We are all indebted to the Friends of the Rail Trail volunteers, the staff and volunteers in the Mohawk Hudson Land Conservancy, and the Albany County leadership and staff for the design and construction of Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail.
Here is a nice ride one can take that uses the entire paved portion of the trail. Starting in the Pine Hills area it’s, about 3.5 miles to the trailhead on South Pearl Street at Old South Pearl Street. The ride to the trailhead will always be tedious until the South End Bikeway Link is completed. However, in the meantime, using the BikeAlbanyMap – an interactive device that lets you plan your trips through the city of Albany on low-traffic low-stress roadways – you can get most of the way to the trailhead with only a minimum of hassle.
Once on the rail trail, the smooth surface takes you through the beautiful Normanskill Gorge in an idyllic setting. The only traffic noise is while going under Route 9 and the New York State Thruway. Trail is far enough below them that the noise can easily be ignored. Then it is up the gentle but uniform grade across the Normanskill until eventually one ends up cruising past the backyards of suburban Bethlehem. Once there, the trail levels off and it has a pleasant hop across Delaware Ave. to the terminus of the paved section is Slingerlands by the old railroad station at 5.75 from the trail head at South Pearl St.
An alternative route back to the City of Albany is to take the trail until just after it crosses Elsmere Ave., take one of the trail exits to Ellsworth Ave., and follow around on Plymouth until Delaware Ave. From there, it is a short hop to Jim’s Tastee-Freez ($3 for a small cone) and then across the Normanskill to Delaware Ave. in Albany. Remember that, just after crossing the Thruway Bridge reentering the city of Albany, to refer to the BikeAlbanyMap to find a pleasant way to avoid the car-centric design of Delaware Ave.
From Pine Hills and return it is about 16 miles – a nice day trip.
Better than reading about the Albany County Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, just go ride on it!
Van Rensselaer/Rt. 377 Bicycle Lanes – There soon will be two lanes for motor vehicles, left turn bays, and bicycle lanes on Van Rensselaer. These are a great tie-in with Northern Blvd.’s bicycle lanes.
The first photo shows the start of the new lanes (as yet uncompleted) at Northern Blvd.
But there’s more…
NYSDOT is completing this recent project in consultation with the City of Albany on project scope. It builds on the 2015 bicycle lanes/traffic calming installation on Northern Blvd. The city will expand the bicycle lane project on Northern Blvd from the I-90 bridge north toward Albany-Shaker Road later this summer. Notably the lane treatment at the southern end of Northern Blvd. is one of the best designs you will find in the region. Note the bottom photo with a nice buffer.
Those who use the BikeAlbanyMap and Parks & Trails New York Erie Canalway Trail map will note that one can ride the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail from Rotterdam Junction (with a few on-street portions in Schenectady, Cohoes, and Watervaliet), leave the MHBHT at the (hidden and bumpy) Schuyler Flats Trail near Passano Paints and the I-787 underpass at Broadway and 4th Sts. to Schuyler flats, go a short half mile south on Broadway, crawl up the hill through Albany Rural Cemetery, join the above described new bicycle lanes on Van Rensselaer/Rt. 377, enjoy the “calmed” Northern Blvd. to McCrossin and Thornton Sts. at the old Livingston Middle School, and then wind through a quiet residential neighborhood to the bicycle lanes on Clinton Ave.
It’s almost a network!
For the past several weeks and probably for several more, there has been and will be extensive street work on Madison Ave. You’ll see a lot of traffic cones, heavy equipment, workers in hard hats, dust and dirt, pipes, re-paved strips, and so on. This is in preparation for the final phase of the Madison Avenue Traffic Calming project – Partridge St. to Lark St. This “below surface work” must be done before the repaving and re-striping of the roadway. It appears that these last phases will be done in this fall with installation of traffic control signals to follow.
Completion will mean 1-1/2 miles of sane motor vehicle traffic with left turn lanes, cross walks, and new traffic control devices and signs. It will also mean that people in cars can go no faster than the car ahead of them – hopefully, the posted 30 mph or less. No more crazy passing on the right or using the parking lane as a through lane.
The continuation of the bicycle lanes from Allen-Partridge to Lark St. will provide people on bicycles with a smooth, safe ride Pine Hills Neighborhood Association to “downtown.”
It remains for people who want better bicycle facilities in the City of Albany (this would mean YOU) to start pushing for continuing the lanes past Manning Blvd. to connect to the current bicycle lanes in Guilderland and then on to Crosse Gates. Accompanying this must be mapping of cross town and downtown routes from Lark St./Delaware Ave. For suggested routes, see the BikeAlbanyMap.
None of this will happen unless there is a big and sustained push from those who want a livable Albany.
So get cracking!
Sadly, the 1902 Livingston Ave. Rail Road Bridge – the only east-west passenger RR crossing of the Hudson – seems to be nowhere as far as being replaced. The plan seems to be to let it fall in the river, or, as in the case of the Crown Point NY-Vermont Bridge, have it declared unusable so we can spend scrillions on “emergency” replacement. Then everyone can pat himself or herself on the back for having “saved the day.”
People on bicycles who want a water-level route across the river to access Rensselaer or Albany are counting on Amtrak/Conrail/NYSDOT et al. to reinstall a pedestrian/bicycle patch on the new bridge.
To learn more, go to the Livingston Ave. Rail Road Bridge Coalition site – http://livingstonavebridge.com/home/where-have-you-been/
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Many Mohawk-Hudson Cycling Club and Albany Bicycle Coalition members joined a ride to promote changing NYS’s safe passing law. We need to specify a minimum passing distance (e.g., 3 feet) – see: https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2016/02/22/3-foot-passing-law/ ) Currently, NYS essentially says, “pass safely” which – as any person on a bicycle knows – can mean anything from 4 inches up.
The New York Bicycling Coalition organized the ride as part of its long-standing effort to bring New York State’s law up to date.
Go here for more on the law, go HERE.
Many riders wore special “3-foot jerseys” and then rode the loop around the Capitol once for each foot. We noted the relationship to the proposed “Felony Reckless Driving and Vulnerable Users of the Public Highway (Creto/Kade) Law” – see: https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2015/11/09/felony-reckless-driving-and-vulnerable-users-of-the-public-highway/