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Report on Safety Issues with Motorgate Helix Ramp

Frank Farance, dated: 2015-09-07


On July 13, 2015, there was an accident on the Motorgate Helix Ramp involving a motorist and a
cyclist. The cyclist suffered a broken leg and, as reported to me, he was in a severe amount of pain.
As reported to me, the cyclist and motorist were traveling uphill and the motorist clipped the cyclist.
On July 14, 2015, the Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) 1 Public Safety Committee (PSC)
met and discussed the accident. Present at the meeting included staff from Roosevelt Island Operating
Corporation (RIOC) 2 Public Safety Department (PSD). 3 At that meeting, there was a belief that cyclists
on the Helix Ramp posed a safety issue and they should be prohibited from the Helix Ramp. In the
discussion, it was noted that wheelchairs (both motorized and non-motorized) use the ramp.
At that meeting there was an interest in prohibiting cyclists and wheelchairs from the ramp. There was
a sense that if there were going to be such a prohibition, that the wording needed to be expressed in
resolution language (using Whereas and Therefore clauses), and it needed to be refined in terms of
reasoning, rationale, and regulatory language. I volunteered to research and write proposed resolution
wording, over two months, I and others in the RIRA PSC have had extended discussions on this topic,
which I appreciate. I also appreciate the numerous conversations with RIOC and RIOC-PSD staff,
which helped me understand the problem better, and the potential solutions to the safety problem.
Presently, the RIRA PSC committee has agreed to a resolution "that all bicycles, wheelchairs, and
scooters be banned from the helix ramp" (see attached). This resolution is being forwarded to the
RIRA Common Council 4 for approval.
I disagree with the approach, as resolved by RIRA PSC. In particular, there are several ways to
continue to allow cyclists to transit the Helix Ramp and improve cyclists' safety, i.e., at present, there is
no need to prohibit cyclists from the Helix Ramp. Since the July 14 meeting, there has been a much
better understanding of how cyclists use the Helix Ramp, how motorists interact with cyclists, and the
potential alternatives for cyclists transiting between street level and bridge level of the Roosevelt Island
Bridge.

Summary of Safety Concerns


In summary, I believe there are three main safety concerns 5 that interact to create a safety issue: 6

Safety Concern #1: Motorists travel too close to the side of cyclists. Motorists typically pass
cyclists on the Helix Ramp, both down-bound and especially up-bound. The width of the Helix

RIRA is an elected body that represents the interests of the residents. Considering that Roosevelt Island is
leased New York State and operated by New York State, RIRA (in its relationship to RIOC) also serves a role
similar to a New York City community board, See "http://riraoneline.com". Note Roosevelt Island is part of
Manhattan Community Board 8 (CB8M), which also represents Roosevelt Island.
2 RIOC is a New York State public authority that operates and administers Roosevelt Island, which is leased
through 2068 from New York City to New York State. See " http://rioc.ny.gov"
3 Local law enforcement, uniformed peace officers, see "http://rioc.ny.gov/psd.htm"
4 The Common Council is the governing body of the RIRA corporation.
5 For the purposes of this report, a "safety concern" is an area of interest about danger or risk to humans.
6 For the purposes of this report, a "safety issue" is a safety concern that rises to the level of requiring mitigation
of the concern.

Ramp is (nominally) 32 feet wide, but with additional clearance required for vehicle turning radii,
effectively this creates no room for cyclists on the side.

Safety Concern #2: Motorists travel too closely behind cyclists. Automobile operators, both in
Driver Education and Defensive Driving Classes, are trained to maintain one car-length
separation (approximately 15 feet) per every 10 MPH of speed. The Helix Ramp, has a speed
limit of 10 MPH, which corresponds to 50 feet braking distance. 7 Thus, with a cyclist falling, 8 a
separation of 15 feet (one car length) would not be enough time and distance for the car to
decelerate and, possibly, hitting the cyclist. 9

Safety Concern #3: Lack of evasive maneuvering for both motorist and cyclist. For motorists,
the lane to the left of them is opposing traffic, which offers no room for evasive maneuvers
motorists. For cyclists, a protected bicycle path or sidewalk are unavailable, which offers no
room for evasive maneuvers for cyclists.

