On the picture perfect Sunday afternoon, August 15, the Underground Railroad Education Center and the Albany Bicycle Coalition jointly conducted an Arbor Hill/West Hill “Slow Roll” bicycle ride (see stats at end of this post). The fun, safe, low-stress, low-speed bicycle ride took advantage of numerous bicycle lanes, trails, and low congestion streets in the neighborhood. The group stopped at several points where speakers led discussions on the history and future of the neighborhoods. Stops included the Harriet and Stephen Myers Residence, Arbor Hill Park, Tivoli Lake Preserve, Bleeker Stadium/Swinburne Park, and the Arbor Hill Library. The Tivoli Preserve stop highlighted the 9-mile Patroon Creek Greenway Trail currently undergoing study by the City of Albany (see http://albanyny.gov/800/Patroon-Greenway-Feasibility-Study). The new Greenway Trail would connect the Albany Waterfront to the Six Mile Waterworks and points beyond with access from Arbor Hill and West Hill. We also discussed the daylighting of the Patroon Creek and making nearby mountain bike trails more accessible to Tivoli Preserve and its adjoining neighborhoods.
Our Arbor Park Stop pointed out the nearby site of the original Dudley Observatory. We also noted 1962 Urban Renewal Plans for the area that would have put a school where the historic Harriet and Stephen Myers Residence still stands. The 1964 plans are more representative of the current configuration.
RIDE STATS – The ride covered 4.37 miles “door-to-door” and started at 1:15 and ended at 2:45 (1 hour 30 min) with 44 min of actual riding with an average speed of 5.7 mph. The ride thus met its goal of being a “slow roll” that riders of all abilities could enjoy.
We ended the ride with an “ice cream social” in the shady back yard of the Stephen and Harriet Myers Residence.
The Albany Bicycle Coalition will be conducting a “Bike the Branches Slow Roll” in conjunction with the Albany Public Libraries on September 25.
On 2/20/21, the Albany Bicycle Coalition sent a follow-up letter to Mayor Sheehan on a number of proposals that we submitted between 2016 and 2020. It is our position that each of these – albeit each with a primary focus on cycling – would add immeasurably to the safety, convenience, ambience, and economic vitality of the city regardless of their benefit for people on bicycles. Each project stands on its own merit in this regard.
February 20, 2021 RE: ABC Initiatives – Various
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
Over the last several years, the Albany Bicycle Coalition proposed a number of projects to enhance the value of our community to all its residents and to those who visit or work in the City of Albany. I would like your assistance in tracing down the status of these proposals with in the city. The base document for each item is attached for your reference.
South End Connector Safety Modifications (11/14/20) – One of the safety issues – the intersection of the South End Connector with Church St. and Broadway is of long standing. We were surprised that it remained unaddressed in the final configuration of the Connector. The second safety issue resulted from the new junction between S. Pearl St. and the Connector at the I-787 S. Pearl St. overpass. The city needs to address them both. At the same time we submitted these recommendations, we added some items to enhance the values of the Connector to the “south end” community.
Clinton Ave. Refreshment of Bicycle Lane Pavement Markings (10/12/20) – The benefits of the Clinton Ave. bicycle lanes to residents (traffic calming in a residential area), to people in cars (calmed speed with fewer wrecks) and to people on bicycles (easy climb “up the hill” and safety will only be maximized if the lanes are maintained so they are visible to all.
New Scotland Ave. Major Bicycle Commuter Route (4/18/20) – Again, New Scotland Ave. would jump to the top of any list as a major commuter route for people on bicycles as it connects many residential areas to places of employment or service along it. The section from Manning Blvd. to Bethlehem is the singular route for cyclists and is blessed with room for superior bicycle facilities for much of its length. Additional, those who participated in the traffic study were clear in their desire for traffic calming.
Western Ave. Traffic Calming (7/21/19) – As in the 2009 Albany Bicycle Master Plan, the November 2020 draft of the new Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan calls for Western Ave. to be a “major bikeway” with recommended protected bicycle lanes. Regardless, the clear need is to convert immediately Western Ave. into a traffic-calmed street with the same or better treatment as on Madison Ave. There is no evident need to wait for yet another study, as Western Ave. will always bubble to the top of the improvement list.
