Normally, if you're a bike-wielding terrorist bent on destroying the acorn reserves of Central Park squirrels (trust us) you don't have many options for cutting through the park. Either you bike to 60th street for a roundabout trip north, use the crosstown street at 72nd that only goes east to west or brave those narrow, dicey transverse roads. However, it appears that the Poltiburo of the Parks Department and the Central Park Conservancy will permit cyclists on two pedestrian paths as part of a trial run that could begin as soon as this month. The catch? Really, really, really, really, slow pedaling.
The paths are at W. 97th street and W. 102nd street and cut across the park, and cyclists would have to maintain a speed of 5 mph. A member of the hiking group Shorewalkers, who supports the measure, reasonably tells the Times, "Every square inch of the city is fought over, and unfortunately there has to be some sharing." But this is a bike story, so "reason" be damned: UES vs. UWS cage match! Though the UWS's CB 7 hasn't endorsed the project yet, the board has said that it seeks "a solution for cyclists to be able to cross Central Park unencumbered by automobile traffic." Meanwhile, CB 8, which represents the Upper East Side, voted 31-13 against the trial.
Nevermind that cyclists and pedestrians already share paths peacefully, bring on the rage! "You always have to look out for cyclists—you can't hear them, like cars," says one CB 8 member. "If you try to explain to them that it's illegal, you learn a lot of four letter words." A parent and Transportation Alternatives member who lives on the UES confirms that using pedestrian paths with his son on the way home from school is "an experience of constantly being scolded by strange adults."
While the Parks Department and the Conservancy should be applauded for testing a controversial policy before implementing it, what's remains puzzling is the DOT's flat refusal to of a trial period to ban cars from the park "loop," despite unanimous support from both sides of the park. It must have something to do with losing out on all that red light ticket revenue.