Summary of Recommendations

Adding signage to Helix requiring single lane usage: adding a Do Not Pass sign, and a Bikes
May Use Full Lane sign.
Adding signage to Helix requiring separation of cars and cyclists: Cars/Trucks Must Maintain 50
Foot Separation Behind Cyclists on Ramp
Education and Alternate Route Signage
Investigate Traffic Patterns for Whole Helix Structure (top, ramp, and bottom 3-way
intersection), including pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, and wheelchairs
Investigate Traffic Light System, providing priority cycle for cyclists to transit helix ramp, and
providing long-trucks priority cycle so they have exclusive use of the roadway (no ongoing
traffic)

Perception Issues Arriving at the Helix Ramp


The Motorgate area, including Helix Ramp, is an open, airy space, especially when approached from
the Queens side (coming westbound), but also at street level, with its visually open space (see photo
from Google Maps).
7

Based upon 1 second recognition time, 1 second reaction time, and 15 feet/second deceleration. The braking
distance of 50 feet is consistent with the braking distances in the 2009 MUCTD.
8 Effectively, the cyclist instantaneously decelerates to zero.
9 The inconsistency of one car-length (15 feet) versus braking distance (50 feet), I believe, arises from the nature
of the guidance driver education itself: one car-length is for highway driving and following other cars, which don't
decelerate instantaneously, i.e., the car in front has its own braking distance.

Even the approaches to the Helix Ramp give the perception of wide street lanes (photos from Google
Maps):

However, a better depiction of the traffic condition encountered by motorists and cyclists would be the
2-way Lincoln Tunnel tube (albeit at slower speeds), with no side clearance, and lack of evasive
maneuvering (photo by limaoscarjuliet @ Flickr):

Turning Radii for Various Types of Vehicles


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Vehicle types are based upon "A Policy On Geometric Design of Highways and Streets", published by
the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the standard for
highway design.
Based upon AASHTO vehicle types, I considered the following vehicle types:

passenger car (P)


single-unit truck (SU)
city transit bus (CITY-BUS)
large school bus (S-BUS-40)
intermediate semitrailer (WB-40)
intermediate semitrailer (WB-50)
interstate semitrailer (WB-62, also known as "48-foot" trailer)
interstate semitrailer (WB-67, also known as "53-foot" trailer)

These kinds of vehicles are commonplace on the Helix Ramp. I did not include boat trailers, articulating
buses, intercity buses (e.g., Greyhound coaches), and tandem trailers because they are occur rarely or
are already prohibited on the roadway.
AASHTO provides minimum turning radii for each kind of vehicle. For example, for the WB-67 has a
minimum turning radius of 4.4 feet of its inner rear wheel, and a maximum radius of 46.4 feet. This
requires a roadway width of approximately 42 feet (swept path width). The following sample diagrams
are from this policy document:
Passenger Car

Single Unit Truck

City Transit Bus

Large School Bus

Intermediate Semitrailer (33-foot trailer)

Intermediate Semitrailer (43-foot trailer)

Interstate Semitrailer (48-foot trailer)

Interstate Semitrailer (53-foot trailer)

Calculating a Vehicle's Swept Path and Vehicle Path Conflicts


Each vehicle type produces a Swept Path, which is the area the vehicle covers during its turns. The
Swept Path also includes not just the wheel coverage but also the outside boundaries of the body, cab,
and trailer of the vehicle, e.g., semitrailers have addition overhang as the cab extends further than the
outer front wheel.
It is this swept path that determines if a vehicle will be able to navigate the turns and width of the Helix
Ramp, and it is other vehicles' swept paths that determine if there will be a conflict, e.g., two vehicles
would hit each other, or not be able to pass.
Thus, effectively, the 32-foot width of the Helix Ramp roadway for a 8.5-foot wide semitrailer, becomes
a very very narrow roadway with the kinds of turns experienced on the Helix Ramp: for a 53-foot trailer,
it uses ALL of the 32 feet for making its turns and, thus, a vehicle like a 53-foot trailer consumes an
extra 23.5 of roadway width. The photo below shows the very very tight curb-side clearance of the
Q102 bus making its turns down-bound. Up-bound buses have similar problems. Cement trucks have
tight clearance, too.