Albany-Colonie Connector (10/2/18) – Albany Bicycle Coalition is on a campaign for bicycle connections between the various municipalities. We want to develop a network of relatively low-stress, low-traffic routes. The Albany-Colonie Connector is one of our prime goals as it will join the Washington Ave. Ext./Guilderland to the Town of Colonie and Niskayuna and lead to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. The route is clear and all it needs is support of the municipalities to embrace it with way finding signage, and repair and bicycle facilities such as bicycle lane and protected bicycle lanes.
Close Washington Park Road to Motor Vehicles (8/26/16) – When the water/sewer repairs on S. Lake Ave. closed the park road along the southwest Washington Park Lake, it was apparent that this road need not be available to people in cars. Closing it permanently would have two benefits: (1) partially returning Washington Park to its park status and (2) preparing the way for more reductions in motor vehicle traffic in the park as part of the proposed Washington Park-Lark St. study.
Mayor Sheehan, as always the Albany Bicycle Coalition believes that it has put forward ideas that will enhance the City of Albany for all street users by adding safety, economic growth, and pleasantness. When we were pushing for protected bicycle lanes on Madison Ave., you once stated to me “protected bicycle lanes would make it a ‘bicycle project’” vs. a traffic calming project. While we operate under the umbrella of cycling and the needs of people on bicycles, my several years of observing the new Madison Ave. and many of Clinton Ave. convince me more than ever every one of our projects stands to have benefits far beyond that primary focus.
#1 – Safety and Access Enhancements to the South End Connector ~ As submitted 9/17/20 to the City of Albany with updates 2/19/21 ~
Multiuse Path Maintenance – the City of Albany Department of General Services was quite responsive to our recent call for mowing and cleanup of the median/divider on the I-787 access/frontage road portion of the South End Connector. The city needs to ensure that this maintenance be a regular part of DGS’s role in the area. Glass in the cycle track will continue to plague people on bicycles.
Signage, Lighting, and Striping at S. Pearl St.-South End Connector Intersection – There is a need for signage and re-striping of the crosswalks and new lighting at the intersection of S. Pearl Street and the I-787 access/frontage road. This would alert people in cars who are making both left and right turns from S. Pearl onto the access road that bicyclists and pedestrians could be using the crosswalks. These are swooping turns that are, unfortunately, plentiful in the City of Albany. Motor vehicles traveling north on S. Pearl make the turn at excessive speed. It is awkward for bicyclists wanting to continue north on S. Pearl to see cars coming from the south. (That is, those who are not staying on the Connector beyond this intersection). Similarly, people on bicycles heading south on S. Pearl St. but wanting to enter the Connector (i.e., a left turn off S. Pearl St.) have difficulty making a safe turn. Pedestrians also have to look awkwardly to their left before stepping into the crosswalk, when heading north on S. Pearl, or their right, when heading south. We raised this issue at the public meetings hosted by the City.
Attention to this intersection (as well as Bassett St. and Broadway/Quay St.) is integral to making the Connector a community/local street asset and not merely a recreational, end-to-end experience. It is part of recognizing that the “South End” needs access to current and future bicycle facilities in the City of Albany.
Pedestrian And Cyclist Entrance/Exit at Bassett St. – To encourage safe access to the Connector and to promote it as a community resource, there needs to be an entrance/exit connecting Bassett St. and the South End Connector. Addition of a striped area (e.g., a green path) could easily accomplish this purpose with the addition a “no entry for motor vehicles” sign.
Enhanced Motor Vehicle Traffic Control at Broadway/Quay St. – This intersection has been a barrier for people on bicycles and people walking since its original construction. This long-standing problem predates the South End Connector by many years and was the site where a motor vehicle operator struck and killed cyclist Jose Perez.
Looking east toward the Hudson River, people in cars swoop off Broadway at high speeds to the right/south. When they make this right turn onto Broadway, they come up on the bicycle rider’s blind side. The only current traffic control is a yield sign. This sign is ineffective since it is clear to a driver that there is no motor vehicle traffic to which to yield. At an absolute minimum, a stop sign should replace the yield sign. This alteration is a small task that could be done in an hour or two at minimal cost.
