For more info, go here – Ride of Silence
Once again, the Albany Bicycle Coalition hosted the region’s Earth Day Ride, and as in past years, we offered climate and ecology insights focused on positive activities and facilities in our area.
Video highlights – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EOhttDdB_JE
We finished sign-in by 1:00 PM on Saturday, April 23 at the Corning Riverfront Park Boat Launch. The group of 27 departed shortly after on a 10-mile round trip which was mostly flat and on mainly low-traffic streets and bike paths, all based on CapitalNYBikeMap.com. We had informative talks at the Livingston Avenue Bridge, the South End Connector multi-use path, Radix Ecological Sustainability Center, DGS recycling center, and the warehouse district. The ride lasted 2 1/2 hours.
Here is the route on Google Maps (divided into 4 parts for easier viewing)
1. Mohawk Hudson Bike Hike Trail (MHBHT); South End Connector; Radix Center
2. Radix Center; South End Connector; MHBHT to Menands
3. Exit MHBHT using new “Village of Menands Bike Connector,” parallel to entrance ramps, to Broadway (Google Maps not yet updated to show Connector route).
4. Riverview Center; Broadway; Simmons Ln; Erie Blvd; warehouse district
The approaching spring weather suggests that trips to the nearest multi-use path are in the near future. With that in mind, it’s time to remind ourselves that multi-use means just that – people will be there with a multiplicity of modes of transport ranging from babies in carriages to mobility devices to road warriors on carbon-fiber bikes. It is a good time to review some of the appropriate protocols or rules for using a multi-use path.
The very first one and probably the most important to both walkers/joggers and cyclists is to keep to the right. Sometimes walkers are confused since they were raised to walk on the left side facing traffic. However, that is on a road or street with no sidewalks. A multi-use path is not a roadway so walk on the right and ride on the right.
Here are some other tips:
- It’s great to walk in twos or threes for the social benefit, but keep in mind the need to move to the right into single file to allow faster moving traffic – generally bicycles, skaters and joggers – to pass safely by.
- As needed, just move to the right trail edge. Don’t scatter in different directions, and divide to different sides of the path or stand still in the middle like a bunny in the headlights!
- Stay alert to what is behind you.
- Small children and dogs on leashes need to be kept under control for their safety and for the safety of others on the trail. This is especially true when a dog is on a retractable lead as it allows the animal to range across the trail forming a barrier.
The main rule is to be aware that you are traveling faster than other trail users. You are obligated to extend courtesy to them as you pass by.
- Always signal your presence by ringing your bell, calling out, or clearly indicating you’re passing on the left – “on your left!”
- Avoid startling those being overtaken.
- Always yield to pedestrians and mobility devices – no exceptions.
- If traveling two or more abreast, be prepared to single up when overtaking other path users, approaching other users, or when being overtaken by faster riders.
- Experienced riders who are out on training rides must remember that the multi-use path is not a racetrack and that you put yourself and others at risk by riding at speeds that are far in excess of all other users. Nobody wants to get hit by the combined weight of cyclist and bicycle moving at any speed – especially if the rider is using a peddle assist bike with the added weight of a battery, motor, heavier frame, etc.
- If you need high speed training rides, choose the appropriate time and place.
Both Walkers and Riders –
- If stopping, get off the trail to allow others to pass by.
- At dusk and in the dark, have a light front and rear.
- Bring out any trash you bring to the trail (plus a little more if you can). Take it with you or deposit in appropriate container when you leave.
- Those who bring dogs need to clean up and discard or carry out any “by-product.”
- If you reach the trailhead by a motor vehicle, park where indicated and ensure that your vehicle is not blocking another.
- If you come across someone having difficulty, check to see if you can offer needed assistance.
- Stay off private property. Be courteous to local residents and respect their property.
The 85-Percentile Rule is a guide for setting speed limits but one that must be used with a great deal of discretion to prevent creation of unsafe road and streets.