Calculating Effective Lane Width on Helix Ramp


The Bicycle Stress methodology and calculations (see below) are based upon straight roadways. The
following approach is used to calculate an effective width for vehicles on turns. As an illustration, let's
say a roadway was 16 feet wide (in fact, the Helix Ramp lanes are nominally 16 feet wide). A
passenger car at 7 feet would leave a clearance of 9 feet. However, a passenger car would take up to
(approx.) 11 feet in its turning, which is 4 feet more than normal straight driving, i.e., the vehicle's
effective with is its Swept Path Width. But the Bicycle Curb Lane Stress calculations are based upon
lane width, not vehicle width. Instead of adding the 4 feet to get the effective vehicle width (from 7 feet
to 11 feet during turning), we subtract the 4 feet to get the effective lane width (from 16 feet reduced to
12 feet). With either calculation, the results are the same (5 feet of clearance, either 16 minus 11, or 12
minus 7), but the latter calculation (effective lane width) allow the numbers to be framed in terms of the
Bicycle Curb Lane Width.

Vehicle
Type

Passenger-P
Single Truck-SU
CITY-BUS
School S-BUS-40
WB-40 (33-foot)
WB-50 (43-foot)
WB-62 (48-foot)
WB-67 (53-foot)

Vehicle
Width

Minimum
Inside
Turn
Radius

Maximum
Outside
Turn
Radius

Swept
Path
Width

Increase
Over
Straight
-Line
Width

Extra
Width
Adjusted
For
Helix

Effective
Vehicle
Width
Adj. For
Helix

Effective
Lane
Width
Adj. For
Helix

7.0
8.0
8.5
8.0
8.0
8.5
8.5
8.5

14.4
28.3
24.5
25.4
19.3
17.0
7.9
4.4

25.5
43.5
45.4
42.8
40.8
45.7
46.4
46.4

11.1
15.2
20.9
17.4
21.5
28.7
38.5
42.0

4.1
7.2
12.4
9.4
13.5
20.2
30.0
33.5

2.8
5.0
8.6
6.5
9.3
13.9
20.7
23.1

9.8
13.0
17.1
14.5
17.3
22.4
29.2
31.6

13.2
11.0
7.4
9.5
6.7
2.1
-4.7
-7.1

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The columns are, using a Passenger-P vehicle's numbers as an illustration, all numbers in Feet:
7.0 = the width of the vehicle
14.4 = minimum inside turning radius
25.5 = maximum outside turning radius, including overhang
11.1 = 25.5-14.4, swept path width
4.1 = 11.1-7.0, increase over straight-line width, which means that a 7-foot wide car will require
addition 4.1 feet of roadway width for the turn
2.8 = 4.1 * (32/46.4) the extra width, as adjusted for the Helix Ramp
9.8 = 7+2.8, the effective width of the vehicle, adjusted for the Helix Ramp
13.2 = 16-2.8, the effective width of the vehicle, adjusted for the Helix Ramp
The adjustment factor (32/46.4) transforms the extra widths required from the theoretical sharpest
turns, to the slightly shallower turn on the Motorgate Helix.
As presented above, the WB-67 has a minimum turning radius of 4.4 feet of its inner rear wheel, and a
maximum radius of 46.4 feet. This requires a roadway width of approximately 42 feet (swept path width
= 46.4 - 4.4). However, the Helix Ramp has an inside radius of 40.6 feet, which means there is a little
more clearance for long trucks, but the 53-foot trailers completely block the Helix Ramp, and need the
full width side-to-side. While this would be formally calculated via a Swept Path width simulation and
analysis on a CAD system, I have used an approximation by taking the maximum width, 53-foot turn
and proportionally adjusting it: proportionally adjusting the swept path width with a factor 32 (the width
of the Helix Ramp roadway) divided by 46.4 the maximum radius of the largest truck accommodated on
the ramp. As I mentioned, a more accurate number would be derived from the Swept Path simulation
and analysis CAD tool.
The above table highlights several important calculations:
The third to last column shows the extra width required for each type vehicle, as adjusted for the
Helix.
The second to last column shows the effective vehicle width of each type. The vehicles are
over 16 feet in effective width are the ones that cross the Helix Ramp centerline during turns
(which matches actual experience).
The last column shows the effective lane width of each type. The highlighted numbers (11 and
less) correspond to Curb Lane Width stress levels of 4-5, which correspond to experienced or
expert cyclist's skills.
The above calculations are confirmed by actual experience: City buses are barely able to pass each
other on the ramp and only near the straight sections (17.1 > 16 feet), and the same is true for the
smaller tractor trailer combinations. However, the larger tractor trailer combinations (WB-50, WB-62,
WB-67) require an escort from local law enforcement (RIOC's Public Safety Department) and
exclusive use of the Helix because they use most/all the width of the roadway.