For guidance for people on bicycles, bright green bicycle lanes (similar to Colonie St.) would help southbound riders coming from the Corning Riverfront Park to see clearly the correct bike diagonally across the street. Bicyclists cannot see the Connector since it is across the intersection under I-787. Prominent wayfinding signs, a map, and green pavement markings would guide riders from the waterfront to South End Connector without mistakenly riding in the street.
It is also unclear as to how bicyclists are to navigate crossing Broadway when either exiting the Connector or the Corning riverfront trail. When the light is red for vehicles traveling north on Broadway, riders coming off the Connector are scanning to their left and rear. Riders exiting the Corning trail have to scan straight ahead and be far enough out of the intersection to clear traffic turning onto the I-787 ramp, often at high speed. (We have even witnessed the running of red lights.) People on bicycles also have to be alert to motor vehicles coming north on Broadway to continue on Quay St. or Broadway into the city proper. This issue was raised at the public meetings hosted by the City of Albany. Overall, we need more demonstrative traffic control and signage at this intersection.
#2 – Refresh Lane Markings Clinton Ave.
October 12, 2020 – RE: Lane Markings Clinton Ave.
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
This is to draw your attention to the need to refresh the bicycle lane markings on Clinton Ave.
Because of its Ten Broeck-to-Manning bicycle lanes, Clinton Ave. is a favored “up the hill” route for people on bicycles. The street also connects directly to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail and, ultimately, to the Skyway. With the advent of the bicycle lane network in the Northern Blvd. area and the hoped for on-street bicycle link between it and the lanes on Clinton Ave., maintenance of the lane markings on the avenue is critical.
In many areas only ghost images remain. This is especially so at cross streets where traffic scrubbing is heavy. People in cars entering Clinton Ave. need the markings to alert them to the presence of bicycles and people.
Over and above all bicycle and motor vehicle issues, Clinton Ave. with its adjacent streets is essentially residential with people coming and going, children playing, and many enjoying time with neighbors and friends on stoops and sidewalks. For those who remember when Clinton Ave. was essentially a 4-lane superhighway, although unmarked as such, the installation of bicycle lanes in 2008 brought traffic calming to the street. Even so, the route still has unending through- and cross-town traffic. Equity alone suggests that the city have a thorough and regular program of refreshing pavement markings to preserve this major side benefit of bicycle lanes – reduced motor vehicle speeds.
On behalf of people on bicycles and the residents and visitors to Clinton Ave., I ask that you arrange for an inspection and timely remediation of the bicycle lanes.
#3 – Bicycle Lanes on New Scotland Ave. – Manning Blvd. to White Hall Rd.
April 8, 2019 – RE: New Scotland Ave. – Manning Blvd. to White Hall Rd.
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
We in the Albany Bicycle Coalition are pleased to learn of progress on New Scotland Ave. Traffic Calming and appreciate your attention to this major route through the City of Albany. Even though we understand that this project has a long completion horizon, we would like to offer our comments.
Speaking not only as cyclists, but also in consideration of all users of New Scotland Ave. – pedestrians, motorists, disabled, and local businesses – we fully endorse a complete streets/road diet approach. We believe two motor vehicle lanes, superior bicycle lanes, and appropriate and supportive signalization and signage is the only proper treatment for this road. As you well know, New Scotland Ave. could be a major bicycle commuter route – any effort to Traffic Calm this street will benefit all.
We recommend the following specifically:
That the city install high-quality bicycle lanes for the entire segment. To install other than full-dimension bicycle lanes will lose the traffic calming befit that derives from them (as we know from Madison Avenue Traffic Calming).
That any traffic circles/roundabouts be single lane and not “hybrid” in nature.
That Creighton Manning refine and adopt the “bump out plan” for the New Scotland/Lenox/Buckingham intersection to decelerate people in cars turning from New Scotland onto Buckingham and from Buckingham onto New Scotland Ave. This will reinforce what we understand to be the planned treatment for Quail St./New Scotland Ave.
That between Manning Blvd. and Whitehall Rd. there should be no Shared Lanes for these reasons:
Shared Lanes markings, being in the travel lane and subject to damage by traffic, street sweeping, and plowing will disappear in 1.5 to 2 years. Their modest benefit for people on bicycles then will be lost and motor vehicle traffic will return to the (high) road design speed.
