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Albany Bicycle Coalition Consolidated Comments on the Proposed Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan

The Albany Bicycle Coalition, Inc. welcomes the opportunity offered by the development of the City of Albany’s Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan to present its transportation ideas for the future of our city. Rather than an organization-level response, individual members submitted their comments on the November 2020 Draft to the City of Albany. These individual comments are consolidated into two parts as follows:

  • Specific Comments with Page References
  • General Comments without Specific Page References

Our position is that the City of Albany, like many, many cities, allowed itself to become car centric. All transportation issues center around and are decided upon accommodating more and more motor vehicle traffic or upon sustaining current volumes (“Level of Service”). Accordingly, people – regardless of their specific mode of transposition – are subjected to dangerous street conditions, air and noise pollution, and limitations to their enjoyment of the built environment. Our road and street network is completely “behind the times.” We believe that the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan is really the “Albany Transportation Plan” and, as such, must reach beyond considerations of walking or riding a bicycle to encompass all citizens.

We base many of our propositions on the fundamental belief that our streets, roads, and sidewalks should be safe – not “pretty safe,” or “safer,” but SAFE. There can be no compromise. Sacrificing safety for the convenience of a minority of motor vehicle operators cannot continue.

We believe that the points we set forth in this document can pave the way for bold new thinking. If the City of Albany will embrace a new approach to transportation, it will provide unending benefits to its citizens, will position itself to be competitive in attracting new populations and businesses, and will become a model for other municipalities. The city will be able to cope more effectively with the coming change in the availability of cheap petroleum and increasing pressure to reduce its consumption and replace it with other forms of energy suited to transportation.

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Specific Comments with Page References

2-4 – “29 miles of multi-use trails within the City. These include … Pine Bush Trails…” Not true. There is only one real, paved, “multi-use” trail in the Pine Bush: the Six Mile Waterworks trail, and it is just one-and-a-half miles. All the other trails are suitable only for mountain bikes. This has been observed and relayed to us by Pine Bush Discovery Center staff.

2-4 – Buildout of the 2009 Albany Bicycle Master Plan Based on Shared lanes – QUOTE “The City currently has approximately 26 miles of on-street bicycle infrastructure (not-including multi-use trails), which equates to a build-out of approximately 40% of the 67-mile bicycle network identified in the 2009 Bicycle Master Plan.”

Shared lanes are not a bicycle facility and do not address the needs of people on bicycles. By definition, shared lanes are on mixed-traffic streets. Mixed traffic streets are to have a maximum motor vehicle speed of 20 mph. Albany has not imposed this speed limit on its shared lane streets. National Association of City Transportation Officials makes this adequately clear (italics added): “Shared Lane Markings (SLMs), or ‘sharrows,’ are road markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles. Among other benefits shared lane markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street,  recommend proper bicyclist positioning, and may be configured to offer directional and wayfinding guidance. The shared lane marking is a pavement marking with a variety of uses to support a complete bikeway network; it is not a facility type and should not be considered a substitute for bicycle lanes, cycle tracks, or other separation treatments where these types of facilities are otherwise warranted or space permits. The MUTCD outlines guidance for shared lane markings in section 9C.07.” The actual “build out” of the 2009 plan is (installed) 4.9 miles (7% or 9% if the South End Connector is considered). The Bicycle Networks made up of bicycle lane-to-bicycle lane connections are as follows: Ten Broeck Ave. and Clinton Ave. – Total mileage of 1.7 + 0.2 = 1.9 mi.); and Northern Blvd. and Shaker Rd. – Total mileage of 0.9 + 0.3 + 0.2 = 1.4 mi. (This also ties in directly to the 1.5 miles of Van Rensselaer/Rt. 377 bicycle lanes which are mostly in Menands (for a total mileage of 0.9 + 0.3 + + 0.2 + 1.5 = 2.9 mi. Additional to these are the isolated bicycle lanes on Madison Ave. – 0.5 (installed 2016) + 1.1 (2018) = 1.6.

See – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2017/07/08/89398/ ).

The final 2009 Albany Bicycle Master Plan designated 18 “major bikeways” within the City of Albany. While the plan did not specify bicycle road treatments, it suggested many including bicycle lanes but with long stretches of shared lanes. In several instances, the plan called for narrowing motor vehicle travel lanes to provide space for bicycle lanes. The approximate total miles of these 18 bikeways is 40.64 (using Google Maps distance function). The city only completed parts of #2 and #8.

  1. Western Ave. – from Sprague/Washington Ave. to City line (UA entrance) – 3.25 miles
  2. Madison Ave. – from Broadway to S. Allen/Western Ave. (NYS Bike Route 5) – 2.59 miles
  3. Washington Ave. – from State St. to Fuller Rd. – 4.8 miles
  4. Central Ave. – from Washington Ave. to city line (Vatrano Rd.) – 2.85 miles
  5. New Scotland Ave. – from Madison Ave. to city line (Normanside Dr.) – 4.14 miles
  6. Delaware Ave. from Madison Ave. to city line (Normanskill) – 2.11 miles
  7. Whitehall Rd. from Delaware Ave. to New Scotland Ave. – 1.99 miles
  8. Clinton Ave. from Central Ave. to Broadway – 2.02 miles
  9. Broadway from Quay St. (Slater) to city line (Lindbergh Ave.) – 3.74 miles
  10. Green St. from Madison Ave. to 4th Ave. – 0.5 miles
  11. Lark St. from Madison Ave. to Manning Blvd. – 1.12 miles
  12. S. Pearl St. from 4th Ave. to city line (South Port Rd. and Normanskill) – 1.39 miles
  13. Northern Blvd.-Manning Blvd.-Ten Broeck St. from Central Ave. to Shaker Rd. via Clinton Ave. – 2.48 miles (via Livingston – 2.32 miles)
  14. Shaker Rd. from Broadway to city line (Lindbergh Ave.) – 0.91 miles
  15. Quail St. from New Scotland Ave. to Livingston Ave. – 1.48 miles
  16. Manning Blvd. from Whitehall Rd. to Central Ave. – 2.49 miles
  17. McCarty Ave./Southern Blvd. from Delaware Ave. to S. Pearl St. – 1.38 miles
  18. Holland Ave./Morton Ave./Rensselaer St. from New Scotland Ave. to Green St. – 1.48 miles

2-5Madison East of Lark St. is Not “Infrastructure” merely because there are signs (“In Lane” etc.). It is narrow with very heavy traffic, highly unsuitable for average cyclists. As the plan itself points out on 2-17: “Many of these streets only feature “sharrows” or signage, which are useful for wayfinding but do not improve the comfort or safety of people riding bicycles unless they are on streets with less than 1,000 cars per day and have speeds 20 mph or less.”