Calculating Cyclist Stress Level


The New York City Master Bike Plan (1997) included a section on calculating stress level for bike paths
that use roadways. 10 It is important to understand this methodology because roadways might be
10

See "http://www.nyc.gov/html/dcp/pdf/bike/apendc.pdf", Appendix C: Stress Level Methodology for Evaluating


Bicycle-Compatible Roadways

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acceptable to motorists, but not acceptable to cyclists. The stress methodology partitions observations
into five strata, and coded with the numerals 1 to 5, 11 each corresponding to a stress level and a
corresponding skill level.

For curb lane width, the following widths correspond to the stress and experience levels above:

For the Helix Ramp, the right lane is the Curb Lane. Because the Helix Ramp has an effective width of
less than 10 feet (see rightmost column in calculations), the stress level is 5 and, thus, requires expert
level skills.
Or said differently, if the Helix Ramp were only passenger cars, then a lower Curb Lane Width stress
level might be attributed. But with trucks and buses, the stress level is certainly a 5.

Combining, Averaging, or Maximizing Stress Levels


The NYC Bike Stress Methodology includes two other calculations in Appendix C: Curb Lane Traffic
Volume Stress Level, and Vehicle Speed Stress Level. I have not calculated these levels simply
11 It is important to recognize that although numerals were used in labeling partitions in the observations, these
numerals do not correspond to numbers, so it does not make sense to perform arithmetic with them (e.g.,
averaging). Thus, it makes no sense to talk about the statistical mean (average), but there might be a statistical
median, and the statistical mode might have more interest.

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because an Expert (highest) level is required by one indicator, so there is no need to calculate the
others. Although the NYC Bike Stress Methodology does not specify how the three stress levels are to
be combined, I believe they are independent and can stand on their own. Specifically with safety
methodology and safety policy, if one Red Light indicator tells you Danger Is Present, the remaining
Green Light indicators don't nullify (or average out) the Red Light's alarm.
Thus, from a safety policy and operations perspective, the stress level is the maximum (not average) of
the indicators. Since one indicator is at the maximum value (5), the calculated result must also be the
maximum value (5), i.e., high stress, expert skill required. 12

Motorists Traveling Too Closely


As mentioned above, motorists travel too closely to cyclists, and they should travel further behind. The
following scenario was observed many times (including RIOC and PSD observations) with children's
cyclist training on Roosevelt Island, 13 and in some cases, children on bicycles were in the mix of
cement trucks. In the illustration below, the white car is behind the cyclists and not rushing them, but
the white car is traveling too closely. Had one of the three cyclists fell, the white car would have
continued and traveled through the three cyclists because the white car's breaking distance is longer
than the furthest of the three cyclists.

12 If there were an accident and it were litigated, the plaintiff's expert would certainly make this kind of argument.
Also, a parent might argue the same point on moral grounds: "You're aware of a Double Diamonds, Experts Only
safety problem for cyclists and you did nothing about it?".
13 I have attempted to contact Bike New York several times to address this safety and training issue, including
their instructors, but they have been unresponsive.

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Decrease Helix Ramp Speed to 5 MPH?


In researching this, some people asked: What If The Speed Limit Were Reduced to 5 MPH? Answer:
still there would be problems because motorists are still traveling too closely (so cyclists would still be
hit by the car), and the problem would be further compounded by a traffic throughput reduced to onehalf its present volume, which would create further congestion and a new set of problems.

