Great Kills to Fort Wadsworth by Bike, and the Value of Incremental Infrastructure
The Staten Island Advance reports that after years of braving a pockmarked, high traffic Hylan Boulevard, Staten Island cyclists will soon enjoy a fully separate linkage between Miller Field and Great Kills Park. Construction of the path is a joint effort between the National Park Service, which manages Miller Field and Great Kills Park (of which I am an employee), and the City of New York. Both sites are extremely popular with recreational cyclists, and should prove to be a well used piece of cycling infrastructure.
Not mentioned in the SILive article is the ensuing linkage between Fort Wadsworth at the northeastern edge of Staten Island, and Great Kills Park. By August, residents living in the vicinity of Great Kills Park will be able to ride with minimal traffic interference from Great Kills to Miller Field, along the Midland and South Beach Boardwalk before finally terminating at Fort Wadsworth. This relatively small piece of linking infrastructure means fully one half of the island’s East Shore can be safely used by cyclists, runners and walkers.
While I’ve written a bit about island-wide bike facilities geared more toward recreational cycling, the completion of this crucial linkage is doubtless a welcome development for cyclists of all stripes. Yet it also serves to highlight the considerable work that remains to be done. First on the list, a fully separate link should be considered between the Staten Island Ferry Terminal and Fort Wadsworth along or parallel to Bay Street. Bay Street accommodates high numbers of non-recreational cyclists. Real estate development along Bay Street, especially in Stapleton, is sure to increase the number of people cycling along the North Shore.
Yet current cycling infrastructure along Bay St is severely lacking. Sharrows denote the image of space for bikes on the road, but are generally ignored by drivers. Cyclists are often herded to prime “dooring” position along the many rows of parked cars. High speed traffic near the ferry terminal is extremely intimidated for non-vehicular cyclists, and likely convinces many to leave the bike at home for the bus or car.
It is essential that any cycling infrastructure along or parallel to Bay St is well connected with the community. Current facilities along the East Shore are almost entirely separate from the surrounding neighborhoods. Given the proximity of Rosebank, Clifton, Stapleton and Tompkinsville to the shoreline, greater efforts to connect to these communities should be a part of any effort to extend the shoreline ring-road.
Likewise, given the ideal of island-encircling bike paths, future plans should envision better connected town centers throughout the borough. By connecting short range bike lanes to the larger cycling network, recreational cyclists will be better able to access the shoreline without driving, and functional cyclists (for lack of a better term) will more safely connect to points of interests. It’s one heck of a pipe dream, but given the number of people sure to use these paths, greater support of on-street bike lanes in the future isn’t entirely out of the question.
The Great Kills-Miller Field link is currently 35% complete, and will be handling all manner of cyclists by August.