By Stacy Driks
Imagine a place where cyclists, hikers and runners can feel safe walking down a recreational trail for a safe Riverdale commute.
About a decade ago there was such a place called the East Coast Greenway, an urban Appalachian Trail that runs from Maine to Florida. According to Joan Kaufman, resident of 3800 Waldo Gardens, this trail was unpaved.
When Manhattan College established Kelly Commons eight years ago, there was an agreement between the college and the Greenway Alliance for coexistence. It was made to bring people together for a recreation area – to bring people from one side of the country to the other.
The non-profit East Coast Greenway Alliance has created a trail network. It was followed by Empire State Trails, a 2017 initiative by former Gov. Andrew Cuomo that was completed by 2020.
Its purpose was similar to promote a healthy lifestyle for the community and encourage a healthy lifestyle to walk or bike to commute along a trail that stretches 750 miles and stretches from New York City along the side of the Erie- Canal and the Champlain Valley begins.
But during and after COVID-19, the use of the trail has changed.
“The question is about motorized vehicles — that’s a different question,” said Dart Westphal, a professor of environmental studies at Manhattan College. The focus was on the ban on internal combustion engines – no motorcycles etc.
“Riding an e-bike on the greenway is generally acceptable as long as cyclists are not speeding and follow all standard trail etiquette rules, such as: B. safe overtaking,” added Westphal.
The scenic short trail before Kelly Commons has disrupted the trail’s original purpose. Kaufman and the Waldo Gardens building authority are concerned about easy access for couriers along the way who are too quick.
“I haven’t been here that long, but they (mopeds) can get really close,” said Jonathan Diaz.
Diaz is a freshman at Manhattan College who has witnessed several incidents of mopeds whizzing past him.
A moped can go as fast as a moving car, up to 30 miles per hour, which could injure pedestrians. According to the state motor vehicle agency, class A, B and C mopeds are only allowed to drive in lanes, some are only allowed to drive on the right-hand side.
“It’s safer than driving on Broadway,” said Margaret Groarke, a professor of political science at Manhattan College. “Many of our streets don’t have bike lanes, but that means that this relatively narrow lane, intended for recreational walking, is used for mopeds.”
The trail serves as a shortcut to Broadway and Riverdale Avenue. Without this path, couriers would have to go down West 231st Street and Riverdale Avenue to get around Irwin Avenue.
“If you want to order something, how is a delivery person supposed to get there? You have to come up this road,” Groarke said.
Groarke and Kaufman have either experienced or know someone who has experienced the trauma of an accident involving a vehicle.
“We order food from them,” Groarke says of the moped riders. “Do you want them to have a safe way to get to your house? I don’t want them killed for delivering my dinner.”
Although board members at Waldo Gardens want pedestrians and moped riders to coexist, Kaufman believes this is impossible without restrictions.
“This letter relates to an ongoing discussion my office has had with the Bronx DOT regarding a signage request,” Rep. Jeffrey Dinowitz said in a letter to Keith Kalb, the Bronx’s interim DOT commissioner.
Kaufman brought this to the attention of the congressman’s office during the summer break, citing the college’s alleged failure to respond to their inquiries.
Meanwhile, the DOT denied Dinowitz’s application because the agency does not have an existing sign preventing mopeds from entering its streets.
The department sent its traffic control study analysts to the intersection of Irwin Avenue and West 240th Street.
“Based on analysis of the data collected, we believe that a signal or an all-way stop sign does not provide the maximum safety benefits to address the concerns you (building management) have reported,” Kalb said.
That email gave no hope to residents who once loved walking this path. They claim that when the college complains or interferes, its judgment has more power than its words.
Since the fall session for Manhattan College has begun and more and more students are entering the campus, it has become difficult for drivers to weave around the students.
The Riverdale Press saw two motorists going parallel southbound, taking about a third of the way. After stopping, the driver admitted that the route was easier for them to navigate and that they were driving quite slowly.
Alex Rodriguez, a sophomore, walks around with his AirPods all the time while coming down this trail. He believes that drivers are successfully driving at low speeds.
“You’re probably more aware than I am,” Rodriguez said. “Coming from the Bronx, I have experience with overspeeding drivers, but I think they are cautious.”
When students write, chat, or read while walking in a crowd, it’s not as easy to see a vehicle rushes behind them.
“Manhattan College Facilities and Public Safety, in partnership with the 50th District, will study and develop a practical solution that will keep everyone safe,” said David Koeppel, director of media relations and strategic communications.