Paint Double Yellow Line on Helix Ramp?


Of course, this needs to be painted, but this was not the cause of the accident, and motorists were not
observed driving in the wrong lane. There might signage at the top of the ramp that points to two-way
traffic, but this might be more obvious if RIOC had also maintained the line-striping on the bridge-level
deck.

Human Performance Factors on Up-Bound Cyclists


In my observations, an overwhelming majority of cyclists had some difficulty maintain appropriate uphill
speed. Cyclists were observed making S-turns to lengthen their linear travel to downshift, cyclists were
observed losing stability as the bike speed slowed almost to zero. Also observed was: the cyclists
"pooped out" at about the same spot on the Helix, within feet past the first turn uphill (just at the point
where the Helix Ramp is uncovered). The result is that cyclists will need even more lane space to
maintain stability. This can be addressed via signage, e.g., suggesting low gear before starting the
ascent.

Had a car been behind the cyclists, the cyclist might have been hit by the car, due to the instability in
the ascent and close spacing between car and cyclist.

Pedestrians and Wheelchairs (Motorized or Not) Are Already Prohibited

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Wheelchairs are not bicycles. Wheelchairs, motorized or not, are assitive technology for pedestrians.
Pedestrians are only permitted on roadways for the purpose of crossing a roadway, and they must
cross at an intersection, and if the intersection has a crosswalk, they must use the crosswalk. Thus,
the only place pedestrians (including wheelchairs, scooters, etc.) are permitted on the Helix Ramp is at
the crosswalk at its base, and only for the purpose of crossing the intersection.
Regardless, pedestrians (and wheelchairs) need to be reminded not to use the Helix Ramp. In the
photo below, two pedestrians start walking up the Helix Ramp.

Alternate Routes for Cyclists


Three possible routes were studied to transit between bridge and street levels.

Use the Motorgate South Elevators. The elevators might be broken, the bicycle might not fit in
the elevator (such as tandems and children's carriers), it is impractical for a large number of
cyclists (i.e., more than two).
Use the Stairs in the Motorgate Atrium. This requires a fair amount of upper body strength and
can be dangerous if the bicycle falls over the railing onto people below.
Use the Motorgate Aisles to Transit to Street Level. This is a potential solution, which would
involve a designated bike path from bridge to street level, include shallower inclines than the
Helix Ramp. The path might follow: aisle 4D to end, then left to aisle 4A, turn right to north end,
and spiral down (4B, 3A, 3B, 2A, 2B) to 1A and exit at street level. This path takes about 3-6
minutes to traverse, and it would be consistent with other "traffic" within Motorgate (motorcycles,
wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, pedestrians, shopping carts, little red wagons, and other
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bicycles), however this requires further study and planning to determine safety and feasibility,
and it requires RIOC to allow these cyclists to transit Motorgate (essentially, an easement).
Unfortunately, at present, none of these alternate routes are practical for cyclists. This weekend, one of
the Motorgate elevators was out of service.

City Planning Department, Western Queens Transportation Study


In 2014, the City's Planning Department did a study on Western Queens, and included various
improvements for Roosevelt Island:

Adding a 2-way bike lane on the north side of 36 Avenue from 21 Street to Vernon Blvd.
Reconfiguring the Roosevelt Island Bridge to have a 2-way bike lane on the north side of the
bridge.
The 2-way bike lane would dump the cyclists into the Motorgate Atrium,, when a multi-purpose
escalator would take them to ground level.

The following pictures show their planning suggestions:

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17

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Replace Motorgate Atrium Escalators with Multi-Purpose Stairs


Another possibility is to replace the derelict escalators with a multi-purpose stairs. This might avoid the
expensive demolition of the escalators' concrete structure, and make use of it as a multi-purpose stairs,
that would allow cyclists to transit quickly and with more safety.

