Cause For Celebration

The George Washington Bridge connects upper Manhattan with Fort Lee, New Jersey. It carries more motor vehicle traffic than any other bridge in the world. I wouldn’t be surprised if it also carries more Fred traffic than any other bridge in the world, since it is the default crossing for pretty much every road rider in the city, and on a pleasant weekend day it carries an unbroken string of wheels and Lycra end to end in either direction.

This being New York, it probably won’t surprise you to learn that, despite being so popular with cyclists, the bike path on the George Washington Bridge has always sucked ass. Located on the south side of the bridge, it involved a tight hairpin turn on the Manhattan side that foiled and flummoxed all but the most expert riders. Then once you hit the span there were these narrow blind chicanes around each of the towers that have caused untold collisions. Pedestrians had it no better; while they did have their own path on the north side of the bridge, it involved climbing several sets of stairs–171 steps in total. Sometimes when the southern path was closed for maintenance they’d route cyclists over the north side, and you’d get to experience shouldering your bike and clomping up and down those stairs in cleats. Not to get bogged down in engineering jargon, but it really blew.

Well, yesterday was a big deal, because after years of work the Port Authority has finally opened the newly renovated northern path, which will alleviate many of these problems. This is one of those things that seemed like it would never happen, and I didn’t even realize it had opened until I saw it on Streetsblog, who went from Zero to Complain in record time:

Seriously, I didn’t even have to juxtapose those two stories, they were right next to each other on the page.

Well, I haven’t read the Streetsblog stories, and instead I headed over to the path this morning to experience it for myself. If you’re not from New York it’s hard to grasp what a big deal this is. It’s like the Golden Gate Bridge, uh, also getting a new bike path, or like Cleveland finally getting high-speed Internet. The GWB is like six miles due south of my home, and I was quivering with anticipation as I crossed the Henry Hudson Bridge, where the bike path (which isn’t even a bike path since you’re technically not allowed to ride on it) is still resolutely shitty:

That’s the Palisades on the other side of the chain link fence, and the George Washington Bridge is just out of sight to the south and/or left of the picture:

Once I’d crossed the bridge I cut through Inwood Hill Park, since as its name would suggest it’s on a very steep hill, and I wanted an excuse to use all three of my chainrings to make sure I’d finally cured the sticky link problem yesterday:

Sadly the chain got stuck on the granny ring again, so apparently I had not.

Continuing along the Hudson River Greenway, the GWB came into view through the bare trees:

And soon I was at the entrance to the new path:

Where delighted riders were taking group selfies:

This is the most excited area roadies have been since Mario Cipollini came to town:

Of course he’s since been cancelled for his smarmy ways, but they were on him like oil on an olive, and I’ve got the photos to prove it.

There are some twists and turns to get onto the span, but there are no stairs or hairpins to contend with:

There’s also the requisite observation deck:

Once on the span, it’s not sumptuously wide, but it is accented in green:

Approaches to the towers afford plenty of visibility:

Though it’s still pretty narrow once you’re in there:

How dare they not completely rebuild the bridge for us!

The path was pretty empty, but I still took great pains to remain below the 15mph speed limit:

Just kidding:

I am not physically capable of exceeding 15mph.

Alighting onto the New Jerey side you get a good view of “River Road,” the popular cycling route that takes you through Palisade Interstate Park:

Then you get to bear left and enjoy the luxury of not having to climb those goddamn stairs;

Instead there are some hairpin turns, but they’re practically straightaways compared to the infamous one on the south side;

And finally you exit the path and emerge into the vast wonderland that is the Garden State:

Decades ago you could have told me “You’ll be riding a bike with a kickstand before they fix the George Washington Bridge bike path,” and by golly you’d have been right:

I’d have loved to continue on, but I didn’t have time, so instead I turned right around, stopping briefly at the observation deck on the New Jersey side;

Drivers live and die by the bridge crossing times, so I may very well take up permanent residence on the observation deck and start my own traffic report.

Apart from the odd roadie or e-contraptioneer, the path was quite calm:

I imagine the twisty ramps and tower tunnels will still be pretty chaotic on nice weekend days, but it’s clearly a major improvement.

And yes, of course I stopped to take a picture of my bike in two states at once:

Though the wheelbase on the Homer is so long it’s often in two states at the same time.

Also, ironically, I did not bother to deploy the kickstand for that photo, and so the bike fell over immediately after I took it. Fortunately there was no damage, though the Brooks saddle did go to SOS mode and pointed itself towards Smethwick:

Please don’t be a giant Map Fred and tell me that’s not the way to Smethwick.

Once I’d fixed that I headed home, stopping only at a bike shop to finally pick up a new chain. I got a 9-speed Shimano one–the one with the pin instead of the quick link–which will hopefully solve the sticky-link situation once and for all. So if you’ve donated to this site, you’ve not only helped underwrite a vital acquisition, but you’ve also indirectly helped support a local bike shop.

See that? Once person can make a difference!

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