2-5 – The Map Should Show Berkshire Blvd. as a High-Stress Roadway. It is a medium-level arterial, and yet pedestrian traffic is heavy because it’s a direct route to Buckingham Lake park – as was pointed out by several residents at the user group meeting. This is borne out by the “heat map” on page 3-22, and bullet point #9 on page 3-25.

2-8, Fig 5 – L3 Classification – At present, one cannot classify any bicycle lane in the city as L-3 – a suitable for the “interested but concerned.” Classifying Washington Ave. and Central Ave. as L-3 strains credulity.

The three major bicycle lanes are on streets with 30 mph posted speed limits and much higher design limits. Tellingly, each bicycle lane segment ends without notice and provides no preceding or following “L-3 facility.” None of the installed bicycle lanes is as safe as it could or should be made. Only the lanes in the Northern Blvd. area are buffered. The city rejected protected bicycle lanes on Madison Ave. in favor of unbuffered lanes. With the exception of the most recently installed bicycle lanes, the lanes have not been maintained or improved from their original installation. Faded and scrubbed pavement markings, lack of through-intersection dotted line green zones, lack of signage, and mixed bicycle lane-motor vehicle right-turn lanes, are just some of the areas needing attention.

2-9 Throwing in the Trowel – QUOTE “However, there has been a historic assignment of the curb lane and travel lanes to people driving, and therefore making changes to prioritize bicycle travel on streets would require extensive engagement.” What has been history – giving unchallenged street priority to motor vehicles – can and should remain just that – history. What some refer to as “painted gutters” no longer meet the needs of a “cycling city.” It no longer suffices for the City of Albany to design bicycle facilities will out due attention for the impact of people in cars on them. No road is truly safe for people on bicycles or walking if it depends on the skill, courtesy, or attentiveness of people in cars. Anyone who professes otherwise has never ridden a bicycle or walked in a city.

“The cornerstone of cycling infrastructure … is the provision of separate cycling facilities along heavily traveled roads and at intersections, combined with extensive traffic calming of residential neighborhoods. Safe and stress-free cycling routes are especially important for less assertive and more physically vulnerable cyclists … “[SOURCE: Walker, Amy (Ed.). On Bicycles Novato CA: New World Library, 2011.] Data provided in the City of Albany’s November 2020 “Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan Draft” maintain that 82 percent of cyclists are in the category of who need this level of accommodation. These “Portland” data have been going around since at least 2008. If one adds in the 7% of the population who want (a) better bicycle facilities, (b) better end-of-trip facilities and (c) separated bikeways, then up to 89 percent of the population are just not going to ride on streets designed under an “all cars-all the time” philosophy. Does that mean that only 11 percent of the population will ride on our Albany streets? [SOURCE: Microsoft Word – Four Types of Cyclists] You will find that Albany Bicycle Coalition’s position calls for the Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan to go beyond bicycles and feet and to be an all-modes “city transportation plan.” Simply put, one cannot plan effectively for one mode (say people on bicycles or people walking) without considering all other modes (e.g., people in cars). Regardless of what approach the city chooses to take, the reality is that incidental approaches (such as Complete Streets) always involve compromising safety.

updated 2009.doc (portlandoregon.gov) and Understanding and Measuring Bicycling Behavior: a Focus on Travel Time and Route Choice (pdx.edu) ]

2-11, Fig. 10 Close Park Roads – Close all parks to all through traffic driving on Sundays between 10 am (or earlier) and 5-7 pm. (Allow cars to leave from the parks at any time but preclude their reentering during the prohibited hours.)

2-17 – Shared Lanes QUOTE “Many of these streets only feature “sharrows” or signage, which are useful for wayfinding but do not improve the comfort or safety of people riding bicycles unless they are on streets with less than 1,000 cars per day and have speeds 20 mph or less.” it is not clear how shared lanes contribute to wayfinding. The City of Albany installs shared lanes as paving occurs. Thus, there will be a block or two of shared lanes bookended by conventional car streets with no bicycle-related markings. As an additional barrier to the proper use of shared lanes, New York State Department of Transportation replaced the federal (bicycle graphic) MAY USE FULL LANE with the (bicycle graphic) IN LANE. To further confuse the issue, shared lanes in the city are also marked with (bicycle graphic) SHARE THE ROAD. Thus, the same pavement marking has up to three different supporting signs adding to the confusion already manifest with the shared lanes concept for both people on bicycles and in cars. This does not account for the added confusion for visitors to the City of Albany and New York State in cars and on bicycles who are familiar with the federally approved (bicycle graphic) MAY USE FULL LANE in use in neighboring states.

2-18 – Right column needs to be split in two. “Unconstrained/Constrained by Parking Corridors” is hardly a single category; it is just confusing. Instead of saying “Eastern Segment,” say “East of ***** street” so that it is self-explanatory. Likewise for Northern.

2-18 – Figure 21 and Elsewhere – Delaware Ave. and Bethlehem – It is shortsighted not to tie into Bethlehem’s road diet for its portion of Delaware Ave. ABC brought this up at the neighborhood meetings. If the city and its surrounding communities want to create a unified bicycle infrastructure, they need to talk to each other, or at least be aware of each other’s plans and keep them in mind when developing their own.

