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Street Beat: Nyack Closed To NYC, NJ Cyclists, Mon-Sat Thru mid-Nov

NJ Mostly Closed to East Rockland Cyclists, too.

Nyack, Oct 12 — The end of the bicycling season has come early to Nyack businesses that depend on cyclists from North Jersey and New York City to sell their baked goods and bike maintenance services. Business seems to have fallen off since River Road in South Nyack was closed near the Tappan Zee Bridge on 10/10.

Two possible detours that cyclists can take to avoid Route 9W between Nyack and Piermont during TZB demolition: The Esposito Rail Trail and South Blvd / Tweed Blvd.

Cyclists can pass through the construction site where the Rockland County landing of the bridge is being demolished once an hour during the week and every 15 minutes on Saturdays until work is completed in mid-November. The ill-conceived plan assumes that cyclists would just wait without taking into consideration the likelihood that some riders would take the car/truck detour on Route 9W. In formulating the plan, New NY Bridge officials never spoke with any cyclists who actually use that route, instead relying on input from the smallest bicycle club in the area that have two board members that don’t ride bicycles. It also relied on an the assumption that most cyclists who ride the popular 9W to River Road to Nyack route belong to a cycling club. It never made sense to think cyclists would wait as much as two hours (out and back) to ride through the construction site. And based on the empty tables outside of the Runcible Spoon bakery since Tuesday, they aren’t.
In addition to limiting northbound traffic, Nyack area cyclists are limited to the same restrictions if they want to ride south to Piermont, the Clark Rail Trail in Sparkill, or North Jersey.
Local cyclists know better than to use a detour that routes vehicles on to a dangerous stretch of Route 9W between Nyack and Piermont. At a Oct 10 meeting with state officials, they expressed concern that cyclists from NYC and North Jersey would continue to ride this road while it was bearing the extra load of diverted River Road traffic. Grandview / South Nyack Police Chief Brent Newbury hopes city cyclists coming to Nyack heed the advice of Rockland cyclists to stay away from 9W between Piermont and Nyack while Monday-Saturday demolition operations continue through next month. “Bicyclists should avoid the South Nyack/Grand View/Orangetown area completely until the construction is complete,” he said. Bicyclists are good to go on River Road on Sundays, if they dismount and walk through the construction site.

Janet Martinez, who was fatally injured in a car accident while riding a bike on 9w on June 10, 2012.

In June 2012, recreational cyclist Janet Martinez was struck and killed while riding her bicycle on 9W in Upper Grandview, an event that still haunts Meg Mayo, an Upper Grandview resident who lives on 9W. She’s disappointed that more wasn’t done after Martinez’s death, and shocked to see the NYS Department of Transportation and the New NY Bridge didn’t taken the 2012 tragedy into account when making their plans. The vehicular detour for bridge demolition passes by the spot where Martinez was hit. “I’m angry that the state appears to have taken zero steps to make 9W safer for cyclists,” said Mayo. “I don’t have the answers, but the people in charge of keeping us safe on the road should be able to figure this out.”
Mayo echoed the concerns of area cyclists that this part of 9W is always dangerous — and even more contentious with the added traffic from the River Road detour. “Even on the quietest weekdays, drivers on Route 9W are impatient and unforgiving. It’s a treacherous stretch of road for cyclists — speeding cars and trucks, narrow or no shoulder that is often filled with hazards and debris, and winding curves with poor sight lines.” After the 2012 fatality, NYS Senator David Carlucci, Assemblywoman Ellen Jaffe and Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart all worked to get the NYS Department of Transportation’s attention. Former Nyack Trustee Steve Knowlton lobbied the DOT to reduce the speed limit on 9W. However, the only visible improvement was the addition of a few signs warning drivers that cyclists may be present.  “The Share The Road Signs are pathetic and invisible in the summer because they’re covered in overgrown bushes,” Mayo said. “With the River Road closure, we now have more car and truck traffic, diverted buses, and even more cyclists sharing the road with drivers who aren’t watching for them and, frankly, don’t often care about sharing the road.” Regarding the state’s limited effort to do outreach through Rockland County cycling clubs, Mayo was not impressed. “Local cyclists may know to stay away from 9W, but most cyclists who go by my house are not local. I’ve seen plenty of signs warning drivers about the road closure, but I’ve seen nothing comparable for cyclists. This is another tragedy waiting to happen.”
Several safer cycling detours are available, although no effort has been made by state officials to bring these routes to the attention of cyclists from outside of the area. The unimproved Esposito Rail Trail, suitable for hybrid and mountain bikes, parallels River Road. South Blvd and Tweed Blvd, a challenging alternate route that serious city cyclists might enjoy to avoid the congestion and contention just west of 9W, is another possibility.

Prior to the road closing, New NY Bridge officials met with elected officials and law enforcement, but there was scant attention paid to the likelihood that some cyclists from outside of Rockland would follow the detour signs. “Hopefully the next 3-4 weeks will go by fast,” said Chief Newbury in an email on 10/11. He said the first two days of the closure have been challenging. “Luck has not been on our side, as the first two mornings we’ve had accidents that have snarled traffic on South Nyack/Grand View/Orangetown roads significantly.” Newbury said his officers will be using some additional methods of notification that should ease car and truck traffic.

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Street Beat is a weekly feature on Nyack News And Views covering streets, sidewalks, cycling, mass transit and safety. Sponsored by Velo Bistro Wine Bar, Weld Realty and Bike Nyack.

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