Wednesday, September 9, 2015

RIOC Rejects Banning Bicycles From Roosevelt Island Bridge Helix Ramp - Will Implement Better Signage, Visible Road Stripes And Education

Reported August 31:
A bicycle rider was injured in a collision with a car on the Motorgate Helix Ramp to the Roosevelt Island Bridge last Monday July 13....
... the RIRA Public Safety Committee (PSC) unanimously passed this resolution recommending that bicycles, wheelchairs and scooters be banned from the the Motorgate Helix Ramp during the PSC's August 11 meeting:
Resolution that Bicycles, Wheelchairs, and Scooters Be Banned from Helix Ramp

WHEREAS the helix ramp is a narrow roadway for two-way motor vehicle traffic;

WHEREAS the helix ramp has limited-distance sight lines as it spirals between the bridge deck and street level;

WHEREAS visibility is sometimes limited by sun-glare;

WHEREAS there is no leeway on the ramp for vehicles to swerve to avoid hitting a bicycle or a wheelchair or a scooter;

WHEREAS a bike lane or a sidewalk cannot be added to the ramp;

THEREFORE, the Public Safety Committee of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association hereby resolves that all bicycles, wheelchairs, and scooters be banned from the helix ramp."
The resolution will be debated during RIRA's September 9 Common Council meeting. Even if the resolution is approved by the RIRA Common Council, RIRA has no power to implement such a ban. However, RIOC could use the RIRA resolution as an indication of Roosevelt Island community wishes to ban bicycles from the Helix Ramp and implement such a ban....

Google Street View Image Of Roosevelt Island Bridge Helix Ramp

The Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) Operations Advisory Committee discussed issue of bicycle and vehicle safety on the Roosevelt Island Bridge Helix at it's September 8 meeting last night. (full audio web cast of meeting here, bike helix discussion starts approximately 1 hour 8 minute mark).

RIOC Director Michael Shinozaki began the discussion saying:
I don't really think it's safe for cyclists to be on the helix because of the nature of car and truck traffic on there. The problem is we need to come up with a viable alternative. In the past we had the escalator that went from the platform straight down and people used the escalator...
The escalator has been closed for many years without an explanation for the reason.

 Image Of Non-Working Roosevelt Island Motorgate Atrium Escalator To Helix

RIOC President Charlene Indelicato said that the Cornell engineering team will examine the escalator situation to determine if it can be operational.

In the meantime, Ms. Indelicato said:
... You can't protect alot of people from themselves....
and bicycle:
... banning is not going to work. we don't have the manpower to enforce it and secondly I think there are alot of groups, not Bike NY, who protest these things feeling it is some sort of infringement on peoples rights and you don't want even more bikes trying it out....

... I am inclined to listen to the experts. We will listen to Bike NY, Cornell...
about bike helix safety issues.

RIOC Director Howard Polivy summarized the Roosevelt Island Bridge Helix bike safety initiatives saying RIOC:
... will look at stripes, signs and sight lines...
 Current Helix Ramp Sign To Use Motorgate Elevator

Here's 6 minute portion of the RIOC Operations Advisory Committee discussion of Helix Bike Safety,

the full 27 minute discussion,

and Helix bike safety recommendations from Bike New York.
Proposals to Improve Safety of Non-motorized users on the Helix Ramp

You can address the bike safety concerns on the helix by taking the following cost effective preventive safety measures that various parties can take to keep the every one safe on the helix:

1- Enforce the 10mph speed limit (RIOC, Public Safety).
  • ticket drivers who exceed the 10 mph speed limit.
  • install a speed display sign so people know how fast they are going on the helix, with an additional sign noting the helix ramp is 10mph.
  • install speed humps or bumps that keep vehicle speeds under the limit.
  • Work with DOT, PSD, or Bike New York to pass out Vision Zero information and bumper stickers or other Helix-specific safety information at the top of the helix.
2. Enforce the Helix no passing zone (RIOC, PSD).
  • maintain the center “no passing zone” stripes, which wear off quickly due to large vehicles negotiating the tight turn.
  • Make the “No Passing Zone” sign stronger. How about “Don’t even think of passing here” sign?
  • Install flexible bollards on the center stripe.
3. Enforce against dangerous cycling behaviors, especially wrong way cycling (against traffic) and not using lights at night (RIOC PSD).

4. Interpret & Apply the “Share the Road” signage on the helix. Most motorists and many cyclists don’t know what sharing the road looks like in practice. Under state law NYS VAT § 1234 cyclists may “take the lane” when the lane is too narrow to share side-by-side with an over-taking vehicle to prevent dangerous passing. Given that the helix is a two-way road with a narrow single lane, and constricted sight lines both motorists and cyclists should understand how to share it safely. And sharing in this context does not mean that it’s the job of the cyclist to get out of the motorist’s way. The helix ramp is short—it’s not a huge inconvenience for a motorist to wait behind a cyclist until the cyclist clears the helix. Cyclists should take the lane on the helix because it is too narrow for safe passing.
  • paint “sharrow” symbols in both directions in the center of the helix lanes (RIOC) indicating to all users that cyclists should take the lane on the helix. (RIOC)
  • conduct public education campaign about what “Sharing the Road” on the Helix means in practice. (Bike New York, RIOC, PSD) with fliers
  • Create a short video on how all users should safely share the helix. (Bike New York, RIOC, PSD).
5. Education
  • Work with Cornell construction contractors so that truck drivers understand the reasonable and safe driving limits utilizing short safety classes, the video, friendly flyering at construction sites. (Bike New York)
  • Conduct bike safety education campaign so that cyclists use best practices for using the helix, including use of lights at night, not riding against traffic, and “taking the lane” on the helix. (Bike New York)
Frank Farance shares this video of bicyclists riding down the helix ramp

and prepared this Helix Ramp Safety Report.

RIRA is meeting 8 PM tonight at the Good Shepherd Community  Center (543 Main Street) to vote on the Public Safety Committee resolution banning bikes from the Helix.

Without RIOC's approval, RIRA's resolution approving banning bikes from Helix means nothing.

UPDATE 10:30 PM - The RIRA Common Council did not vote on the helix bike ban resolution but sent it back to the Public Safety Committee for further review.

UPDATE 11:30 PM - Here's the RIRA Common Council discussion.