Delaware Ave. between Morton Ave. and the NYS Thruway Bridge is currently precluded from having protected bicycle lanes – the minimally appropriate treatment. The city has given motor vehicle parking top priority. From the Thruway Bridge to the city line and the junction with Bethlehem’s traffic-calmed, bicycle-laned portion of Delaware Ave. there are a number of treatments that could help the City of Albany address its own motor vehicle congestion, parking, safety, and environmental concerns. Facilitating commuting between Bethlehem and Albany would do much to alleviate these issues that plague “downtown” Albany. This is as true today as when Albany Bicycle Coalition proposed it to the city in 2007.

There are thus two issues: (a) what to do about parking (that is, to take back space for use by people on bicycles) and (b) is there a way to make the Bethlehem-Albany bicycle trip better? To do something radical involves removing around 150 parking spots on Delaware Ave. A compromise would be a complete re-working of Delaware Ave. as follows: (a) from the Thruway to Morton, 20 mph speed, raised intersections, shared lanes, and (b) major rework of Delaware Ave. from Madison Ave. to Morton and from the Thruway Bridge to the Bethlehem town line. Under the tongue-in-cheek “Parking Places Matter,” it takes political will to the blanket removal of on-street, tax-supported storage apace for personal property (motor vehicles). A reasonable compromise is the above outline – breaking Delaware Ave. into three segments.

3-21 and Elsewhere – Intersections – One might venture those intersections that are problematic for people walking are also so for people on bicycles (and even people in cars). In that this is the case, there are a number of approaches that might well be included in the plan as definitive steps (vs. suggestions) with an emphasis on bicycles; to wit:

  • Bicycle sensitive/bicycle-priority traffic signals at high traffic intersections.
  • Green surface treatment for “bicycle boxes,” dotted bicycle lanes through intersections, and other locations.
  • Elimination or enhanced treatment of instances of combined right turn/bicycle lane.
  • On-demand traffic light control “buttons” reachable without dismounting.
  • Substantial (not painted) bulb outs to control speed and reduce pedestrian walk distance.
  • Sidewalk-height raised intersections to facilitate foot and wheelchair traffic
  • Install curb-level bulb outs at selected intersections on all streets with bicycle lanes to preclude motor vehicles from using the parking lane to squeeze past people on bicycles to make right turns.
  • Elimination of Belgium block (aka ‘cobblestones) road treatment as a hazard to both riders and walkers. They also are an extreme barrier to people in wheelchairs or motorized 3-wheelers. These are presently (presumably as a speed control measures (?)) on streets that are already challenge to ride or cross – S. Pearl St. and Lark St.
  • Elimination of the green “bicycle speed bumps” as installed on Madison Ave. (where they serve no discernable purpose other than to drive people on bicycles into the motor vehicle travel lane).
  • Enhance viewing space for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at intersections. “Daylight” all intersections as provided in the city parking code to 20 ft from each crossing street by painting curbs yellow and/or with painted “bump outs.” (§ 323-34 Street crossings kept open for passage – “… extending back into each street 20 feet beyond said corner, shall be kept free from all vehicles … “). Create a clear space at all intersections to improve visibility for bicyclists, pedestrians, and operators of motor vehicles. Do this by removing parking for a yet-to-be-determined distance and then “bumping out” the curbs to shorten crossings and prevent motorists from parking in the clear space areas (similar to the Delaware Ave. reconstruction.) Post signs and paint curbs to restrict the parking at corners until funds are available to reconstruct the curbs.

3-23 – Listening Sessions – There is no evidence of outreach to utilitarian cyclists – those who are not represented by conventional bicycle, neighborhood, or other organizations. These are riders who use their bicycles as a primary means of transportation. From our experience in the Albany Bicycle Coalition, this is a very difficult group to reach. Nonetheless, it would be good to see that some effort occurs in this direction as a concrete contribution to an equity-based plan.

The “bicycle user group” presumably means the “Albany Bicycle Coalition.” While most members and followers of the Albany Bicycle Coalition do, in fact, “use bicycles,” that is far from the limit of our ability, intent, or record. We are a 16-year-old, incorporated, not-for-profit, bicycle-advocacy group. Our objectives and our actions are the promotion of bicycle riding. To that end, we have tirelessly attempted to influence the direction of the cycling movement in Schenectady (with our partner Cycle Schenectady), Troy (with Troy Bike Rescue and Transport Troy), Town of Colonie, the Village of Colonie, and Saratoga Springs (with Bike Toga). Yes, we do occasionally host rides but they are designed to address issues vital to the city (e.g., Earth Day Rides) or raise awareness of cultural benefits and challenges (e.g., Albany Public Library rides). More than talk or lobby, we also developed a free, interactive bicycle map currently just enlarged to connect the City of Albany with the Town of Colonie, Troy, Niskayuna, and Schenectady. We check, recheck, and monitor every route on the map is to ensure its utility for many cyclists. No regional municipality even offers a print map much less one that people can access from most portable devices. We are blessed with articulate rider/members who bring to the Albany planning table years and miles of city, suburban, and rural cycling experience. Many members have made extensive trips to assess bicycle facilities in other states and cities. Our members attempt to keep abreast of bicycle-related and highway/street-related issues and sit on various committees to both learn and contribute. We maintain the only regional bicycle “blog” to report out on cycling developments and on areas of interest to people on bicycles. Our frequent emails are well received and, again, seem to be the only service of that nature in the area.

3-25 Stop Signs as Speed Control – QUOTE “Traffic lights in certain neighborhoods encourage people to speed, and could be replaced with stop signs for improved results.” The City of Albany has attempted to use STOP signs for speed control unsuccessfully. Frequently, people from residential areas call upon the city to “do something” to cut down on neighborhood speeding. The treatment has often been installation of STOP signs. What actually controls speed is road design, not signage.