According to NACTO, shared lanes should support a complete bikeway network. They are not a facility type and should not be considered a substitute for bicycle lanes or other separation treatments where these types of facilities are otherwise warranted or space permits. Accordingly, we suggest that as a matter of city policy you never recommend Shared Lanes unless they are part of a planned “bikeway network.”
Shared Lanes might have a place on New Scotland Ave. if we look at the entire Whitehall Rd.-Madison Ave. routeas a bicycle network. For example, approaching the Albany Medical Center Hospital from the west heading downtown, they might be installed just west of Holland Ave.
With the customary “three alternatives approach” used on planning assessments such as New Scotland Ave., an alternative based on Shared Lanes becomes a throwaway. A preferred set of alternative might include, say, Buffered Bicycle Lanes, Protected Bicycle Lanes, or conventional Bicycle Lanes.
This last thought leads to our final recommendation that the City of Albany to do a preliminary, non-binding assessment of the entire Whitehall Rd.-Madison Ave. stretch so that whatever decisions are made on the Whitehall-Manning segment will be compatible with an overall objective of making New Scotland Ave. a major bikeway.
Albany Bicycle Coalition looks forward to helping bring this project to fruition.
#4 – Western Ave. Traffic Calming
July 30, 2020 – RE: It’s Time for Western Ave. Traffic Calming
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
As we come off the high of opening the South End Connector, it’s time to revisit an old favorite – connecting the City of Albany and Madison Ave. to Guilderland.
Over the past years, motorists, bus patrons, pedestrians, and cyclists have adapted to Albany’s highly successful Madison Ave. Traffic Calming initiative. The four-lane, crash-prone thoroughfare is now a pleasant urban street on which to drive, walk, bus, cycle, and patronize businesses. The new programmed/on-demand traffic lights and pavement markings allow Madison Ave. pedestrians to cross at every light between Allen and Willet Sts. without having to touch a button. Motorists cruise along at 20-30 mph without fear of being rear ended in the left-turn lane or experiencing unannounced, sudden lane changes. Drivers have become accustomed to cyclists and cyclists have flocked to Madison as a major uptown-downtown connector. It has been a boon to CDPHP Cycle! BikeShare users and to growth of the BikeShare program.
The Town of Guilderland and the NYSDOT refreshed the Western Ave. bicycle lanes running from the city line/University at Albany to Stuyvesant Plaza.
It is time to connect these Madison and Western Ave. projects into a seamless, calmed commuter and recreational route. Western Ave. from UA to Madison has two schools with posted 20 mph zones and many business and residences with exiting and entering traffic. The too-wide double lanes encourage speeding and crazy lane changes threatening everyone’s safety. This is an ideal street for Traffic Calming. This wide street section with essentially no parking has ample room for buffered bicycle lanes without impeding the smooth flow of motor vehicle traffic.
This approach will create a street design that matches the posted speed and gives all users a safe and efficient route from Guilderland to downtown Albany. It will address the inequities of those who are “car less,” those who feel unsafe on crowded buses, and those who value environmentally sound, safe solo exercise.
Mayor Sheehan, you know all of the features and benefits already and that this is an ideal street for Traffic Calming. The street’s pavement is in pretty good shape so this is an easy lift – no big bucks for utilities, curb cuts, and so on. In its 2009 Bicycle Master Plan, the City of Albany identified Western Ave. as one of its 18 “major bikeways” and will likely so re-designate it in the new Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan. We seem to be on the cusp of a “bicycle boom” brought about by the COVID-19 conditions (Times Union 5/8/20; New York Times 6/13, 15, 19 and 25/20; Adventure Cyclist 8/20). “We are selling bikes faster than we can assemble them out of the boxes … I can’t tell you how crazy it is,” stated the Freeman Bridge Sports service manager.
The City of Albany will have to do this job someday. Why not now?
I ask your support in raising this project to the “can do.” We look forward to working with you and staff to bring it about.
