The High Bridge Trail

The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park
The High Bridge, as seen from the High Bridge path in High Bridge Park

The High Bridge, officially known as the Aqueduct Bridge, was originally used to bring water onto Manhattan Island from the Croton River. Construction began in 1837 and was completed in 1848. The bridge had the appearance of a Roman stone, arched aqueduct. In 1928, the bridge was rebuilt using steel construction that worked well for quite a few years, but since the 1970s, the bridge has been closed to all traffic. New York City is working on changing that as part of an effort to create a network of trails and paths for biking, jogging and walking.

So far, the renovation looks good. It’s not done yet, by a long shot. My wife and I went down the long flight of steps from High Bridge Park in Washington Heights to take a look around. The trail is closed and all we could see was the very entrance to the bridge. We decided to check out the trail, which is well done. It’s wide, new, offers some interesting views, and opens onto either Amsterdam or Edgecombe Avenue.

The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.
The remnants of a party that looks to have gone terribly wrong.

There is also a dirt trail that you can walk on. At first, it narrows down to little more than a well-worn deer path, but then it opens up into something that looks like the city is maintaining it. There were a lot of people walking through there, mostly with dogs and their kids, but it looks like it could be a pretty spooky and dangerous place at night. We saw remnants of wild parties, and there was a kid just hanging around by the entrance of the path (where it opens onto Edgecombe near 155th) with a mobile phone in his hand. He had a I’m-the-lookout-for-my-robber-friends kind of vibe, so I kept my eyes open.

I wonder if the city is planning on paving that section and extending it through the deer-trail portion so it connects with the rest of the paved High Bridge trail that will lead over the bridge into the Bronx? I’m also curious as to how this section of bike/jogging/walking paths will hook up to the rest of the path system in Manhattan, because at the bottom end of Edgecombe, the only sign I saw that might be part of the paths seemed to double back to the north along Harlem River Driveway towards Harlem River Drive. Maybe one day I’ll go down there and see if there’s a way to double back again and head south along the river.

I really need to get a bike. It would make exploration faster. There’s so much to see in New York City that I doubt I could ever see it all just by walking.

Sharing Sidewalks

About a year ago when I first moved here I saw some advertisements about an initiative that the Tampines Town Council was starting that would allow bicyclists to share the sidewalk with pedestrians.

To the point of being a cliche, it’s common knowledge that in Asia, bicycles are used as a major form of transportation, regardless of income level, since it’s fast, convenient, doesn’t require gas, and you can get to places on your bicycle that you can’t get to in your car.  For example, you could ride up to the convenience store and park right outside it, rather than try to find a parking lot and walk to the convenience store.  Singapore is designed in a way that it looks like Atlanta, but has roads and parking areas like a big city.  Often you’ll find areas with no parking lots, meaning you have to drive quite a ways from your intended destination to find a parking garage and then walk the rest of the way.  In my mind that defeats the purpose.

The legalization of riding bicycles on sidewalks has been widely adopted in Singapore, so the test run must have met with positive results.  I think it’s a fantastic idea.  When I was younger and lived in New York City for a while, my mom told me that it was actually illegal to ride bicycles on the sidewalk there.  I was shocked then and I’m still shocked now.  I can’t imagine riding a bicycle in the city streets in New York.  The traffic isn’t as bad here, but still, who wants to share a lane with a double-decker bus or a semi-truck?

To further improve the city for bicycle use, many areas have had bike paths built alongside the sidewalks.  This makes it possible for cyclists to travel faster, since they have a dedicated lane just for them.  It also makes pedestrians feel safer, since they don’t have to constantly peer over their shoulder for oncoming bicycles.  Bicycles are supposed to all have bells on them, and riders are supposed to use them to alert pedestrians that they’re coming but it doesn’t always happen.

So, here’s where the problem comes in. The city has legalized the use of bicycles on sidewalks, and even made special paths for them, but people don’t seem to want to use them. What I mean is, even though there’s a bike path that parallels the sidewalk, riders often use the pedestrian sidewalk anyways. To make it worse they often don’t use their bells and then get angry when pedestrians don’t move out of their way. On one occasion a rider almost hit my wife with a bicycle, in the area seen in the picture above. I chewed him out and told him he had no right to be on the pedestrian sidewalk anyways, and asked him if he was blind, since the bicycle path is clearly right next to the sidewalk and is marked with big yellow bicycle symbols. On the other hand, I often see pedestrians walking on the bicycle paths. I also see cyclists still riding in the streets, disrupting traffic.

It seems like it would be obvious to people that they should use the appropriate areas for walking and riding, but it just doesn’t happen that way.  Is it a case of “I’m always right” or simply laziness?