3-25 Patroon Greenway Project – It is curious (and possibly counterproductive) that Albany received a study grant for the Patroon Creek Greenway, yet it is ignored it in the draft plan except for a couple cursory references. It is not on the “map” of priorities. This would make anyone looking at funding Albany for the Patroon Creek Greenway question the City’s commitment.

4-29 – “The network should connect to places people want to go and should provide continuous direct routes.” Agree 100%. This is the most critical feature of any bicycle network. A “bicycle boulevard” that extends for just a few blocks is merely a gesture and is not useful.

4-29 – Guiding Principles – QUOTE “Well designed and maintained bicycle and pedestrian facilities promote more walking and biking and promotes higher levels of travel by foot or by bike.”

However, people on bicycles want direct, not roundabout routes. Pedestrians and bicyclists want facilities that are safe, attractive, continuous, convenient, and easy to use. The paramount concern is that any “on-road” facility, unless it is a well-designed, protected (and paint is not a protectant) bicycle lane, causes stress for people on bicycles and for those who might hope to ride their bicycles. People do not want to (and will not) ride in (motor vehicle dominated) traffic.

4-29 Complete Streets QUOTE “Guidance for successful integration of bicycle and pedestrian facilities comes from Complete Streets principles, which dictate that all streets should have adequate infrastructure for every mode of transportation. The proposed network improvements that follow are based on the City of Albany Complete Streets Policy and Design Manual, which includes preferred design guidelines for each of the six street typologies that vary based on the FWHA functional classification and land-use context (see Figure 29), and guidelines compiled from best practices, including NACTO’s Urban Street Design Guide and Bikeway Design Guide and NYS Pedestrian Safety Action Plan.”

What the City of Albany needs is SAFE (not just “adequate”) infrastructure for every mode of transportation. The terms “adequate infrastructure for every mode of transportation” and “accommodate all road users,” reveal the weakness in the Complete Streets philosophy. If the relevant laws or ordinances stated “safe infrastructure for every mode,” it might be applicable to a bicycle/pedestrian master plan. Currently Complete Streets has to be (1) (only) considered and (2) always involves compromises with the destructive power of the motor vehicle receiving a greater share of the results. The plan should always emphasize “safe streets” over “complete streets.” New York State law defines a Complete Streets as roadways planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all roadway … including pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, and motorists (Complete Streets Act – Chapter 398, Laws of New York, 8/15/11). While the law implies that safety will be a considered, it does not make for safe streets. Make safety the priority in all street designs. The City of Albany is not obligated to use the lower Complete Streets standards in developing its bicycle and pedestrian facilities. It can seek out and meet higher standards to set the tone for New York State and cities across the state.

5-31-33 and 5-43 – Parking for Motor Vehicles –QUOTE “Remove on-street parking where feasible …” is inadequate. People without cars contribute more money to street construction and maintenance that do those who park cars on city streets. Notably, many who seek out “free,” on-street parking are commuters who contribute nothing to street maintenance or construction. Of these, many enter the city from the surrounding superhighways and yet do not abandon their highway conduct upon first entering the city. On-street parking is second in priority to people’s free and open access to safe streets. More germane, prohibit all diagonal or perpendicular parking throughout the city except for previously established Albany Police Department facilities. Backing up is inherently dangerous to cyclists (and to motor vehicles). See also “daylighting.

5-32 – Vision Zero – The draft Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan makes passing reference to vision zero but it does not appear to have been embraced as an underlying design goal.

5-34, Fig. 31 Side Paths – The figure calls for protected bicycle lanes for roadways with motor vehicle speeds of < 25 mph and > 26 mph. What is needed here is side paths completely separated from the motor vehicle lanes and restricted to bicycle use (although a pedestrian adjunct is possible if space permits). Side paths for people on bicycles need to be restricted to that use to preclude bicycle-pedestrian conflict. The two functions can be combined with proper separation, signage, and surface markings.

5-35 – Bike network map, and 5-41 prioritization map:

  • Helderberg Ave cannot work as a bicycle boulevard unless the dead-ends are clearly marked as permitting public bicycle access. They look 100% like private property.
  • Western Ave to UAlbany should be one of the highest priorities of all. Ranking it “low” really means it will never be improved. It should be embarrassing to see the Guilderland bicycle lanes come to a screeching halt at the Albany city limits.
  • South Pearl St. north of I-787 is not, by any stretch of the imagination, a “bicycle boulevard.” Its extremely heavy traffic, including numerous trucks, makes it unsuitable for any cyclists except the most fearless.
  • The end of Lincoln Ave is shown as high and medium priority, leading to Central Ave. However, Central is LOW priority, so in essence the plan funnels people into a dead end.
  • Protected bicycle lane on McCarty Ave is a waste of money. The hill is so steep that it is nearly impossible to come up, and unsafe to go down.
  • The following are already complete, so why are they included?
  • Madison Ave is shown as “high” priority – but it was finished two years ago.
    2) Ten Broeck St. and Northern Blvd. bicycle lanes – all work has been completed, yet the map shows them as high and medium priority.
    3) South End Connector was completed last July, except for amenities and some safety oversights. Only normal maintenance would be expected from this point on.

5-35 – Bicycle Boulevards – The first thing that strikes one is the plethora of so-called “bicycle boulevards” – the yellow/mustard map key. According to National Association of City Transportation Officials “Bicycle boulevards are streets with low motorized traffic volumes and speeds, designated and designed to give bicycle travel priority. Bicycle Boulevards use signs, pavement markings, and speed and volume management measures to discourage through trips by motor vehicles and create safe, convenient bicycle crossings of busy arterial streets.” (Highlights added) [SOURCE Bicycle Boulevards | National Association of City Transportation Officials (nacto.org):] Are Livingston Ave., State St., and N. Pearl St. appropriate bicycle boulevard candidates?