#5 – Rapp Rd. and the Albany-Colonie Connector –
October 2, 2018 – RE: Rapp Rd. and the Albany-Colonie Connector –
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
We are trying to promote what we have termed the “Albany-Colonie Connector.” The route connects a series of presently independent elements to facilitate bicycle and pedestrian travel from the City of Albany through the University at Albany to the Six-Mile Trail and thence along Rapp Rd. through the Village of Colonie and to the Shaker Multiuse Path, and shortly thereafter to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail/Empire State Trail at Lions Park. We are hopeful for your interest and support.
Enclosed please find “Safe Bike Travel Between Colonie and UAlbany/Western Avenue: Rapp Road the Weak Link.” As all in the Capital District know, Central Avenue is notoriously dangerous for non-motorists and has been the focus of many articles, studies, and traffic design efforts. A bicycle ride between Albany and Colonie along busy Central Avenue is not for the faint of heart. The Central Avenue interchange with the Northway is particularly hazardous for cyclists.
As described in this document, the Albany Bicycle Coalition has identified a much safer existing alternative route from Central Avenue at Jupiter Avenue to the University at Albany’s Purple Path, and Western Avenue (with its newly re-installed bicycle lanes in Guilderland). The route encompasses several multiuse paths and wide bicycle-friendly roads. The biggest barrier to the proposed route is the sad state of a 0.6-mile segment of Rapp Road. It is ripe for redesign and repaving.Hon. Kathy
We trust that you will agree that this route provides a safe and direct connection using existing (or slightly modified) facilities. With the notable exception of Rapp Rd., we are asking merely for “tweaks” to the present components of the route. That is, we are proposing use of facilities we already have and that are suitable for the intended use. This is not a huge capital expenditure proposal. As the Washington Ave. Corridor project develops, it too will play an important role.
The Albany Bicycle Coalition respectfully requests that you review the attached booklet and consider this modest proposal to make bicycle friendly improvements to this short section of Rapp Road a part of a Rapp Road repaving project.
Mayor Sheehan, we ask that you consider supporting this campaign by working with us to identify what can be done and how we might make it happen.
#6 – Close the Lake Road in Washington Park
August 26, 2016 – RE: Close the Road – Washington Park
Dear Mayor Sheehan:
Why not just keep the Washington Park road closed?
During the “big dig” on Lake Ave., the one-way road along the south side of the lake in Washington Park has been closed to motor vehicle traffic. Since no apparent disaster has occurred because of this closure, may I suggest that it be made permanent?
The residents (and their attendants) of The Royce on the Park (former B’Nai B’Rith Parkview Apartments) as well joggers, walkers, and cyclists regularly use this path into and out of the park. Fir many of them, I would guess that this is a treasured experience of the day. The road could be, of course, open to emergency vehicles and for major park events such as “Holiday Lights.” In the many times I have been on this road, I’ve never seen any constructive use except as a pass through for people in cars and for a few who enjoy parking by the lake.
Introduction – The Capital District Transportation Committee’s Capital District Trails Plan envisions a network of core trails for the capital region. The Patroon Greenway, connecting the Albany Waterfront to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, is one of six core Albany County trail components of that planned network.
Other better known core trails include the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, the South End Bikeway Connector and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
The initial detailed proposal for the Patroon Greenway done by the Capital District Transportation Committee in 2004 is available on their website and is linked at the end of this document. Over the past sixteen years there has been no significant progress toward making this trail a reality. Three recent developments make this an ideal time to take a good look at this project: the recently funded Albany County Skyway and the newly completed Patroon Creek Daylighting, and the installation of wayfinding signage on the existing Six Mile Waterworks trail.
The Ride – On Sunday August 30,2020, Aaron Corman, Glenn Sandberg, Ed Brennan, Mark Maniak, Rob Carle and Shelly Nevard met up at Quackenbush Square to review the potential for a city street route from the forthcoming Albany Skyway to the Patroon Creek Greenway. The Albany Skyway will provide cyclists and pedestrians a bridge over I-787 from the waterfront and the Corning Riverfront Park section of the Empire State Trail to Broadway next to Quackenbush Square and the Albany Visitors Center. Our initial destination was Tivoli Lake Preserve which was the endpoint or our Patroon Creek Greenway I ride in November 2019. That ride began at Six Mile Waterworks.
