Spring 2019 Bike Path Update

Now that it’s April, many cyclists are dusting off their bikes and heading out for their first ride of the season. And off-road bicycle paths are often the first places cyclists look to for those early season warm-up rides. The good news is that there are a lot of exciting bike path improvement projects heading to our region for 2019. Check out our updates below. And if you know of any other bike path improvement projects in the pipeline for this year, email us and we’ll update this posting again with the new information.

Don’t forget that there are great websites out there that catalog all the bike paths and bike routes in our region. These websites are great resources if you are looking to ride someplace new. Here are a few to check out:

http://bikehudsonvalley.com/

http://bikelongisland.com/

https://www.facebook.com/njbikemap/

 

OK, on to the updates:

North County Trailway – Westchester County

The North County Trailway is one of three trailway segments that was constructed on the abandoned Putnam Division of the New York Central Railroad. Because the North County Trailway was also one of the first segments to be constructed on this rail line, some portions of the trail are now more than 20 years old and are in disrepair. However, the entire length of this trailway segment, between the Putnam County line and Old Saw Mill River Road in Tarrytown, will be resurfaced and repaired during 2019.  If you ride the trail this year, be prepared for trail closures to occur anywhere along the trail. It may be worth checking the Westchester County Department of Parks, Recreation and Conservation Facebook page to see if they have information about trail closures before you head out for your ride. This trail is the prominent feature of our Hudson Valley Craft Brewery Bike Tour. If you do our tour, we can give you advance information of trail closures and we can shuttle you around them if they are impassible.

Harlem Valley Rail Trail – Dutchess and Columbia Counties

If you’ve ever taken the Metro-North Harlem Line train all the way to the end, you’ll notice that the Harlem Valley Rail Trail begins where the train tracks end. That’s because this rail trail was constructed atop the railroad abandonment, which constitutes all of the rail right-of-way north of the Wassaic station. This is one of the region’s most beautiful rail trails and it is a highlight of both our Hudson Valley Bike Tour and the Harlem Valley Rail Ride and Festival.

Over the years, it has been a challenge to construct a rail trail on top of the entire former rail line. An 8-mile segment has always been missing in between the Village of Millerton and Under Mountain Road in the Town of Ancram, which has necessitated that riders go on hilly (but beautiful) back roads to ride the whole trail.

However, construction has begun on this missing piece of trail and it is expected to be complete by October 2020. This will be a major undertaking requiring 4,100 feet of elevated boardwalks and the rehabilitation of six bridges. But when it is completed, it will surely be an amazing bike path. Read the whole story here.

Ocean Parkway Shared Use Path Extension – Long Island

If you are familiar with Jones Beach State Park, you might know about the Ocean Parkway Coastal Greenway, which is a great bike path that follows Ocean Parkway. Later this year construction will begin to extend this bike path for an additional 10 miles between its current terminus at Tobay Beach and Captree State Park. This bike path will greatly increase the amount of shoreline that is accessible by bikes in both Nassau and Suffolk Counties. The bike path is expected to be completed by the summer of 2020.

Verrazzano Bridge Summer Streets – Brooklyn and Staten Island

Have you ever done Summer Streets in Manhattan?  It’s great. For three Saturdays every August, the City shuts down Park Avenue just for bikes.

It appears that support may be building to do the same thing on the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge. https://www.bikesbk.org/verrazzano-summer-streets/

The lack of a bike path or sidewalk on the Verrazanno Narrows Bridge has long been an issue for people looking to bike between the two heavily populated boroughs. The MTA has attempted to address this by providing bicycle racks on the S53 and S93 buses, but there is still a push to allow cyclists to simply ride across the bridge. This may be accomplished this summer if the Verrazzano Bridge Summer Streets intiative moves forward.

George Washington Bridge

A large number of cyclists (3700 per weekend day)  routinely cross the George Washington Bridge, which was built in 1931 with narrow 7-foot wide sidewalks. The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey is currently undertaking a construction project to “Restore the George” which is anticipated to be completed in 2025.  Because construction may impact the ability for cyclists to access the bridge sidewalks, the Port Authority recommends cyclists sign up for text or email alerts about sidewalk closures. Find out more at: https://www.panynj.gov/bridges-tunnels/gwb-pedestian-bicycle-info.html

However, it is important to note that the Port Authority’s “Restoring the George” project will not do much to improve bicycle mobility across this bridge, since the project is more or less only considering “replacement in-kind” of the existing sidewalks. To advocate for better improvements, all non-motorized users of the George Washington Bridge are strongly encouraged to go to https://completegeorge.org/ to learn more about how you can advocate for a better plan.

Mario Cuomo (Tappan Zee) Bridge

And finally, as this blog reported back in October of 2018, the long-awaited “shared use path” on the new Mario Cuomo Bridge is set to arrive later this year. This will be a major, major improvement for cyclists and pedestrians in the Hudson Valley.  Check it out!