85-Percentile Rule – No, it’s not where you were on the math SATs but a way of setting speed limits on roads and streets. Departments of transportation define the 85-percentile speed as the speed at or below which 85 percent of all vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions. Traffic and Transportation Engineers use the 85th percentile speed as a guide to set the speed limit at a hopefully safe speed, minimizing crashes and promoting uniform traffic flow. Data are gathered using radar guns or other devices and then analyzed. Engineers take the observed speeds and eliminate the top 15 percent. The indicated speed is then at the 85-percent level (to the nearest 5 mph increment). This procedure – if the set speed is not excessively low – ensures that all drivers will be going at about the same speed with few opportunities for conflict. This, of course, means that 15 percent of the drivers are exceeding what the other 85 percent view as a comfortable and safe speed. So who is correct?
This is fine until the design speed and the posted speed are in conflict.
The Caveat – The catch is the “. . . speed at or below which . . . vehicles are observed to travel under free-flowing conditions.” When design speed – the speed that feels safe or comfortable for most drivers – markedly exceeds the posted speed, we are in trouble. Many people are comfortable driving faster than is safe for them and or comfortable for others especially when there are confounding factors. Those few who adhere to the posted speed will be passed where possible or “tailgated” when not. “Free flowing” also presents a problem if the rule is applied to streets that are, at times, free flowing but at others, not so much.
Right Here, Right Now – A local poster child is Albany’s Washington Ave., an unnumbered State route. It was clearly built – designed – as a 55 mph road. Nonetheless, going outbound from Brevator St. to Rt. 155/New Karner Rd. it is posted at 30 mph (Brevator St. to Fuller Rd.) and 45 mph (after Fuller Rd.) These reduced speed limits are based on the increasing non-highway activity with University at Albany residences and crossing pedestrians, motels, medical and other offices, convenience stores, big-box shopping, social clubs, churches, the dump, and cross roads. There is talk of a massive rebuild of at least the Brevator-Fuller segment but no action to date.
So what went wrong? If we used the 85-Percentile Rule today with the current built up environment, one might guess that the speed thus suggested might well exceed 45 mph and certainly 30 mph. Just drive on it at the speeds posted currently to demonstrate this to yourself. Put another way, the world changed but Washington Ave. did not. We are in the 2000s, and it is in the 1950s. Rest assured that Washington Ave. is not the only such example in our area.
Death Alley – A similar situation is the so-called Cohoes Blvd. or Cohoes’s own “death alley.” Briefly, the State originally built I-787 to blast into the middle of Cohoes with ¾ of the city on the west side and ¼ on the east. The transition from interstate to city street was invisible with expected results. After many years and much pressure, the in-city portion was completely rebuilt featuring raised crosswalks or speed tables, lighting, a chicane, a multiuse side path, enhanced traffic control, a center median, turn lanes, and signage. When asked, a representative stated that NYSDOT would base the redesigned boulevard’s (new) speed limit on the 85-percentile rule. Coming into Cohoes, the posted speed is now 45 mph and then 35 mph. Whether or not drivers follow these limits is for others to judge.
Driver Behavior – One source (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NDYQaa3K_BA ) posits that the change from a street to a road challenges drivers to “shift mental gears” from highway mode – which is more or less unconscious, intuitive, and automatic driving behavior – to being focused, observant, engaged, and deliberate. So how does one force fit driver behavior to street conditions?
Appropriate Use – For rural roads and with no countervailing data (e.g., excessive crash data, blind curves, schools, pedestrian and cyclist traffic, no shoulders, many entries/exits) the 85-Percentile Rule is probably a good first step. Note that the term here is “roads” not “streets.”
Inappropriate Use – When we get to a “street” the situation changes. A road is a high-speed connection to get from here to there with a simplified environment with minimal cross streets and driveways, and no accommodation for pedestrians or cyclists.
A street is a complex environment used by people where cars are guests that have to be caused to be on good behavior. A street is not intended for fast motor vehicles as a thoroughfare but a place where people go – the end point of a trip. Setting the posted speed limit based on car travel speeds does not seem like an appropriate application of the 85-percentile rule. In fact, it’s a “cart before the horse” to set the speed limit AFTER the street is built. A better option is to decide on the desired safe speed and THEN spec the design (or alter an existing design).
You cannot just ask for good behavior (e.g., “30 MPH” [please], “Share the Road” [please], “School Zone – 20 MPH” [please] ) you have to design out bad behavior. Drivers do not constantly adjust and re-adjust their speed based on the roadside signage. Instead, they cruise along at a comfortable rate (e.g., the design speed) partially based on what other nearby drivers are doing. The street’s DESIGN is a much more effective speed control than a sign buried with all the rest of the roadside garbage signs that transportation officials believe will offset inappropriate street design. The message from the street’s design is clear with no static; that from the sign (e.g., 30 MPH) has to force its way through a very noisy channel with dismal results.
