Category Archives: Activisim

Earth Day Ride – April 23, 2022

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.

Signing In

Pre-ride safety briefing

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

On the home stretch

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Filed under Activisim, Climate Change, Earth Day

85-Percentile Rule

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.

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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.

Built for 55 – Please go 30 MPH

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.

Washington Ave. FLY over

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.

Cohoes Blvd or I-787 – road, street, or stroad?

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!

This is a street

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.

This is a street. This is a human. That is a bicycle. That is a cross walk. That is an ADA curb cut.

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.

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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.

Resources –

85th Percentile Speed Explainedhttp://www.mikeontraffic.com/85th-percentile-speed-explained/

Understanding the 85th Percentile Speedhttps://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2020/7/24/understanding-the-85th-percentile-speed

The Wrong Way to Set Speed Limitshttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bglWCuCMSWc

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Filed under Activisim, Editorial, Product Review, Washington Ave.

Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act

Your support is essential to the success of a major new roadway safety campaign. Even if you do not ride a bicycle and do not walk except to and from your car, roadway safety still has to be a concern. Please take a few minutes to sign on to the campaign here – http://nysafestreets.org.  and select TAKE ACTION.

As motor vehicles have grown larger, with increases in distracted driving and speeding, more cyclists and pedestrians are being seriously injured and killed. While we have seen some minor improvements to pedestrian and cyclist infrastructure, our roads are still largely designed and built to carry motor vehicles and are unsafe for all other users.

Nicholas Richichi, age 53, 10/29/07

For these reasons, the Albany Bicycle Coalition has joined Walkable Albany and a statewide coalition of bicycling and other road safety advocates in our common effort to pass the NY Crash Victim Rights and Safety Act (CVRSA). The seven bills in the CVRSA will permit municipalities the option to lower their speed limits, mandate 3-foot clearance when passing cyclists, support Complete Streets initiatives that improve road safety for all users, better educate drivers to protect vulnerable road users, and provide support to those personally impacted.

As part of The New York Safe Streets Coalition’s launch of the campaign for the CVRSA, Albany Bicycle Coalition released the following short video:  https://youtu.be/2qpVRHWNd1A.

For further CVRSA information, see http://nysafestreets.org.

The complete set of bills in the CVRSA are as follows:

Speed Limit Authorizes cities, villages and towns (outside NYC) to reduce the speed limit to twenty-five miles per hour.S02021 (May)A01007 (Paulin)
Sammy’s Law Allows lower life-saving speed limits in NYCS524 (Hoylman)A4655 (Gottfried)
Complete StreetsIncreases state funding where the municipality agrees to fund a complete street design feature. S3897 (Kennedy)A8936 (Fahy)
Complete Streets MaintenanceIncludes, when possible, complete street design features in resurfacing, maintenance, and pavement recycling projects and further enable safe access to public roads for all users.S5130 (Kennedy)A7782 (Rivera)
Safe PassageRequire drivers pass bicyclists at a safe distance of min. 3 feet.S4529 (Harckham)A547 (Steck)
DMV Pre- Licensing CourseEducates NY drivers about safely interacting with vulnerable road usersS1078A (Gounardes)A5084/7032 (Gallagher)
Crash Victim Bill of RightsGuarantee rights & a voice for crash victims and their loved ones in legal proceedingsS8152 (Hoylman)Glick

Join the Push for Safer Streets for All – To do your part in pushing for safe roads, you need to contact both of your state legislators to express your support for the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act.

Since many organizations that are not primarily involved with cycling, walking, or roadway safety should still have an interest in this initiative, you may want to sign your organization on to the campaign. You can complete this form.

Diva De Loayza, age 40, 6/6/07

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Filed under Activisim, Death on the Road, safety, Support the Cause

Forward Motion into 2022 on Bicycles

TO: Friends of Cycling and Good Living in the Capital Region:

The salutation “Friends of Cycling and Good Living in the Capital Region” expands our collective focus beyond just bicycles. We all need to engage in the larger issue of livable cities. This movement benefits all – residents and visitors – whether they be walking, riding, bussing, jogging, skateboarding, or just sitting.

This focus addresses the broader issues of street safety, air and sound pollution, environmental degradation, affordable (and accessible) housing, and access to food, services and facilities. Aside from the goal of safe connections for people on bicycles, we operate on the unarguable principle that anything done to benefit cyclists will benefit all road users.

Our overarching intent is to update on the bicycle-related scene in our area or to provide information that will stimulate thinking about bicycling as a major component in “livability for all.”

Whenever possible, the entries have a link or a contract (name, email, phone) or a bibliographic citation. Occasionally, the link will be to graphics offered by the source or on this Albany Bicycle Coalition blog.

We also try to encourage your patronizing our several local bike shops. We all know that it is sometimes easier and occasionally cheaper to buy on the internet but always remember – Amazon or some bike shop in South Carolina will not be available to help you with a maintenance problem or to guide you in the purchase of accessories tailored to you and your specific bicycle. (See https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/resources/local-bike-shops/ )

See you on the road and in the streets this year.

Ride On!
Little girl with face mask riding a bike in the street during the coronavirus pandemic

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Filed under Activisim, Comings and Goings, Support the Cause

Down in Flames – Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project

“Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior.” – Martha C. Nussbaum [SOURCE: https://www.azquotes.com/author/18217-Martha_C_Nussbaum]

Election Day 2021 was a very sad day for people in cars, on foot, in wheel chairs, on public transit, and on bicycles and for business growth. “No” votes for Bethlehem’s Prop. #6 came from 4,461 (56 percent) “anti” people vs. 3.386 (43 percent) “pro” voters – a difference of 1,075 votes. (See (https://www.timesunion.com/elections/albany/.) Even without data on the non-voting, “I-can’t-be- bothered” people (there are some 35,000 people in Bethlehem), a good number were affected by “off year malaise.” This result squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to convert 1.3 miles of Delaware Ave. to a traffic-calmed, walk-able, drive-able street vs. a high-speed highway. It appears that the concepts of “Complete Streets” or “Vison Zero” or “road safety” or “livable community” present an insurmountable mental barrier for many Bethlehemers.