A new bike path on the Tappan Zee Bridge

The Tappan Zee Bridge never made a lot of sense. Why does it cross the Hudson River at its widest point? And why was a bridge like this ever built without a sidewalk or bike path? For over 50 years this bridge has existed to only serve motor vehicles. But the new bridge that has just replaced it will fix that. Yes, the new Tappan Zee Bridge (now called the Governor Mario M. Cuomo Bridge) will finally have a lane just for bicycles and pedestrians!

Finally, communities in both Westchester and Rockland Counties will have a way to bike from one side of the river to the other.  This is hugely important for increasing non-motorized mobility. What’s more, it also increases the potential for bicycle tourism. And Gotham Bicycle Tours will be offering a new tour in 2019 that goes over the new bridge. As always, it will be transit accessible from NYC…and a beautiful ride.

In the meantime check out the new animation which was recently released by state government that shows what the new bike path will look like.  There will even be scenic overlooks built into the pathway, with catchy names like “Fish and Ships”.

Westchester OKs $8.7M to update North County Trailway

By Mark Lungariello, Rockland/Westchester Journal News 

Original site of article:  https://www.lohud.com/story/news/local/westchester/2018/10/09/westchester-oks-8-7-m-update-north-county-trailway/1564040002/

Published 6:00 a.m. ETOct. 9, 2018 | Updated 7:41 a.m. ET Oct. 9, 2018

Westchester County lawmakers will spend $8.7 million to improve the North County Trailway, a 20-mile trail from Putnam County down to Eastview.

It’ll be the first major construction project on the popular trail since it was built in sections in the 1980s.

The county Board of Legislators voted on Oct. 1 to unanimously approve borrowing for the project, which is estimated to last 14 months once it begins.

Safety enhancements will include work to a 500-foot bridge over the Croton Reservoir in Yorktown, which lawmakers said has been used occasionally by thrill seekers to jump into the reservoir. Work will include curved fencing and spikes to discourage people from climbing around the fence.

New York State owns the trailway and Westchester has leased it since 1994, but the county legislature has asked the administration of County Executive George Latimer to try to strike up a deal to take ownership of the property. But lawmakers approved another 25-year extension lease at a $1 cost to Westchester while negotiations are sparked.

Although the state owns the property, the county is responsible for any injury, property damage or death claims. The county approved a $3.2 million settlement with the family of a bicyclist who died after crashing on a stretch of the trailway in Yorktown.

The property runs through the towns of Mount Pleasant, New Castle, Yorktown and Somers. It connects to the South County Trailway, which runs to Westchester’s border with the Bronx. Lawmakers OKed this month another $300,000 for a study and design preparation to an area of the South County Trailway, particularly a stretch near Yonkers’ border with Hastings-on-Hudson.

The Harlem Valley Rail Ride Weekend is in the News!

The following is a re-posting of an article from the Millerton News, a local newspaper in the Village of Millerton. The article was published on July 25, 2018 and was written by Kaitlin Lyle.

Cyclists take to the Rail Trail

Wed, 07/25/2018 – 10:41am

All the way from New York City, Abe Hendin and his son, Lior, prepared their bikes for the Harlem Valley Rail Ride’s 23-mile route. Photo by Kaitlin Lyle

MILLERTON— Once again, the Harlem Valley Rail Ride has brought together cyclists from across the state to experience the region’s beauty on Sunday, July 22.

Organized at Eddie Collins Field, cyclists could pitch a tent on Friday, July 20 until Monday, July 23.

There was a free bonus warm-up ride with a choice of a 12-mile route up the Harlem Valley Rail Trail or a 25- to 35-mile route.

Whether emerging from their tents or riding their bikes, cyclists from all walks of life and levels attended the ride. Cyclists could enjoy a 100-mile route, a 72- to 80-mile route, a 45- to 57-mile route or a 23- to 33-mile route.

On top of their preparations for their ride around the Harlem Valley, cyclists enjoyed breakfast underneath the park pavilion. Despite the gray clouds overhead and hint of rain on the way, they were determined to put the pedal to the metal as they had chosen.

Whether they were riding solo, with their loved ones or making friends on the ride, there was a discernible camaraderie at summer’s most beautiful ride.

On top of enticing cyclists from all around the state, the event motivated a couple organizations from the surrounding area to lend a hand.

Underneath the pavilion, members of the American Legion Post 178 in Millerton cooked up a storm, serving breakfast and lunch. The Dover High School basketball team volunteered by parking cars and doing other similar tasks; a donation was made to the team. Gotham Bike Tours helped set up the tents for campers overnight in addition to picking visiting cyclists up and bringing them back to the train station. All the way from the Westchester Beemers Motorcycle Club, volunteer “motos” offered free motor service to cyclists in need.

With the storm slowly rolling in, volunteers checked on cyclists who were still on the road. While the weather had its sunshine and dark clouds, cyclists made their way back to Eddie Collins Field.

“I think this event is really good for Millerton,” said Lukas Herbert from Gotham Bicycle Tours. “It really puts Millerton on the map and brings people out, especially city people who have never heard of it.”

