Central Park Boss Will Consider Activists’ Dream of Safe Cross-Park Routes

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver gave activists some hope this week.
Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver gave activists some hope this week.

We’re on his map!

Parks Commissioner Mitchell Silver told activists this week that he and his agency “absolutely agree” that there need to be more safe routes for cyclists through Central Park — which only has one bike-only path between the East and West sides of Manhattan.

“Bicycle and pedestrian safety in our city’s parks is extremely important,” Silver wrote to Streetopia UWS late last month in response to its sustained advocacy for better routes through the park — a campaign that picked up the worst kind of urgency after the 2019 death of Citi Bike rider Daniel Cammerman, who was killed by a bus driver when he used one of the park’s transverse roadways because there was no other way across the park.

Signs like these are all over Central Park, indicating that cyclists and pedestrians must share a narrow path. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman
Signs like these indicate that cyclists and pedestrians must share a narrow path.

“Urban cycling is a welcomed necessity for transportation, health and the environment,” Silver added. “We recognize the compelling goals of the work to achieve sound and effective solutions, including well-maintained and marked paths … to allow for safe travel for all within the park.”

The letter is welcome news to advocates, who were surprised in January when Silver told Streetsblog that no one had ever pointed out the urgency about safe cycling routes across the park. (No one?)

“This is the first I have been asked that question,” Silver said at the time. “I am very open to looking at a way that we can create those safe passages. … When I get back [to the office] today, I’ll take a look at the map to see if there is a way to do it safely across the park.”

The comment flew in the face of years of advocacy that Streetsblog enumerated (it was a long list). But in any event, Silver’s letter suggested that he did, indeed, look at the map and pull out Streetopia’s prior letters, videos and reports.

“Parks looks forward to meeting with cycling advocates, DOT and the Central Park Conservancy altogether in March or April to continue the conversation,” Silver said.

Streetopia Executive Director Lisa Orman was optimistic.

“We are thrilled to receive this correspondence from Mitchell Silver and eagerly await the opportunity to meet with his team, CPC, and other advocates to address our safety concerns,” said Orman, whose group showed up the Parks Department with a ride late last year that featured several people dressed in Sherlock Holmes costumes in an effort to sleuth out the non-existent safe routes through the park.

“Central Park is a glorious park and one that should inspire and beckon visitors,” Orman added. “It shouldn’t act as an impediment to safe cycling or our goals for a complete, convenient bike network. Working together, I’m confident we can solve this issue.”

cammerman ghost bike
The ghost bike of Daniel Cammerman. Photo: Gersh Kuntzman

If nothing else, Orman’s December ride demonstrated that challenge of getting across the park without using one of the deadly transverses, which are the exclusive domain of cars and buses. There is a shared path across the park at 96th Street, but it is hilly and has steps. Plus, it is a popular pedestrian route across the park and, as everyone knows from riding or walking across the bridge, narrow shared paths don’t work for any user.