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Adding Signage to Helix Ramp


The following signage is recommended: (1) a Do Not Pass sign, (2) a Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign
and (3) a sign "Motorists Keep 50-Foot Separation Behind Cyclists On This Ramp".
The Do Not Pass sign, R4-1, is described in the MUTCD:

Section 2B.28 Do Not Pass Sign (R4-1)


Option:
01 The Do Not Pass (R4-1) sign (see Figure 2B-10) may be used in addition to pavement
markings (see Section 3B.02) to emphasize the restriction on passing. The Do Not Pass sign
may be used at the beginning of, and at intervals within, a zone through which sight distance is
restricted or where other conditions make overtaking and passing inappropriate.
02 If signing is needed on the left-hand side of the roadway for additional emphasis, NO
PASSING ZONE (W14-3) signs may be used (see Section 2C.45).
The Bikes May Use Full Lane sign, R4-11, is described in the MUTCD:
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Section 9B.06 Bicycles May Use Full Lane Sign (R4-11)


Option:
01 The Bicycles May Use Full Lane (R4-11) sign (see Figure 9B-2) may be used on roadways
where no bicycle lanes or adjacent shoulders usable by bicyclists are present and where travel
lanes are too narrow for bicyclists and motor vehicles to operate side by side.
02 The Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign may be used in locations where it is important to inform
road users that bicyclists might occupy the travel lane.
03 Section 9C.07 describes a Shared Lane Marking that may be used in addition to or instead
of the Bicycles May Use Full Lane sign to inform road users that bicyclists might occupy the
travel lane.
Support:
04 The Uniform Vehicle Code (UVC) defines a substandard width lane as a lane that is too
narrow for a bicycle and a vehicle to travel safely side by side within the same lane.
It is important to note this implications for motorists, as highlighted above.
Optionally, if it is observed that cyclists are riding the wrong way down the Helix Ramp, the following
signage might be used in the reverse lane:

x
Section 9B.07 Bicycle Wrong Way Sign and RIDE WITH TRAFFIC Plaque (R5-1b, R9-3cP)
Option:
01 The Bicycle WRONG WAY (R5-1b) sign and RIDE WITH TRAFFIC (R9-3cP) plaque (see
Figure 9B-2) may be placed facing wrong-way bicycle traffic, such as on the left side of a
roadway.
02 This sign and plaque may be mounted back-to-back with other signs to minimize visibility to
other traffic.
Guidance:
03 The RIDE WITH TRAFFIC plaque should be used only in conjunction with the Bicycle
WRONG WAY sign, and should be mounted directly below the Bicycle WRONG WAY sign.
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Note: In New York City, the State requirement for cyclists maintain the right side of the lane (section
1234) is overridden by City law (Section 4.02), which explicitly allows the cyclist to choose the left side
of the lane, the right side of the lane, or the full lane. This law concerns riding within a lane.
Regardless, like cars and cyclists alike, if there is slower traffic, slower traffic must move to the right
among lanes.
Signage is needed for motorists to maintain 50-foot separation behind cyclists. I cannot find the
regulatory citation for this, in might be a State of City transportation administrator (as cited in the
MUTCD) that provides local cautionary wording and regulatory intention. Assuming the photo below
has regulatory meaning, the Keep Back 50 Feet for cyclists would be similar, except that it is mounted
on a sign pole.

Additionally, signage might be necessary to mark off 50 feet visually (markers every 50 feet) so
motorists can gauge their distance.

Traffic Light System for Helix Ramp


This potential solution involves recognizing, based upon the various turning radiuses, that there are
three classes of traffic that use the Helix Ramp:

Cyclists: who need the full lane, and possibly extra time to ascent/descend the Helix Ramp
Long-Trucks: who need exclusive use of the Helix Ramp (no other traffic but them)
Other Motorists

A push button would activate the request for the cyclist's green light, which would be approximately 4560 seconds, possibly longer uphill. During that time, the cyclist would have no other traffic in their
direction, but possibly opposing traffic on the Helix Ramp. For long trucks, traffic would be cleared in
both directions, and they would have full use of the Helix Ramp for their transit (either up or down).
Traffic light signaling would also be at the 3-way intersection at the base of the Helix Ramp, including
walk/dont-walk signs for pedestrian flow.

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Below, please find my proposed resolution to RIRA regarding this important safety issue.