Designating a street as a bicycle boulevard when it is not and can never be one seems a poor strategy and one that will build false expectations with those citizens who yearn for bikeable streets. It is also noteworthy that some so-called bicycle boulevards are not through, travel-type streets but side streets and dead ends. Will they lead to anywhere? Is the city prepared to mandate 20 mph speed limits on all bicycle boulevards? Is it prepared to limit through travel for motor vehicle on (some of) these streets through the use of midblock dead ends, alternating one way designations, eliminating “right on red,” etc.? Note also from NACTO, pg. 207, bicycle boulevards are not substitutes for direct route facilities.

It is unclear how these will play out. If these will actually lead to reduction of speed along these streets so that bicycles and cars can cohabit these spaces they would be fine. If they are just going to be “sharrows” painted on streets (until they wear away), they will provide no value.

5-35 – Network vs. Core Route – Depending on one’s definition of a “network,” the plan proposes a large number of streets for treatment but does not indicate how they will constitute a network of core routes that will “take people on bicycles from here to there.” The City of Albany needs to establish at least four key networks or core routes and needs to concentrate on building these before attending to feeder streets or recreational facilities. Each core route would be comprised of various on- or off-road segments, each with a designated facility treatment. The core routes are the essence and backbone of a successful plan.

One of the paramount concerns is the proposed treatments of New Scotland Avenue. You are well aware at our collective dissatisfaction with the St. Peters Hospital “traffic study” which advocated for giving motor vehicle parking priority over the safety of people on bicycles or walking and over the need for riders to access Bethlehem and Albany via New Scotland Ave.

The plan already calls for connecting Madison Ave. to Guilderland as part of Core Route C below. Albany Bicycle Coalition’s CapitalNYBikeMap has some good connections in many areas that could be made somewhat attractive. [SOURCE: CapitalNYBikeMap | Albany Bicycle Coalition] The draft plan chose two neighbors to which we already have good connections – Menands/Watervliet/Green Isl. and Guilderland (via Western Ave. and/or the CapitalNYBikeMap). The four key core routes are proposed as follows:

  1. Menands-Albany-Bethlehem Connector (a “north-south” connector) – This would use Broadway and Delaware Ave. and join these two via the (unprotected) bicycle lane on Clinton Ave. and a “cross town” segment yet to be designated.
  2. “North-South” Connector #2 – This would favor the western side of the main metropolitan area and might connect to a re-designed Hackett Blvd. off road, side path.
  3. Hudson River-Guilderland Connector – This would require substantial work to get from the Hudson River/Corning Riverfront Park/South End Connector to the (unprotected) bicycle lanes on Madison Ave. These lanes then would be joined to those in Guilderland by protected lanes on Western Ave. from N. Allen to the city line.
  4. Hudson River-Broadway-Northside-Town of Colonie Connector – This would grow out from the Washington Ave. “corridor study” project with protected bicycle lanes on Washington Ave.

5-40New Scotland Ave. is shown as “high demand” for bike / ped.

5-41 – But, it has no “priority” whatsoever – not even “low”! It is extremely disappointing that the City is choosing to willfully disregard the numerous public meeting comments advocating for bicycle infrastructure on New Scotland Ave. This is your last chance to correct a major policy blunder that would sabotage bicycling progress in Albany for years to come.

5-46 – Need illustrations, diagrams, or at least clearer descriptions of “corner wedges,” “bend-out.” Those are not included on the page 5-48 diagram.

5-48 – Diagram is just terrible: (1) extremely crowded – tries to squeeze too much information on one page and (2) impossible to figure out where the lanes really are.

6-58 and Elsewhere – 20 MPH – The Albany Bicycle Coalition called for establishment of lower speed limits throughout the city. This is an unaddressed safety concern. It is clearly established that motor vehicle’s striking a pedestrian or cyclist has a greater chance of causing injury or death at speeds over 20 mph. That’s “science.”

As a start and as part of its education program for people in cars, the city needs to establish a 20-mph “green zone” bounded by and including Clinton Ave., Broadway, Madison Ave., and Henry Johnson Blvd. A second wave expansion of the “green zone” could extend further north of Clinton Ave. for the section near N. Pearl, probably a few blocks beyond Livingston Ave. The northbound I-787 ramp to Clinton Ave. is redesigned and is already partially approved and funded to become a multipurpose trail leading to the Hudson River/Corning Riverfront Park. This gets people coming and going to and from the Corning Riverfront Park to the proposed northern edge of the green zone. However, many of those people will chose to walk or bicycle both north and south of this (to be heavily used) access point. Many of the cultural attractions in the area used to generate and will generate pedestrian and some bicycle travel in the area from Clinton Ave. north to Colonie St. including the Palace Theatre. Audiences for the Palace and for the newly relocated Capital Repertory Theatre on the Livingston Ave.-N. Pearl St. corner will add to this non-motorized traffic. Currently, people park their cars under I-787 and then walk or bicycle into downtown or at least to N. Pearl St. attractions near Colonie St. Conversely, people downtown access the Hudson River and trail.

The City of Albany should work with state legislators to provide home rule for cities to set speed limits below 30 mph (outside of schools zones). For specific projects, apply for “home rule” for traffic safety advancements such as a “20 Is Plenty” “green zone” as described above. Reduce speed limit on all park roads in the City of Albany to 15 mph with traffic calming changes to roadways to discourage driving over the desired speed. Calming techniques include reducing the width of driving lanes, squaring intersections, installing speed bumps and speed tables, and changing the road surface.

6-65 – Berkshire Blvd. sidewalks show “low priority”; it should be medium or high. There is heavy pedestrian movement for nearly a mile west of Colonial Ave. because Berkshire Blvd. is the only way to access the heavily-used Buckingham Pond Park. This was pointed out by several people at the neighborhood public zoom meeting, and I can confirm this from many years of personal observation.