Riding the Harlem Valley Rail Trail

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is one of the most beautiful rail trails in New York State. It’s also one of the easiest to get to since begins in a Metro-North train station parking lot. The Harlem Valley Rail Trail also has lots of amenities along it’s route including farmers markets, restaurants and swimming holes.  It’s the perfect getaway for a day ride. And it also makes for a great destination for two of the tours we offer at Gotham Bicycle Tours: our Hudson Valley Bike Tour and our Harlem Valley Rail Ride Weekend. We also run private tours on this trail, because it is so nice!

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail can trace its history back to 1852, when the New York and Harlem Railroad was constructed as far north as Chatham, New  York. The New York and Harlem was one of America’s oldest railroads, which was eventually absorbed into the New York Central, and ultimately into Metro-North Railroad as the Harlem Line. However, by the time Metro-North Railroad acquired the line, commuter rail service only went as far north as Dover Plains, with the rest of the line being abandoned.

Fortunately in the late 1990’s, Metro-North undertook an extension of the Harlem Line to Wassaic, NY.  As part of the extension, the Harlem Valley Rail Trail was built on top of the abandoned rail alignment north of Wassaic. With this project, the first “intermodal” train to bike hub was created in the New York Metro region.

The Harlem Valley Rail Trail is currently open as two segments: an 11 mile segment from the Wassaic Train Station to Millerton, and a 5 mile segment from just south of Copake north to beyond Copake Falls.  In between, you will need to ride about 8 miles on local roadways to connect between these two segments, but the ride is beautiful, without a lot of traffic.  Full information and maps can be found at the Harlem Valley Rail Trail Association’s website at: http://hvrt.org/

The amenities on this trail are some of the best around.  There are always plenty of places to eat in Millerton, 11 miles north of the trail start in Wassaic. On Saturdays you can even grab lunch at a great farmers market that has all kinds of wonderful food from all of the farms you just rode past on your bike.

As you push north, you’ll pass Taconic State Park in Copake Falls which has camping, a waterfall hike…and a great lifeguarded swimming hole in an old quarry that is super refreshing on a hot summer day.

Just north of the park is one of the most scenic segments of the trail, where you ride through a lush valley.  The first time we rode through this spot with our 6-year old son, he asked us “is this God’s world?” because it looked like the pictures he had seen of Heaven!

Bike Hack: The Little Green Signs

A “little green sign” for Route 23

Source: By Fwgoebel – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=10054106

Have you ever been driving (or biking) along somewhere in New York State and wondered about the little green signs that you keep seeing over and over on the side of the road? These little signs are actually reference markers put up by the NYS Department of Transportation after the Highway Safety Act of 1966 required that “each state shall have a highway safety program….(that) shall include, but not be limited to, provisions for….surveillance of traffic for detection and correction of high or potentially high accident locations”.

In short, in a pre-computer and pre-GPS world, each state needed to figure out their own way to reference every segment of state-owned roadway for traffic, maintenance and crash reporting purposes.

And, of course, New York State being what it is, came up with an ingeniously confusing, complicated, yet workable solution, which culminated in these little green signs that show an almost nonsensical jumble of numbers and letters.

But these signs are a great resource if you are ever lost on your bike and you need to figure out what road you are on. The top row of these signs is (almost) always the route number for the state road on which you are traveling. So in the absence of other signage, these little green markers can at least help you figure out what road you are on. On most 2 lane roads, they are every 0.2 mile, so you don’t have to bike far to figure it out. If you are riding on a 4-lane road, you’ll see them every 0.1 mile.

If you are interested in the real nitty-gritty about how these little green signs work, check out the NYSDOT Reference Marker Manual. It’s fascinating. It will make you appreciate the lengths that people had to go to to code highway segments before computers and GPS could just assign everything a coordinate.

And keep in mind, you will only see these signs in New York State. Other states have their own signs, which may or may not make sense.

Craft beer and biking!

A favorite pastime for many cyclists is to do a big ride that ends at a craft brewery destination. There’s nothing better than enjoying a beer at the end of a big ride!  But getting back on that bike after drinking that beer can be tough going…or even dangerous if you’ve had a few too many.  Unless the brewery you’ve ridden to is next to a train station, or you’ve made plans to have someone pick you up, riding those final miles after your brewery ride can be a challenge.CL

That’s why we came up with our Captain Lawrence Bicycle Tour. Captain Lawrence is a locally famous brewery…you can find their beers in many stores and restaurants throughout the tri-state region. And to ride to Captain Lawrence is relatively easy….its about a half-mile away from a great rail-trail.  But because rail-trails are in the locations where trains used to be….unfortunately there’s no easy way to get home with your bike if you don’t want to do any more riding.  And that’s the situation we were hoping to remedy with our bike tour.

Captain Lawrence is a great brewery to experience, and given its proximity to New York City, it should be easy ride for anyone from the city to do…and now it is!  Check out our ride details on our website!  With lunch, rail-fare and a ride back to the train included…it’s an unbeatable value for an all-inclusive day trip from the city!