The Skyway plan is show below. It would take a little used ramp from Quay Street by the waterfront over I-787 to where it merges with a ramp from Southbound I-787 to connect to Broadway at the base of Clinton Avenue.
The picture below shows where this ramp meets Broadway. The right lane of the ramp (left side of photo) would be limited to pedestrians and cyclists. An Albany Planning Department employee recently remarked that cyclists would be expected to walk their bikes over the Skyway.
We crossed Broadway and continued up Clinton Avenue two blocks to Ten Broeck Street. Note there are currently no bike lanes along this section of Clinton. The Clinton bike lanes begin at Ten Broeck. It was suggested by the Planning Department that improvements to this area might bring bike and pedestrian accommodations to these last two blocks. Hopefully, that will mean the Clinton bike lanes will be continued to Broadway. It is interesting to note that there are also plans underway to improve Federal Park which is on the North side of Clinton between Broadway and Pearl. These improvements along with the Skyway can be expected to bring significant increases in foot and bike traffic. This block is shown below from the perspective of Clinton and Broadway. Clinton is certainly wide enough for bike lanes if there is the will to disrupt current traffic patterns.
The group turned right on Ten Broeck Street which has bike lanes until it meets Livingston Avenue. Note the car parked in the bike lane. Many Albany drives assume bike lanes are in fact an invitation to double park.
When Ten Broeck crosses Livingston it becomes Manning Blvd and the bike lanes cease. We continued along Manning. We found this part of Manning to be a wide quiet street with a gentle curving incline up toward our destination. The green roofed public housing we passed on Manning is shown below.
The hill up Manning is shown below. There appears to be plenty of room here for bike lanes. A pedestrian bridge overpasses Manning. It provides a connection from Colonie Street. We do not know if the bridge permits bikes.
Arbor Hill Park is shown on the left of Manning below and Lark Park on the right. It should be noted there are instances of diagonal parking along Manning that could be hazardous to cyclists. One such spot is partially shown below.
Bike lanes (aka parking lanes to many) resume where Manning Crosses Lark Street. These bike lanes also provide a buffer zone between cyclists and traffic.
As Manning approaches the Route 9 overpass, it becomes Northern Blvd. The buffered bike lanes continue.
It is interesting to note that after crossing Route 9 the buffer zone switches from providing space between cyclists and traffic to protecting cyclists from the door zone of parked cars.
We followed Northern Blvd to where another small disconnected section of Manning Blvd. provides access to the Tivoli Lake Preserve. The intersection of this Manning Blvd and Northern Blvd is shown below. The old Livingston High School (now apartments) is in the background. Kipp Tech Valley Middle School (not shown) is on the right.
This section of Manning ends where two gravel trails begin in Tivoli Park. One trail goes to the newly “daylighted” Patroon Creek. A photo of that trail from our November ride is shown below.
The other trail is being rehabilitated and not yet reopened. It goes through the park, around the lake and exits on Livingston Avenue near Ontario. Unfortunately, it was recently announced this trail is to be limited to foot traffic. This policy would need to be changed and that trail widened if Tivoli Park were to be used as a bike connection to Livingston Avenue as discussed below.
The second leg of our Patroon Creek Greenway Ride II explored on street options from the Livingston Avenue Tivoli Park entrance by Ontario to Everett Rd. The original CDTC Patroon Creek Greenway plan from Everett Road to Tivoli Park required large capital expenditures – especially the need to build a cantilever bridge along I90 and improve an old railroad bridge to cross the RR tracks. There will also be safety issues to contend with due to the proximity of the railroad tracks and high speed Amtrak trains. To make the Patroon Creek Trail happen in the nearer term, there will need to be some interim on road sections.
Our group rode around Tivoli Park and down Livingston Avenue noting the Livingston Avenue parking lot as one possible exit of a path thru Tivoli Park as well as the currently gated exit by Livingston near Ontario Street. The latter path exit is shown below.
We continued west on Livingston Avenue for about a block and turned right on Terminal Street. Livingston Avenue is a fairly busy road with no bike lanes. Terminal Street did not appear busy, but our ride was held on a Sunday. This is the start of an industrial/warehouse area that can expect to have some truck traffic.