Resolution On Improving Bicycle Safety On Motorgate Helix


Whereas, there is a strong interest making Roosevelt Island more accessible to cyclists, including bike
sharing programs like Citi Bike, and including various bicycle configurations, such as tandems;
Whereas, there will be a continuing flow of construction vehicles and other vehicles with the Cornell
campus construction and its operation;
Whereas, the NYC Bicycle Master Plan requires a 5-foot width for bicycles in areas of limited
maneuvering and the Helix Ramp does not have marked 5 feet of bicycle lane space;
Whereas, the NYC Bicycle Master Plan defines various kinds of "stress" levels for bicycle paths,
including Level 4 (Moderate to High) which requires experienced cyclists, and Level 5 (High) which
requires expert cyclists;
Whereas, the Helix Ramp with its limited width, truck turning radii, and limited maneuverability, has a
Curb Lane Width Stress Level, effectively, of 4 to 5 that requires experienced or expert cyclists;
Whereas, the Helix Ramp has a speed limit of 10 MPH, which corresponds to a braking distance of
approximately 50 feet;
Whereas, defensive driving schools teach "one car length per 10 MPH" forward distance, which is
about 15 feet;
Whereas the Helix Ramp suffers from a lack of a shoulder, maneuverability, evasive maneuverability
for motorists and cyclists;
Therefore, with the above significant safety concerns for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, RIRA
makes the following recommendations:

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(1) Signage educating the pedestrians, wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, and cyclists of the hazards
of the Helix Ramp, including limited sight, limited braking distance, lack of clearance, lack of
maneuverability, steep inclines, cyclists' human performance factors (especially uphill), motorists' blind
spots, and hazardous turning conditions for trucks and buses;
(2) Signage reminding pedestrians, wheelchairs, and motorized wheelchairs that they are prohibited on
the Helix Ramp, as per NYC DOT regulations;
(3) Signage on the Helix Ramp including "Bicycles May Use Full Lane", "Do Not Pass", "Cars and
Trucks: Maintain 50-Foot Separation From Cyclists"; and repainting roadway line stripes (yellow lines);
(4) Signage at that the top and the bottom of the Helix Ramp indicating Alternate Routes for Cyclists
(who choose to avoid the Helix Ramp), Pedestrians, Wheelchairs, and Motorized Wheelchairs;
(5) RIOC investigating transit lanes through Motorgate from bridge to street level and, if feasible and
safe, permit cyclists to transit Motorgate as one of the Alternate Routes for the Helix Ramp;
(6) RIOC requesting a study by NYC DOT on the mixed-use traffic conditions surrounding the
Motorgate Helix, the Ramp, the intersection at its base, and vicinity;
(7) RIOC investigating the feasibility of providing a multi-purpose escalator, as per the 2014 City
Planning department's Western Queens Transportation Study, or a multi-purpose stairs;
(8) RIOC investigate the feasibility of a traffic control system for sequencing cyclists, cars, long-and
trucks on the Helix Ramp, and sequencing traffic and pedestrians a the 3-way intersection at the base
of the Helix Ramp;
(9) RIOC review any recommendations with RIRA's appropriate committees, such as Public Safety
Committee, Planning Committee, Island Services Committee; and with the tenant associations of the
housing developments of Roosevelt Island.
______________________________________________________________________
RIRA PSC resolution [note: I disagree with this resolution for several reasons, including: it bans
bicycles when safe alternatives are possible otherwise; it confuses the regulatory aspects of bicycles
and wheelchairs; its concerns (glare, limited-distance sight lines) are not significant factors in the Helix
Ramp; and its approach is a very broad-brush (banning cyclists), not a specific solution]
Resolution that Bicycles, Wheelchairs, and Scooters Be Banned from Helix Ramp
WHEREAS the helix ramp is a narrow roadway for two-way motor vehicle traffic;
WHEREAS the helix ramp has limited-distance sight lines as it spirals between the bridge deck and
street level;
WHEREAS visibility is sometimes limited by sun-glare;
WHEREAS there is no leeway on the ramp for vehicles to swerve to avoid hitting a bicycle or a
wheelchair or a scooter;
WHEREAS a bike lane or a sidewalk cannot be added to the ramp;
THEREFORE, the Public Safety Committee of the Roosevelt Island Residents Association hereby
resolves that all bicycles, wheelchairs, and scooters be banned from the helix ramp.
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