Back to Our Sample – Washington Ave. becomes a street at roughly Brevator St./Rt. 85 heading toward downtown Albany. That is, the nature of the right of way changes from a road to a street with people, residences, schools, shopping, offices, churches, restaurants, and pedestrian/bicycle traffic. Put another way, Washington Ave. transitions from a road to a “stroad” – a thoroughfare that is neither a road nor a street. This is why, for example, 20 mph speed limits with vehicle speed displays in school zones are a failure – nothing in the road design says “slow down!” As an historical aside, Washington Ave. once had a center median but it was removed in the 1930s – too bad!
They are INTRAstates – In many towns and cities in the USA with street layout dating to the 19th, 18th, and even 17th centuries, streets have become stroads with inappropriate outcomes for all concerned. Even with interstate highways – which have morphed into INTRAstate highways – motor vehicles entering or leaving cities have caused this “stroadization.” Cars come flying off 4-lane, high-speed roads (with a 4-lane, high-speed mentality) and are then faced with narrow, winding, people-filled streets with traffic lights, double-parked cars, snow piles, people trying to cross, squirrels, children going to school, and so on. Without proper STREET design, the result is chaos and, frequently, property damage, injury, or death. Albany, as but one example, is completely ringed and bisected by 4-lane, super highways – 787, 85, 90, NYS Thruway, and 87. Each both feeds traffic into the city but also is a goal for those leaving. “Drive time” has become “all the time.”
High car speeds intrinsically mean greater chances of injury or death for pedestrians or people on bicycles and compression of driver reaction time to the dynamic nature of a street. The solution? There has to be something that tells drivers that (1) the road (or highway) has now ended and (2) the street has now begun. These “somethings” can include narrowing of the road or travel lanes, speed tables or speed humps, vertical objects like trees, center medians, or chicanes.
Conclusion – The 85-percentile rule is a starting point for determining posted speed limits. It is probably appropriate for roads. It is the wrong rule when there are safety and social concerns that supersede the desire of people in cars to “get through here as fast as possible.” Streets are for people. Parks are for people. Intersection crossing are for people. Stores, restaurants, offices, apartments, and houses are for people. A traffic engineer who applies the 85-percentile rule to urban or suburban streets might consider a career shift.
Notes – Strong Towns coined the term “stroad” to explain dangerous, multi-lane thoroughfares that are in every city, town, and suburb. They are what happen when a street – a place where people interact with businesses and residences and where wealth is produced – is combined with a road (a high-speed route between productive places). https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2018/3/1/whats-a-stroad-and-why-does-it-matter Strong Towns (https://www.strongtowns.org/about ) supports people across the United States and Canada who are advocating for a radically new way of thinking about the way we build our world.
85th Percentile Speed Explained – http://www.mikeontraffic.com/85th-percentile-speed-explained/
Understanding the 85th Percentile Speed – https://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2020/7/24/understanding-the-85th-percentile-speed
The Wrong Way to Set Speed Limits – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bglWCuCMSWc
Concerned Town of Colonie residents and cycling/walking advocates are pushing for a multi-use path from the British American Blvd. bike lanes at Rt 7/Troy-Schenectady Road, across River Road to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail (MHBHT). This path would provide a safe connection for bicycles and pedestrians and avoid the hazardous current route along Route 7 and Rosendale Road. It’s the missing link in the CapitalNYBikeMap UAlbany-to-Lions-Park route (see map below); it’s a strategic component of the Capital District Trails Plan’s “Shaker Trail” (page 33); and it will link directly to Colonie’s extensive Ann Lee/Shaker trail system and the airport. For a detailed analysis of why this path is vital, read David Pratt’s letter below, following the map.