7-72 – QUOTE: “Refine Maintenance Standards – Encouraging walking and regular ridership on a network means the network must be well maintained, with regular sweeping and short response times for repairs. Commuter ridership, in particular, requires that routes to major workplaces are consistently clear of snow and debris, and pavement is free from cracks, potholes, and other defects. Maintenance can be a partnership between public, private, and advocacy organizations and can be facilitated by issue-reporting apps such as SeeClickFix.” This must be a basic premise of the plan’s implementation. Historically, the city has allowed two things: (1) deterioration of the pavement markings on those routes having bicycle lanes and (2) not enhancing and improving the few miles of bicycle lanes in place. Since the city has relied on on-street facilities (as opposed to side paths and protected ones), the pavement markings suffer from street plowing and cleaning and the constant flow of non-bicycle traffic.

General Comments without Specific Page References

Various Pages – Regional Connectivity – The plan needs to call for connections outside the city proper. Albany needs to build a continuous active transportation network to access major community destinations for all residents and for residents of the outlying communities to access the city for work, recreation, shopping, and errands. The Albany Bicycle Coalition’s CapitalNYBikeMap highlights many of the connections that the city can easily implement with signage and pavement management.

Other Comments – An independent cyclist, pedestrian, bus rider, and disabled person provided the following specific comments to Albany Bicycle Coalition for inclusion in this submission. Some comments from this submission are blended into the general presentation.

  • Establish a safe route from the University at Albany to Central Ave. via Fuller Rd. and to the Washington Ave ext.
  • Enforce rules about parking a certain number of feet from curb to allow seeing on-coming traffic.
  • Make the Patroon Creek Blvd. Complex accessible to pedestrians/cyclists. At present, here is no safe way for people walking to reach this complex. There is no CDTA service. Riding a bicycle is only for the “brave and fearless.”
  • Establish a “Bicycle Benefits” program to encourage people on bicycles to wear helmets, to adhere to “rules of the road,” and to perfect there riding skills in traffic.
  • Enforce “rules of the road” behavior by people on bicycles or walking.

Building a network – It  looks that much thought went into connecting bicycle and pedestrian people with the places they need to go.  North-South connections are considered and are much needed. A good effort overall, though there is room for improvement

Protected Bicycle Lanes – Western Ave., Washington Ave., Central Ave., Manning Blvd., Morton Ave., McAlpin/McCarty, Frisbee/Slinglerland are good suggestions. They would also be advisable for Main Ave., State St., Green St., and Shaker Rd.

Extending the Hackett Blvd. Multiuse Path – Going west to Manning Blvd. and east to Holland Ave. and Lark St. was brought up at several meetings and this addition is welcomed.

Department of Corrections and Community Services Multiuse Path Network – This multiuse path are the facility was not included in the draft plan. DCCS finished paving the path along McCormack Rd. from New Scotland Ave. to their entrance by Fairway Ct. The Matre Christi Park/Pool will be accessible by separate paths from New Scotland and McCormack.

New Scotland Ave. and Delaware Ave. – No treatment at all for New Scotland and Delaware Avenues. As pointed out many times, Delaware and New Scotland are unavoidable for cyclists entering and leaving the city. The limited ability for cyclists to cross Route 85 and NYS Thruway/I-87 funnels cyclists onto New Scotland and Delaware. The Strava heatmaps that show bicycle data over the last two years demonstrate that these are primary routes for cyclists. The brighter lines demonstrate higher use. The plan cannot wish cyclists away from these streets. A responsible plan must figure out how to accommodate them. Accommodate cyclists on Delaware and New Scotland as follows: (1) impose bicycle lanes on New Scotland (instead of parking spaces) from O’Neill Rd (by the Golf Course) to Manning Blvd., (2) Turn the Krumkill Rd/Rt 85 crossing and Buckingham Dr. into a bicycle boulevard, and (3) Install bicycle lanes or bicycle boulevards on Delaware Ave. from the Bethlehem line to Maple Ridge. These steps would connect cyclists from these outer sections of the city to the rest of your planned bicycle network.

Everett Road – This is another crucial crossing of limited use that cyclists and pedestrians must and do use. See for example the Strava heat maps provided. It is unreasonable to expect cyclists and pedestrians go miles out of the way. The I-90 ramps are especially dangerous. We hope the Planning Department will make vigorous efforts to build in bicycle/ pedestrian accommodations. The management of people riding bicycles or walking on Everett Rod./I-90 bridge/Interchange will also be crucial to development of the Patroon Creek Greenway, in which the Planning Department is also involved.

Albany Skyway and Clinton Ave. – Connect the Albany Skyway and Clinton Ave. The plan does not have any treatment for the connection of the new Skyway and the Clinton Ave. bicycle lanes. The plan comes very close to providing safe travel between the Hudson River and the Corning Riverfront Park and the Tivoli Lake Preserve and Arbor Hill/West Hill. Something needs to be done with those last couple of blocks from Ten Broeck to Broadway. This could all easily become part of the proposed Patroon Creek Greenway that would give north Albany something to rival the South End Connector and the Albany County Rail Trail.

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A Hidden Gem – Dott Ave. and the CapitalNYBikeMap

One of the major challenges in developing and refining the CapitalNYBikeMap (formerly the “BikeAlbanyMap”) is identifying streets, roads, trails, and intersections that are up to the map’s established standards of being safe and comfortable to ride. Since the map covers much of the Capital Region – with more to come – it is inevitable that the routes it proposes will have to contact streets that the Albany Bicycle Coalition would never recommend for a “traffic concerned” rider. This includes Central Ave., Washington Ave., Fuller Rd., and so on.

In some cases, there simply is no alternative. In these instances, the map provides instructions and cautionary icons. These may say, “Walk bicycle to traffic light can cross at the light” or “busy intersection with high traffic volume – use caution.” Alternatively, the map may suggest a more indirect route but one that avoids hectic streets or intersections.

Frequently, through many hours of evaluation and on-site assessment, we have been able to identify routes that one would never heretofore considered. This is about one such route – once hidden but when revealed shows a new and safer way to navigate the area.

