In anticipation of the upcoming Albany elections for mayor, common council, and other offices, the Albany Bicycle Coalition stats its “campaign platform” as follows. ABC will promote its positions with selected candidates so that they will have an opportunity to specify how they, if elected, will devote their energies to converting Albany into to “New York State’s Capital of Cycling.”
Campaign Goals of the Albany Bicycle Coalition
The Albany Bicycle Coalition would like candidates for public office in Albany to embrace the following positions (details follow):
– Implement the Albany Bicycle Master Plan
– Build Cycling Infrastructure
– Educate Cyclists, Motorists, and Pedestrians
– Embrace Complete Streets and Bicycle Friendly Community Designation
Albany Bicycle Master Plan – We want and need a “right here, right now” approach. We do not want a plan with a 20-year horizon (as proposed on page 38 and Map of the December 2009 Albany Bicycle Master Plan). If Albany is to be a Mecca for those who want urban living, shopping, working, and entertainment, we need to provide one of the key features that accompany these goals – bicycle friendly streets. Currently, most of our street dollars go exclusively to motor vehicle functions, including miles upon miles of publicly financed, free on-street parking. Cyclists and other non-motorized travelers are required to finance roads that are unwelcoming to them.
Cycling Infrastructure – Bicycle travel should not require bravery. Studies reveal that roughly 90 percent of potential cyclists either refuse to ride on the street or want to do so but are concerned for their safety.
As pleased as we are with progress on bicycle amenities in the city, we still lack any infrastructure to encourage hesitant cyclists to take to the streets. In 2009, at the time the Albany Bicycle Master Plan was released, we had less than one-quarter mile of city bicycle lanes. Since then, the increase has been about one mile (0.83 on Clinton Ave. from Ten Broeck to Lexington). We desperately need east-west and north-south dedicated bicycle routes. These routes would have protected lanes (buffered lanes, cycle tracks, or “green” lanes) not shared lanes or conventional bicycle lanes. Cyclists need to get safely on routes made for them from Bethlehem to Menands and from Colonie/Guilderland to the river. (While they are a step, the shared lane pavement markings are advisory in nature and depend on the courtesy or patience of motor vehicle operators for success.)
If Albany develops these welcoming avenues, suburban governments will have to follow suit. Anecdotally, the mayor of Chicago has challenged the mayor of Seattle that he will steal their workers (and jobs) by making his city more attractive to tech workers who cycle. New York State and the SUNY system have poured untold millions into a real “tech valley” enterprise – the “nano” college – and yet it is inaccessible to all but the most intrepid cyclists. Testimony from across the country suggests that we are frustrating our own goals.
The feasibility study for Madison Avenue Traffic Calming project is complete. It remains now to configure this street as a signature achievement for Albany and a model for other cities and surrounding communities. Albany must then embrace this success by reconfiguring other streets, designating bicycle priority streets, looking at bicycle boulevards, and so on.
Education – We need to embrace an aggressive program of education for adult and youth cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians. The Capital District Transportation Authority’s Capital Coexist program (now being re-energized) and the efforts of PAL are a start. ABC has offered to work with the Albany Police Department on Chief Krokoff’s “city-wide traffic safety assessment.” We have and will continue to work with the Office of Planning, the Mayor’s Office of Energy and Sustainability, and the Division of Traffic Safety within Albany Police Department – but these efforts are dependent on strong and consistent leadership from City Hall. While the leadership must come from the city, it is possible that a private organization would embrace this as a worthwhile community service. We have the certified trainers; we need the administrative support.
Complete Streets and Bicycle Friendly Community Designation – Our new Complete Streets ordinance calls for development of guidelines for planning street resurfacing and reconstruction. We need those guidelines – developed with careful consideration of all street users – now, not later. Aggressive implementation of meaningful complete streets guidelines is not only fair to the citizenry but mandated if we are to move forward. As a city, we now are challenged with rising from the “honorable mention” category in the League of American Bicyclists’ “bicycle friendly community program” to bronze, silver, gold, platinum, and diamond designation. Our city agencies have to become bicycle friendly community businesses, as do those firms that want to do business in and with the city.
As a hallmark of its bicycle friendly community status, Albany should host its own Ciclovia (or Cyclovia) as is being done elsewhere (Kansas City, Los Angeles, Winnipeg, Seattle, San Francisco, New York City, Chicago, El Paso, Tucson, Portland, Miami, Los Angeles, and Durham). Moving such an event into the streets (e.g., Central Ave. or Broadway), would take the pressure off Washington Park for yet another event. The Ciclovia could be combined with other events such as Art on Lark or Alive at Five and would feature exercise programs, demonstrations, music, food, strolling, riding, and so on.