There is also a hill on Terminal Street leading down to Commerce Avenue where we turned left. The hill on Terminal Street is shown below. It should be noted that the existing road did not appear wide enough to support bike lanes. On street parking did not appear to be an issue. Using Manning to connect to Commerce as an alternative would encounter much more on street parking and perhaps more traffic.
Along Commerce Avenue we noted the spot where the famous Engine 999 was constructed, “the first creation of man in the history of time to travel achieve 100 miles per hour”!
We also explored Industrial Park Road looking for access to the existing Patroon Creek Trail by way of the I90 railroad underpass, but found access blocked by fencing at the CDTA complex. During last November’s ride we found this potential part of the trail was very close to the rail tracks and the space for a bike path under I90 was very narrow. We think the railroad would object to the trail here. At the very least, fencing of some sort separating bikes and pedestrians from the rails would be required.
We continued west down Commerce Avenue, which becomes Watervliet Avenue before it ends at busy Everett Road. Commerce and Watervliet Avenue appeared wide enough to support bike lanes. While I do not recall prohibitions against on street parking, none was observed. Our ride conference at Everett Road is shown below shortly before we headed back to our starting point. Our consensus was that our modified on street/Tivoli Park Trail Patroon Creek Route would need to meet up with the remainder of the Patroon Creek Trail at Everett Road.
As noted in the analysis of our November 2019 ride, the original Capital District Transportation Committee studies imagined that the Patroon Creek Trail will go under Everett Road between I-90 and the train tracks. The CDTC study provided accessibility of the trail to and from Everett Road via construction of a “Dutch Stair”. We also noted that significant signaling improvements would be needed on Everett Road to permit safe pedestrian and bike travel to cross the I90 ramps. The cost of the Dutch stair and traffic signaling are probably the greatest hurdles to connecting our modified route to the rest of the Patroon Creek Trail running from Everett Road to Fuller Road. The political issues around disrupting motor vehicle traffic flow are also significant.
The arrow in the picture below shows imagined ped/bike travel along the sidewalk of Everett Road from the area where the Dutch stair would come up from the Patroon Creek Tail below. The “S” marks show where signaling improvements would be needed to permit safe ped/bike crossings of the I-90 ramps. Bikes would likely need to be walked and/or the sidewalk significantly widened.
In the original CDTC Study, the Patroon Creek Greenway Trail passes under Everett and continues on north side of I-90 south of the railroad tracks. It then uses a cantilever bridge along the north side of I-90 to cross the railroad tracks. It would then cut back under I-90 using Anderson Rd. An approximation of this route is shown below.
From Anderson Road the CDTC Plan envisions crossing the railroad tracks by redeveloping an abandoned railroad trestle to a point near the Freihofer (now Bimbo) Bakery site. Here it is also not far from the Tivoli Park Patroon Creek Daylighting Trail as shown below. The Cantilever Bridge and rail trestle rehabilitation envisioned in the original CDTC plan would also require large capital expenditures that would greatly increase the costs of the Patroon Creek Greenway. Such costs are over and above significant costs of acquiring rights to and improving the lengthy trail itself.
Conclusion – The forthcoming Albany Skyway and Patroon Creek Daylighting project provide a singular opportunity to kick off a campaign for the long dormant Patroon Creek Greenway plan that has been collecting dust in CDTC’s archives. COVID has also led to a substantial increase in the number of people turning to cycling and trail hiking as a safe means of getting exercise and enjoying the out of doors. The long awaited South End Connector has also contributed to rising local trail use for those that have access to it. It is great that the Patroon Creek Daylighting Project and the other Tivoli Lake Preserve trail rehabilitation we saw will provide such recreational access to Albany’s West End and Arbor Hill citizens. Connecting the Albany Skyway and Patroon Creek Daylighting project could be phase I of the larger Patroon Creek Greenway. It would not only open up Tivoli Lake Preserve to a great many more Albany area citizens, it will also provide a safe bike route for West End and Arbor Hill citizens to the waterfront, the downtown theater district, the Empire State Trail/Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail and the Albany County Rail Trail.