Current Situation – To get from the Crossings Park in the Town of Colonie to the Six-Mile Park on Fuller Rd., the CapitalNYBikeMap has to get people on bicycles across the ever-challenging Central Ave. Briefly, the map uses Frederick Ave. It suggests using the traffic light at Frederick and Central, and then the sidewalk along Central Ave. to continue on Interstate Ave. 

As You Head Toward Death-Defying Central Ave., There’s a Traffic Light and Dott. Ave Straight Ahead!
View from Central Ave. – It’s “Dead End” for Cars but not for Bicycles!

A Glimmer of Hope – But wait! Immediately across Central Ave. from Frederick Ave. is Dott Ave. As we can see, Frederick – with the help of the traffic light to get us across Central Ave. – leads right into Dott Ave. What not use it? A closer view shows there are not one but two “dead end” signs as you head south on Dott Ave. from Central Ave. It is a dead end. Not atypically, “dead end” means “dead end for people in cars” but how about on bicycles?

A Closer Look at Dott Ave. Connecting Railroad Ave. and Central Ave. – (See https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6945823,-73.8130095,17z) The map shows Dott Ave. in the center with the direct connections to Fredrick to the northeast and to Rail Road Ave. to the southwest.

(See CapitalNYBikeMap   https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/albany_bike_map/ )

The Albany Bicycle Coalition suggests that the Town of Colonie open the dead-end Dott Ave. as a multiuse path for people riding bicycles or walking. Dott Ave. is entirely within the town so changes to it are simplified and of minimal cost.

Dott Ave. is more direct than the currently proposed route via Interstate Ave. It would not require walking bicycles along Central Ave. Dott Ave. is a dead end. Currently, a hole in the fence is big enough for a bicycle, but it is off center and southbound riders cannot see it until they are 200 feet away. First-time visitors might conclude there is a mistake on Albany Bicycle Coalition’s map and turn around. Often, there are many vehicles parked on the south of the fence so that even northbound riders could only find the hole with difficulty. The photos clearly show that this is a classic “no brainer” – a easy lift to facilitate safe travel for people on bicycles.

View from the End of Dott Ave. Toward RR Ave.

The Town of Colonie would have to arrange for removal of one or two motor vehicle parking spaces, add some signage, and conduct minor paving/re-paving.

View from the RR Ave. side toward Dott Ave. and Central Ave.

As a side benefit to the residents of Dott Ave., clearly marking the passage through the fence and building appropriate structure might deter truckers from trying to open the existing gate to reach the industrial park. Plus, they’d have some nice people on bicycles waving to them!

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Filed under CapitalNYBikeMap, Colonie

Your New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions for people on bicycles who want to make cycling safer for all by promoting a positive image of cycling and make the City of Albany and the Capital Region a place where people want to live, work, and relax …

Comments Received after publication:

  • What a great list. Happy New Year, stay safe, stay healthy on & off your bike. (submitted byJKM 1/7/21)
  • Excellent.  I love these resolutions. I only have one modification or supplement to the second one.  If the temperature is below freezing don’t ride if there is black ice and limit rides to 30 minutes.  Don’t Ride below 15 degrees F. (submitted by EH, 1/1/21)
  • Thank you! (submitted by AB, 1/1/21)
  • Good morning – I agree with those pledges, so I guess I’ll pump up my tires today! (submitted by IV, 1/1/21)
  • I will – Smile and say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “hi,” etc. to everyone I meet while riding.
  • I will – Remember that to increase safety for people on bicycles is to ride my bicycle as often as I can.  All the bicycle lanes, tickets, smart traffic lights, “share the road signs,” blinkie lights, and reflective clothing will do little if not accompanied by MORE PEOPLE riding MORE OFTEN.
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  • I will – Shop locally at locally owned businesses who hire local people and pay a fair wage. (See Local Bike Shops | Albany Bicycle Coalition) I will buy on the internet only when my bicycle shop does not stock or cannot order what I need.
  • I will – Obey the traffic law.  I will stop for signs and signals especially when people in cars or on foot can see me, and I will stay off the sidewalks.
  • I will – Check that my brakes work (lever is a thumb’s distance or more from the handle bars when brake is full “on” and the pads contact the wheel rim braking surface).
  • I will – (added by alert cyclist Eric) – Not ride if the temperature is below freezing especially if there is “black ice.” I will limit rides to 30 minutes and will not ride below 15 degrees F. (unless I am thoroughly prepared for these conditions).
  • I will – Learn how to use CapitalNYBikeMap so that I can help others find stress-free routes in the capital region. (See – CapitalNYBikeMap | Albany Bicycle Coalition )
  • I will – Learn how to sign out a CDPHP Cycle! BikeShare bicycle for day use so that I will be able to help visitors (tourists, family, friends) get a bicycle. (See CDPHP Cycle!)
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  • I will – Be deferential to all pedestrians no matter how crazily they act.
  • I will – Speak out on behalf of people on bicycles in a polite and non-confrontational manner.
  • I will – Signal my stops, scan and signal my turns, and make eye contact with people in cars and on foot.
  • I will – Speak out and write in on issues facing cycling. I will keep up to date on developments that affect safe use of the streets by people on bicycles.
  • I will – Support my local bike rescue (See Bike Rescue | Albany Bicycle Coalition.)
  • I will – Wave and smile to those in cars who are bothered by my presence on a bicycle on my streets (and no “one finger waves,” s.v.p.)
  • I will – Lube my chain and check air in my tires.
  • I will – Be Kind.

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Filed under Activisim, New Years

Where are We in Albany?

FROM THE ARCHIVES: The following was one of the Albany Bicycle Coalition’s many efforts to promote the installation of bicycle lanes on Madison Ave. as part of the Madison Avenue Traffic Calming campaign. While we were successful in that effort, only about 1.6 miles of additional bicycle lanes have been installed in the City of Albany since the lanes on Madison Ave. for a grand total of 4.9. Thus, the basic message below remains as relevant as it was 7 years ago. If you believe otherwise, please comment.