Prop #6 – Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project Revisited – The “pro” contingent waged a good campaign based on a factual presentation of the issues and how Traffic Calming would address them. They produced a very impressive video, had many lawn signs, and several supportive letters, commentaries, and articles in local media. See https://www.facebook.com/Bethlehem-Bicycle-Pedestrian-Committee-130190633781279/ The feasibility/design consultants produced a fact-filled, analytical report that left little doubt as to the benefits of the Traffic Calming movement. At two public meetings, all but one or two voiced unequivocal support for the project.

Why the Loss? – One local analyst noted that “off-year” elections bring out the angry voter. The results in the City of Albany mayoral race suggest this. Other opponents are simply ignorant. The “anti-Prop. #6” cabal (jokingly self-identified as the “Bethlehem Coalition for Common Sense Urges Voters to Vote No on Proposition 6”) was masterful in repeating and repeating half-truths and untruths to influence successfully many voters (a familiar stategy?). Essentially, 4,461 voters decided the issue for all of the 35,000 town residents and all those many others who use Delaware Ave. Therefore, between these “angry voters,” the voluntarily ignorant, and those who prefer not to vote at all, this opportunity for Delaware Ave. and the larger region slipped away.

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Dumb and Dumber Cont’d – The Times Union weighed in on the failed Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project in its 11/8 editorial. The Times Union has been generally supportive of the project and against the referendum. The report reminds one of the adage: “Stupidity is not inherited; it is learned and nurtured.” See – https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/ (The Bethlehem piece was not live on the website (https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/ ) at 9:15 AM, so check back later!

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Bicycles? – Some of the “anti” arguments were against bicycle lanes as either unneeded, unsafe, or unwanted. This position completely ignores the calming effect of narrowing the road using bicycle lanes as a device – even if no cyclists ever used it.  That is, the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project was never a “bicycle project” although people on bicycles were included along with all other road users (that mysterious “complete Streets” idea again).

From the Peanut Gallery – The following verbatim comment is from a local “next door” webpage and serves to illustrate the above points (Italics added to highlight the writer’s “thought” process.

“Prop. 6, why I am voting no! I remember when Delaware Ave. was widened in 1958 to accommodate more businesses and more traffic on the road. Supporters of Prop. 6 are afraid to call it what it is: less (sic.) lanes of traffic. A road does not eat food, so it cannot diet. Road diet is a misleading term to get more support. Less (sic.) lanes of traffic will not work. Delaware Ave. has always been a way for people to go to Albany, and come back again. There will be more traffic congestion during the rush hours. A minute or two in Delmar can mean another longer delay in Albany and beyond. There will be delays going to Albany, and delays returning to Delmar. The bike lanes will not be used most of the time. People do not ride their bikes in the cold, snow, icy winter weather, or in the rain. People do not ride bikes to shop at the supermarket, and usually they do not ride them to go to restaurants or do other shopping. It is a safety issue. The bike riders will be in danger. On one part of Delaware Ave., there are 15,000 vehicles a day. On another part of Delaware Ave., there are 18,000 vehicles a day. We do not put bike lanes on very busy roads like Central Ave., route 787, or the Thruway. Why is Delaware Ave. the only place in the town where people are insisting on dangerous bike lanes? And I have been a bicyclist for many years. I am not against bicyclists. I am afraid there could be bad accidents involving them and motorists on a very busy road. I drive on Delaware Ave. a lot. I see very few bike riders, but when I do, I fear for their lives and safety. Most days I see no bicyclists. The less (sic.) lanes of traffic plan would also mean delays for emergency vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. Delays of a few seconds or minutes could result in deaths, destruction of property, or serious crimes. Fewer lanes of traffic mean more congestion, longer travel times, danger for bicyclists, and longer response times for emergency vehicles. Town businesses were never consulted in the beginning. Nor were delivery companies, bus drivers, or a lot of commuters and town residents. And how many tens of thousands of dollars did the town pay to the consultants? I support our local businesses, who will be harmed by this proposal and oppose it. The economy is bad enough already. I am voting no on Proposition 6. It has too many flaws.”

Businesses Join Together – Coupled with the promulgation of these truths and half-truths, the “anti-Prop. #6” cabal ran a very impressive campaign to recruit businesses to support its position Quote: “The Coalition counts the following organizations in support:” Andrianos Pizza, Bliss Juice Smoothie, Bueneau’s Opticians, Capadona’s Pizza, Choices Hair Salon, Dave’s Glass, Delaware Plaza, Delmar Beverage Center, Delmar Bistro, Delmar Chiropractic, Delmar Wine and Liquor. Dunkin Donuts, Empire SiteCom, Inc./New Scotland Communications, Expanco Holding, LLC, Fortitude Lyfe Fitness, John Fritze, Jr. Jeweler, Geurtze Builders, Gustos, Handy Dandy Cleaners, Havill’s Auto Body, Kelly Kleeners, LC Smith, Los Panchos, My Place & Company, Nail City, Nationwide Insurance, O’Slattery’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Phillips Hardware, Pratt & Associates, Rain Hair Studio, Scissor Society, Shalimar Restaurant, St. Croix Tan, The Paper Mill, Tool’s Restaurant, Uncrushable Nutrition, and Upstate Wine and Liquor.

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Filed under Activisim, Bethlehem Delaware Avenue Traffic Calming Project, Bike Lanes