See also: Times Union 02-12-22 and Save Colonie’s campaign
The Ask – To support this project, please write to or email both the Town of Colonie supervisor and the planning director at:
The Honorable Peter Crummey, Supervisor
Town of Colonie
Colonie Memorial Town Hall
534 New Loudon Rd.
Latham, NY 12110-0508
Sean M. Maguire, Director
Planning and Economic Development
Public Operations Center
347 Old Niskayuna Road
Latham, NY 12110-2290
The UAlbany-to-Lions-Park route is a ten mile on- and off-road trail, providing a strategic north-south link across the I-90 / Central Ave. corridor. Commencing at Western Ave. / UAlbany, it eventually reaches the intersection of British American Blvd. and Route 7, as shown in blue on the map below. At that point the route becomes hazardous, as shown in red at the top. The proposed safe connection to MHBHT, under discussion, is shown in green.
Click the map to display it full-screen in a new tab.
David Pratt is a Town of Colonie resident and regular user of the trail. Mr. Pratt presented a statement at the Town of Colonie Planning Board Meeting on January 25, 2022 the text of which follows below.
++++++ DAVID PRATT LETTER TEXT ++++++
Dear Town of Colonie Planning Board,
My name is David Pratt. I would like to offer the following remarks. These remarks reflect my views only and not necessarily those of the multiple organizations that have signed the attached letter dated January 10, 2021.
I live on River Road approximately 1 mile east of the Northview Development. The Empire State Bike Trail (a.k.a. Colonie bike path, multi-use trail, Mohawk-Hudson Trail, Mohawk River hike & bike trail etc.) is 65 yards from our front door. Like hundreds of other town of Colonie residents, I love this bike path. I am grateful for it each and every time I go out for a run, bike ride or walk my dog. I also firmly believe it adds to the resale value of my property.
I share many of the concerns of my neighbors on Buhrmaster Rd., River Road, and in the Northview development who stand in opposition to this proposal by Keeler Motor Car Company. I agree that a road connecting Keeler motors to River Road would be dangerous and detrimental. This should not be part of the approved plan. River Road has already effectively become “alternate Route 7.” There is heavy traffic every rush hour on this rural and scenic road. There is also rampant speeding and littering that accompanies this overuse. So while I oppose a vehicular connection between the Keeler complex and River Road, a connecting bike and pedestrian trail is an entirely different matter and I think it is a great idea that, by itself, will not unduly harm my neighbors.
The purpose of my attendance here tonight is to submit into the public record a letter jointly created by several local public interest groups. We who have signed this letter believe that any approval of this Keeler Motorcar Company proposal should only be approved by this Planning Board if it includes the creation of a bike path similar to the one graciously proposed by Keeler in their initial proposal.
This Board must weigh the benefits and costs of any development of the Keeler property amongst all the stakeholders. The stakeholders include Keeler, Northview and River Road neighbors, and most importantly, the Town of Colonie citizens who this Board proudly represents. Reasonable compromise is required of all parties. I am confident that a satisfactory compromise will be worked out by this Board.
Any reasonable compromise for the Keeler expansion should include a connector bike/walking trail. My neighbors are correct to raise concerns about traffic, congestion, runoff, noise, and even light pollution. Their concerns should be addressed and ameliorated to the greatest extent possible. However, I part with my neighbors in their reported opposition to the bike/pedestrian connector trail that was part of the initial development proposal. The neighbors’ concerns do NOT preclude the creation of a bike path. Compromise is possible here. Unfortunately, the specific objection to the bike path proposal is a textbook example of the NIMBY (not in my backyard) response. It pits the objection of a very small group of neighbors against the overall benefit to a public group hundreds of times larger. Mr. Neidl’s 6/2/21 letter disparages what he called “various special interest groups” who for years have advocated for this bike-path connector. Indeed, many thoughtful planning committees over the years have advocated for this connecting trail. Their interest was the overriding public good that this linkage would contribute, not selfish “special interests.” In truth, the only “special interest group” being represented here tonight is Mr. Neldi’s clients who wish to block a safe bike trail connector. I urge this group to reconsider their opposition and work with us for a reasonable compromise.
This bike trail is needed to safely link the existing Mohawk River bike path to the existing British American Blvd./Watervliet Shaker Road bike path. This current path provides access to the Airport, Shaker Heritage Society, and Anne Lee Pond. Additionally, newly constructed bike and pedestrian lanes along Albany Shaker Road stretch this path all the way to the Desmond hotel, not terribly far from the Colonie Town Library and even The Crossings Town Park. It would be great to link these public assets together. Can someone please remind me of the exact millions of taxpayer dollars spent on the very pretty but under-used path bridge that crosses Watervliet Shaker Road near the airport? Should this path dead end on the treacherous Troy Schenectady Road as it does now? How many millions of dollars were spent on the exciting new Empire State bike trail that now safely connects Buffalo and Albany? The distance between these two trail networks is only several hundred yards. How does it not make perfect sense to have a safe connection between these two public assets? There is an obvious synergy to leveraging these two expensive projects together for the benefit of all users. Most of these users are constituents of this very Board that I stand in front of.