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“Sharrows are shared lane advisory markings, not bike infrastructure.”[1]

“Purpose – The purpose of this memorandum is to issue an Interim Approval for the optional use of green colored pavement in marked bicycle lanes and in extensions of bicycle lanes through intersections and other traffic conflict areas.  Interim Approval allows interim use.”[2]

Where are We in Albany?

Why Settle for Less?  – The question before us all is: are we happy with the “same old-same old” or do we want to move Albany into the present?  If cyclists do not push for change in this direction, who is to do so?  Where is the “transportation equity” in that?  The cycling changes made in Albany to date are “bicycle amenities” not “bicycle infrastructure,” ‘bicycle routes,” or “bicycle boulevards.”  So far, we have installed one set of bicycle lanes just under a mile in length that begins nowhere and ends nowhere on a street that many people will not even drive on (much less cycle). [ED Refers to the Clinton Ave. 1.7 miles of bicycle lanes completed in 2008.]

Albany can make itself bicycle friendly to its residents, commuters, and tourists.  As an old, established city, everything is compact and accessible.  The terrain is bicycle friendly.  Instead of a grid of semi-highways, Albany has a network of curving streets, “T” intersections, and multiple routes to many destinations.   

Not Infrastructure – From observations and from the literature, shared lane markings are merely an advisory; they definitely are not infrastructure.  Putting in a shared lane is analogous to putting up a “yield to pedestrians” sign instead of a crosswalks, traffic lights, speed “humps,” and so on.

What Do Shared Lanes Accomplish?  – There is some modest consciousness raising for both cyclists and motorists, but that is about the contribution.  Their success is still largely dependent on the patience and courtesy of motor vehicle drivers. 

Of course, shared lanes are simpler.  Doing nothing is even more so.  Simplicity is not the goal – the goal to encourage cycling.  The goal is to get people out of cars and onto bicycles.  The goal is to spend Albany’s street “paving” dollars to benefit all the users – that is why Albany passed a complete streets ordinance on 6/3/13.

Other East-West Routes?  – As far as splitting the protected east-west bicycle route between Washington Ave. and Madison Ave., it is not clear how this would work or why one would want to do it.  Again, for the hesitant cyclists, Washington Ave. is a road to nowhere.  What to does one do at Brevator?  What does one do at the flyover?  These are not bicycle-friendly routes.  Added to this is the intrinsic high-speed nature of Washington Ave. for almost its entire length west of Robin St.

The manifold benefits of Madison Ave. as the main east-west bicycle route include the following:

  • Its locus for many destinations
  • Direct route to lower Albany and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail (and later the Albany County Rail Trail)
  • Its connection to Western Ave. – which, one day, will be reconfigured with bicycle infrastructure.
  • None of these features is shared by the other candidates – Washington Ave., Central Ave., or the combined Clinton Ave. /Central Ave.

Buses And Protected Lanes – The issue of bus/protected lanes interface can be solved, just as it has been solved elsewhere.

Shared Lanes Do Not Help – Shared lance markings do little to encourage hesitant cyclists to take to the streets.  Would you put your 8-year-old child on Delaware Ave.?  We cannot base our opinions and recommendations on what makes us feel comfortable on the road or what changes would satisfy us but on what we believe will get those who are not currently riding the streets to get them out into the bicycle lanes and onto the protected lanes – and keep them there until they too can say “well, I guess I could try riding in traffic without special bicycle accommodations!”

Now, Madison Ave. –

  • If not this, What?
  • If not now, When?
  • If not us, Who?

This leaves us with the question – what to do with Madison Ave. (given that it will have the proposed 2 motor vehicle lanes, 2 parking lanes, and one central turn lane)? [ED: Between 2016 and 2018, the City of Albany chose it install 1.6 miles of un-buffeted, conventional bicycle lanes on Madison Ave. instead of the preferred protected bicycle lanes. The city chose to keep the wide motor vehicle travel lanes (vs. the 10-foot lanes recommended. The alternatives under consideration in 2013 were as listed below.]

These would be the alternative proposals for Madison Ave.:

  1. Two curbside protected bicycle lanes by either eliminating one lane of parking or by narrowing the 5 motor vehicles lanes.  The protected lanes could be 9 or 10 feet wide.  This configuration would be “bicycle/no parking/travel/turn/travel/parking/bicycle” with dimensions of either 10-0-10-10-10-7-10 feet or 9-0-11-10-11-7-9 feet. 
  2. Two 6-foot (not 5-foot) bicycle lanes and three 10-foot motor vehicle lanes (this now would be “Alternative 1, Option C-2”).[3]  The current “alternative 1, Option C calls for a “parking/bicycle/travel/turn/travel/bicycle/parking” configuration of 7.5-5-11-10-11-5-7.5 feet.  The proposed C-2 would be 7-6-10.5-10-10.5-6-7.  Narrowing the two travel lanes to 10 feet would allow for 6.5-foot bicycle lanes – almost European.

[1] Pg. 25, Momentum, Aug-Sep 2013

[2] SOURCE: Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices – http://mutcd.fhwa.dot.gov/resources/interim_approval/ia14/index.htm

[3] The lane widths on Western Ave. (between Pine and Allen) are 10-10.5-10-10 feet with no parking lane.  The lanes on Madison Ave. between W. Lawrence and Main Ave. are 7-10-11-11-10-7 feet.  Those on Madison Ave. east of the College of St. Rose “bump outs” are 19.5-10-10-19.5 with no marked parking lane.  (Allowing for a 7-foot parking lane, the configuration would be 7-12.5-10-10-12.5-7.)  Source for alternatives is the “Madison Ave. Road Diet Feasibility Study,” 4/16/13.

Allen/Madison/Western – Yikes!

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Filed under Albany-Bike/Ped Master Plan, Bike Lanes, Editorial, Equity, protected bicycle lanes