Protect the path

The terrorist’s trashed rental truck on West St. on Wednesday morning after the deadly attack on the bike path. Photo by Milo Hess

Tuesday, we saw terror return to Lower Manhattan in the worst such attack in New York since 9/11. Eight people were killed and 12 more injured by a radical Islamic, ISIS-loving terrorist driving a rented flatbed truck.

Many of those slain were tourists, including five from Argentina, plus one from Belgium. Three other Belgians were injured.

Also among the dead was LREI alumnus Nicholas Cleves, Class of ’12. Cleves, 23, attended the Little Red School House and Elisabeth Irwin High School from kindergarten through 12th grade. The young software engineer, who lived in the Archive building, at Greenwich and Christopher Sts., was the only New Yorker killed in the attack. Luckily the terrorist struck at 3 p.m. on a weekday, or the carnage would have been far worse.

We’ve seen vehicular terrorism cut its path of death and destruction across Europe. More recently, in Charlottesville, a white supremacist gunned his car into anti-racist counterprotesters, killing a young woman, which was deemed domestic terrorism by Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

As usual, New Yorkers reacted with resilience and determination. Tens of thousands came out to enjoy the Annual Village Halloween Parade.

But the question of keeping the Hudson River bikeway — one of the nation’s most heavily used — safe remains. Nearly 11 years ago, a drunk driver leaving a party at Chelsea Piers drove down the bike path and killed Eric Ng, a 22-year-old N.Y.U. graduate, as he biked near W. Houston St.

As The Villager reported then, “…[T]he fact that a drunken driver so easily was able to get on the protected bike path — with fatal consequences — has heightened concerns to the point where something, at last, may now be done to correct the situation. Currently, the only physical barriers to keep car drivers from driving on the path are yellow pylons screwed into the center of the path at spots such as just south of Chelsea Piers and at W. Houston St., near the entrance to Pier 40. …”

As for why the bollards could bend, allowing vehicles to drive over them, Doug Currey, then-state Department of Transportation regional director, told The Villager it was to allow snowplows to clear the path in winter. Plus, fixed poles could present a hazard to bikers, The Villager noted.

“There’s always a trade-off,” he said. “Look at the potential impact to thousands of riders [versus] the occasional drunkard who goes on the path.”

But now we have a much bigger problem. The terrorist drove right onto the path at Houston St.

A Hudson River Park Trust spokesperson said it will be up to state D.O.T. to decide what, if any, safety improvements can be made to the bikeway.

In a Daily News article posted online as we were writing this editorial, Paul Steely White, director of Transportation Alternatives, calls for installing “barrier posts” on the path.

“We need to start seriously considering strategic restriction of vehicle access in areas that are particularly vulnerable, teeming with pedestrians and cyclists,” White said. “There’s a dozen major intersections where vehicles can enter the greenway.”

Yes, hard (but removable, movable or somehow operable) bollards will make the path more inconvenient for park maintenance staff and Park Enforcement Patrol officers who drive on it daily — but what’s the alternative?

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal also both reported on the fact that the bike path, without an upgrade in protection, is dangerously vulnerable to cars. The Times noted that T.A. feels the bollards could lower into the ground to allow vehicles that should be on the path to pass over them.

We look forward to D.O.T.’s plan.

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