Peter Crummey is beginning his term as Town Supervisor. One of the most popular planks that he ran on was his promise of enhancing the town of Colonie’s parks and recreational opportunities. In his January 1st interview with WAMC, he made special reference to improving the town’s recreational facilities and parks along the Mohawk River. This bike path connector would do exactly that and would be a win for him and for everybody who enjoy these bike paths.
This connector would also benefit businesses along Troy Schenectady Road. I can personally attest to the huge increase I have seen in the numbers of people bicycling between Buffalo and Albany and beyond. I see them every day simply by looking out my front window. I myself made this journey with some three hundred other cyclists in July. This connector would allow users of the bike path to more easily and safely access hotels, restaurants, fast food, the airport, and often needed bike repairs at The High Adventure Ski and Bike shop. I would love the opportunity to be able to safely ride to a restaurant for dinner or lunch. My first visit would personally be Innovo Kitchen, but there’s lots of good competition!
This connector will also enhance bicycle commuting to all the businesses along British American Blvd and beyond. It is a painless way of furthering the “green initiative” ideals that increasingly drive public policy. It would also offer additional opportunities for healthy outdoor recreation that we have all come to appreciate in this COVID pandemic.
To capitalize on the huge growth in bicycle tourism, we need a safe connector between the Albany International Airport and the newly created Empire State bike trail. My neighbor and Shaker High School classmate, Steve Iachetta, also lives directly on the bike path, not 30 yards off of it. He also has noted the huge increase in bicycle tourism along this trail. He also happens to be a planner with the Albany Airport Authority. He told me he receives calls from air travelers traveling with touring bikes requesting directions and the pathway between Albany Airport and the Empire State Trail. I will quote him directly: “I regretted having to advise them “there is no safe connection and you need a car or bus to transport your touring bike from the airport to the nearby state trail system.” Touring the trail by bike is a national vacation destination … both you and I see that with the increasing number of touring bicycles on the path.”
The most important argument for this proposed bike path has to do with the personal safety of runners, walkers, cyclists, and dog walkers etc. who currently use these two respective un-linked trails. Again, these adults and children are some of the constituents of this Board. Right now, any connection between these two popular bike trails requires pedestrian or cycle access along the busy Troy-Schenectady Road. One must then bike, walk, or jog down one of three narrow, twisty, and hilly roads – Rosendale Rd., Buhrmaster Road, or Fort’s Ferry Road. One must then access the bike path along the river by crossing River Road at random and unmarked crossing locations. Can anyone argue that Route 7 or any of these three roads are safe for pedestrian or bicycle travel? Would you be comfortable with your children walking or bicycling on these roads? Any of us who drive these roads and attempt to safely pass cyclists and pedestrians are aware of the perils present on these roads that lead down the bike path. Yet the bike path is understandably a popular destination for runners, walkers, and pedestrians. And it will remain so. It is obvious that an off-road connector would be far safer and would enhance the quality of life for the capital District. Mr. Neidl’s 6/21/21 argument asserting that a bike path connector would be dangerous is clearly a spurious one.
I want to close on a very personal note. I am literally a lifelong resident of the Town of Colonie. I grew up in Loudonville. On Veterans Day in 1966, I was walking along Turner Lane in Loudonville with some other neighborhood children when my five-year-old brother was struck and killed by a car on the shoulder of Turner Lane. Now, decades later, I travel the Troy Schenectady Rd., River Road, Rosendale Road, Buhrmaster Road and especially Fort’s Ferry Road, multiple times each week and I dread coming upon another tragic accident. Over the intervening year’s countless children and adults have been killed or injured on our Town of Colonie roads. This proposed bike path would result in fewer pedestrians, runners, and bicyclists using these dangerous roads. It is very possible that a future life could even be saved by implementing this proposal. This alone is reason enough to create this short trail.