City Hall’s obsession with bicycles is no secret. Bike lanes have been popping up all over town, to the chagrin of those who see no reason to make the flow of vehicular traffic—and, thus, commerce—any slower than it is already. However, perhaps time and climate change will prove that Mayor Bloomberg’s bikers were visionaries and not fanatics.
That said, there is much to be wary of in a new plan to allow cyclists in Central Park to use paths designated for pedestrians. The Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy argue that cyclists trying to get across the park are now forced to pedal miles out of their way because they are barred from using two pedestrian paths, one near 97th Street and the other near 102nd Street. The cyclists will be required to pedal slowly—no more than 5 miles an hour—in deference to the walkers.
Cycling enthusiasts on the Upper West Side are delighted. The older, more-traditional residents of the Upper East Side are angry and frightened. And the park, rather than serve as a D.M.Z. between these two neighborhoods, has become a battleground.
The East Side’s worries are legitimate. The plan is predicated on the idea that cyclists will defer to pedestrians and will keep to the very slow speed limit. That may be unrealistic—unless, that is, the city rigorously patrols the area and hands out tickets by the handful when cyclists endanger walkers.
If the plan moves forward, the city has to protect pedestrians. Otherwise, there surely will be a tragedy.