The Setting – This is about a recent traffic calming street redesign in a residential area but one with major traffic arteries – Partridge St. and Woodlawn Ave.
UPDATE: On 9/29/20, City of Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan and others gathered at the project site to cut a ribbon opening the new sidewalk. As the Mayor stated “it’s not often that you get invited to a ribbon cutting for a sidewalk.” The mayor and other speakers all noted the long-time request from residents of the area for a sidewalk on Woodlawn to ensure the safety of people walking and visitors to the various recreational facilities at the park. The Albany Common Council Members, county legislators, and the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association president all thanked the Mayor and other city officials for bringing the project to fruition. Several Little League players come on their bicycles to help cut the ribbon.
While ABC recognizes that this is not a “bicycle project,” we do note that the traffic calming effect of triple 4-way stop signs combined with the bumpout will tend to make this popular route safer for people on bicycles.
The Scene – In the specific location there is: the Woodlawn Park Basketball Court, Albany Babe Ruth, National Little league, and Woodlawn Park Playground. The court is constantly in use. In non-COVID-19 baseball season, players and families pack the streets and grounds. Temporary signage goes out on game days to slow motor vehicle through traffic. Both Woodlawn and Partridge are “cut-through” streets connecting New Scotland Ave., Lake Ave. Main Ave., Western Ave., Washington Ave., and Central Ave
The Project – The City of Albany installed a “neck down,” “bulbout,” or “bumpout” mid-block to facilitate safe crossing at Glenwood St. From the National Association of City Transportation Officials, “Previous Studies on Effects of Bulbouts and Street Narrowing – The purpose of a bulbout (also known as a choker, curb bulb, neckdown, nub, or gateway) is reduction of the width of vehicle travel way at an intersection or a mid-block pedestrian crossing. Bulbouts shorten the street crossing distance for pedestrians, may slow vehicle speeds, and provide pedestrians and motorists with an improved view of one another, thereby reducing the risk of a motor vehicle–pedestrian collision.” [SOURCE: https://nacto.org/docs/usdg/effects_traffic_calming_on_ped_motorist_behavior_huang.pdf ]
Not only do the bulbouts reduce pedestrian travel distance, but they also provide a visible warning of their presence. Notably, the motor vehicle lane width is now 11 ft. (as should be the maximum lane width anywhere in the city). From observation, this is more than adequate for cars passing through and would not hinder first-responder vehicles. This is a heavily traveled street. While the feature is new to people in cars, they are definitely responsive to the new stop signs and narrowed road. As regular travelers become accustomed to the neckdown, speed and “pause-and-go” likely will increase. (Previously, there were no stop signs on Woodlawn at Glenwood.)
Plenty of Room – Brake Lights “On”
Why Not Elsewhere? – By comparison, Central Ave.’s curb-to-curb distance runs around 67 ft. With 2 7-ft. parking lanes, the motor vehicle travel lanes occupy 53 ft. or 12-13 ft. per lane. Wide enough? Can there be any question why this design determines the speed for people in cars vs. the posted (and theoretical) 30 MPH limit? One might guess that within a block on either side of the commercial district of Central Ave. from, say, King St. to Washington Ave. there are thousands of residents, many of whom will need to cross Central Ave. There are plenty of other opportunities within the city to “neck down” pedestrian crossings. It can be done!