getting around

What If We Took the West Side Highway for Bikes?

Taking his son to work by bike. Photo: Getty Images

A very skinny slice of bike-only pathway runs between the bloated car horror show of the West Side Highway and the still surprisingly PCB-laden Hudson River. This is how many of us travel up and down Manhattan — it’s often how I get to work. On this dedicated bike path, we ride with parents hauling kids in cargo bikes, randos weaving sweatily on Citi Bikes, big boys on electric Big Wheels, and a lot of very serious bibbed-’n’-spandexed fellas at the beginning or end of their 60-mile round trips to Tarrytown.

On the bike path, we are also sometimes united with delivery folks, dogs, joggers who have left their dedicated running path, lost tourists, high-school running teams, people crossing from Chelsea Piers while staring at their phones, people lining up for Barry Diller Island while staring at their phones, and Goldman Sachs employees being escorted by bike-lane crossing guards from their HQ to their waiting cars (while staring at their phones).

Honestly, I love it, though I would categorize it as very active riding. But you’re in Manhattan! You should perhaps be somewhat aware of your busy surroundings! Speed is what separates us from the animals who do not use wheels! And the bike path is so, so much better than what we had before, which was nothing (and lots of used syringes).

But what, people now worry, if someday some bike riders have a crash and someone gets hurt?

Interesting concern! We’ve agreed as a society that we can’t fix the fact that we just let cars run over people all the time in New York City. (See also: our choices around letting people get murdered at Rikers and letting people get killed by COVID.) But this maybe-problem — this we can fix with some handy asset seizure.

One man — that’s Manhattan Borough President Mark Levine — has a little plan. Let’s just peel away one car lane from the West Side Highway and give it to the bikes, even if it’s just at peak hours.

This would solve one thorny problem: A funny thing about this Hudson River Greenway bike path is that all “electric” bikes are forbidden, even as various forms of electric bikes make up about 50 percent of all the vehicles there. (Come cuff me!) Levine’s proposal suggests that we should lift the fake ban on e-bikes and make the street-legal e-bikes bike-path legal. Putting us out on the street would give us a little more high-speed room. (ON YOUR LEFT!!!!!)

It would also give bicyclists a self-sorting situation that would result in some unpredictable choices. Would the existing little bike path be only for artisanal, leg-powered bikes? Electrics, too? Citi Bikes only? Left to our own devices, what we’ll create is uncertain.

Annoyingly, Christopher Marte, the City Council fella who reps Soho, Battery Park, and a big chunk of downtown, literally came forward with “Won’t somebody please think of the children?” when talking about adding the extra bike path. He says parents in his district say “they have to deal with a number of cyclists, a number of e-bikes, a number of joggers” when getting their kids to P.S. 89.

First of all, P.S. 89 has 340 students. How many biking and complaining parents can there be? And second, if you’re really that stressed about taking little Clotho and Ashurbanipal to school on your $6,000 Yuba cargo bike, just move to Maplewood. But if sad, scared parents get us all more and bigger bike lanes — and take something away from the cars — I guess we can try to all get along together … for now.

Biking the … West Side Highway?