont Ave cyclists are treated to stunning views of the Hudson River along with beautiful homes. Soon after leaving Piermont the road changes names and turns into River Rd. Along the way there are non-regulation signs posted very high stating that cyclists must ride single file. Now I'm not an expert on NY State law pertaining to cycling so local towns may be able to pass there own ordinances that further restrict how a bicycle may operate. Still Jen told me that the relationship between the local police and cyclists here is also rather confrontational. From these signs, I didn't find that hard to believe.

Still the traffic is very light on this road and the scenary just to stunning to worry about such things. Soon we passed underneath the Tappanzee Bridge and enter Nyack which is also a very beautiful river town. After we made a few turns we entered Nyack's downtown and took a break at a cafe' / bakery. What greets me here is a sight rarely seen in the USA; dozens if not 100 or more bicycles and they were everywhere! There must have been at least 1/2 million dollars worth of bikes there. This cafe' has obviously profited handsomely by catering to these cyclists and bicycle parking was at such a premium that one or two on-street parking spaces were converted over to bicycle parking, something VERY rarely seen, particularly on the East Coast. The picture below only captures a small part of the scene and one of Jen's gregarious friends.

I was amazed by what I had seen. There was no doubt after seeing this velo-spectacle that Route 9W must have the greatest concentration of cyclist anywhere in New Jersey.

Soon Jen and I, along with several of her friends headed back south to Jersey. As we continued south dozens of cyclists kept on coming north. That newly restriped section of 9W proved to be rather uncomfortable as cars passed us as we climbed. Fortunately traffic volumes were still rather light. Further south still, Jen and I parted ways as she needed to get back to her place and I wanted to ride the enchanted (if very bumpy) Henry Hudson Drive that actually enters Palisades Interstate Park and goes below the cliffs. From there I went underneath the GWB and used the new bike path that leads to the bridge so I could ride to Manhattan and do a loop around Central Park. All the while cyclists are still coming and going. Even when I return from my loop and cross back to New Jersey, dozens of cyclists continue to cross the bridge in both directions.

If the sight of hundreds of bicycles at that cafe' in Nyack didn't prove the incredible popularity of the 9W ride, this continued stream of riders over the GWB, over a period that spanned several hours sure did.


Anonymous said...

Great ride but look out for police giving tickets for riding two abreast or passing through red lights even at "t" intersections like the northbound intersection described above.

Andrew J. Besold said...

And you should be given a ticket for blowing the red light, "T" intersection with no conflict points or not! It's against the law and makes all cyclists look like self-centered rule breakers.

As for the ticket for riding two abreast even though your both not obstructing traffic, if you riding in New Jersey, show the officer the law and if he still gives it to you, fight it!

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