It is also the least bike friendly.
Cyclists have made some healthy progress; the opening of the Clove Road bike lane last year was a major victory. But generally, Staten Islanders are known to be very anti-bike. The roads tend to be narrow, and drivers are resentful of sharing. I know people who’ve had bottles thrown at them in Staten Island - just because they were on a bike.
But Staten Island is headed for some big changes.
As most New Yorkers know, ground has been broken on Staten Island for a ferris wheel which is slated to be 200 ft taller than the London Eye (below):
This is gonna be big. And it opens up huge potential for cyclists too. How?
Picture this: a 7-mile greenway starting from the Wheel, that hugs the coast of Staten Island, and winds around to the north before turning inland through Port Richmond, ending just 4 miles from the Staten Island Green Belt and Park.
It would not only provide great riding opportunities for tourists - it’s a natural to want to continue exploration of the island once you’re here - and a Citibike station is already at the terminal. But beyond that, such a route would give something back to Staten Islanders: an easy and scenic commute to the Ferry. It would get bikes off Richmond Terrace Road - the Island’s narrow main drag - and by bringing economic interest to currently depressed areas, virtually pay for itself. So who’s going to spring for such bold infrastructure?
Guess what? It’s already there.
It’s the abandoned B&O Railroad tracks whose road beds, like the High Line, await just such a transformation. The right of way is owned by the MTA (that's us). Staten Island has said they can’t afford light rail here. And they already have a bus on Richmond Terrace Road. A greenway is a no-brainer (or so it seems to us as cyclists).
But you have to have vision. That’s what 5BBC leader Ed DeFreitas has. He’s leading a tour to show the potential of such a greenway on these tracks. As soon as I hear about this tour, I sign up to go.
We start from the 2nd floor of the St. George Terminal, and make our way down to ground level.
We ride on to Snug Harbor where the tracks continue.
Check it out. Behind this Mobile Station...
And don't forget: these tracks were built for freight.
At Port Richmond Avenue we meet the Hi-Line again. This time with an intact station...
We wend our way around the neighborhood to where the Bayonne Bridge (currently under renovation, but to include a generous bike lane from what we hear) is off to our left.
On either side of the Bridge, the track goes into a "Cut," which continues on the other side.
It's been done before.
According to Ed, there are plenty of examples from the Rails to Trails Society where people safely run, walk, bike, etc. on a protected path along side the tracks. And, since Fresh Kills is only 4 miles away...
We begin see this as not only an extension of the New York Wheel project - but as part of a larger component for the park system in Staten Island.
To us the development of the greenway is a no-brainer. How far the MTA is willing to take it beyond that, will doubtless depend on the continued activism of cyclists like us. But one thing seems clear to Ed.
“This wasted City asset's time has come,” he says.
It just takes vision.