It is appears that the heaviest lifting for making the whole Patroon Creek Greenway Trail a reality lies in the middle section from Everett Road to west end of Tivoli Lake Preserve. This section involves major expenditures to make Everett Road accessible from the trail and safe for pedestrians and cyclists. Those improvements may also run head on into competing interests of motorists. The original CDTC plan also entails major capital outlays for a cantilever bridge along I90 and rehabilitation of a railroad trestle. The on street alternative route from Tivoli Park to Everett Road that we explored would also require spending for bike/ped accommodations along a short section of Livingston Ave, Terminal Street and Commerce Avenue-Watervliet Extension. The project can expect resistance on this section from motorists, especially those concerned with trucking. Limiting parking on the block of Livingston from Ontario to Terminal would also impact some residents. We believe the economic costs and political battles that would need to be won to bring about either the original CDTC plan or a modified on street plan requires putting off this section of the Greenway for a later stage.
The section of the trail from Everett Road to the Six Mile Waterworks also has challenges. Providing safe access to the west end of the trail from Six Mile Waterworks across Fuller Road and its traffic circle at the I90 interchange will be difficult. It will likely require costly traffic engineering and signaling changes and result in some motor traffic disruption. As noted in our November report there was no traffic circle when the original CDTC traffic study was done. Ownership issues for a new trail from the Circle to the start of the trail behind Ultrapet will need to be studied. A crossing signal for where the trail crosses Central Avenue will also likely be required. While it appears much of the trail over this section is subject to various public utility easements, there will need to be some coordination to formalize a public bike-hike trail. The recent local success of building the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail over such a public utility right of way gives us reason to believe this can happen.
If the first stage of the Greenway outlined above can be achieved, we are more likely to find the political will to find funds and take on competing interests for other stages of the Greenway. Since the section from Everett Road or at least Central Avenue to the Six Mile Waterworks is less costly in terms of capital and political costs, this might be considered for a second stage. The heavy lift from Everett Road to Tivoli Park may have to wait until other ends of the trail are in use and demand exists for the costly connector in between. The South End Connector is an example of how this process might successfully develop.
Proposed Stage 1 Hudson River/Skyway to Tivoli Lake Preserve
Proposed Stage 2a Six Mile Waterworks to Central Avenue at Yardboro Avenue
Proposed Stage 2b Central Avenue at Yardboro Avenue to Everett Road
Proposed Stage 3 Everett Road to Tivoli Lake Preserve
The City of Albany is developing an Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan to replace the 2009 such plan. The earlier plan limited itself to bicycle issues while the proposed pan also addresses issues facing pedestrians since the vast majority trips by any alternative mode of transportation begins and ends with people walking.
The Albany Bicycle Coalition (ABC) was heavily involved in the development of the 2009 plan and has been fully engaged in monitoring the current effort. While the city has yet to release a draft of the plan, ABC offers recommendations for the plan as enumerated below. An emphasis of our positions is that the proposed Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan must embrace all forms of transposition since no one form can be addressed independently from the others – that is, “transportation equity.”
The Albany Bicycle Coalition, Inc. takes 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. We present our program in two parts as follows:
Specific, bicycle-related projects that the city needs to begin work on immediately.
Foundational propositions that cover all aspects of the plan whether it impinges on pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders, or motor vehicle drivers.
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.
Specific, Bicycle-Related Projects
Western Ave. Bicycle Lanes – Connect Western Ave. from Madison Ave. to the Guilderland portion of Western Ave. to form a seamless, calmed commuter and recreational route. Western Ave. from the University at Albany to Madison Ave. at Allen St. has two schools with posted 20 mph zones and many business and residences with exiting and entering traffic. The extra wide double lanes encourage speeding and erratic lane changes threatening everyone’s safety. This is an ideal street for Traffic Calming. This wide street section with essentially no parking has ample room for buffered bicycle lanes without impeding the smooth flow of motor vehicle traffic.
Install bicycle lanes on New Scotland Ave. especially between Manning Blvd. and the Thruway Overpass. Bike lanes were strongly preferred over parking for traffic calming on this section of New Scotland by community members participating in the City’s recent Upper New Scotland Traffic Study.
Install bicycle lanes on Green St. and improve the crossing at Madison Ave. to provide safe downtown bicycle access from South Albany
Complete bicycle lanes on Shaker Rd./Loudonville Rd. to Broadway
Complete bike lanes on North Manning Blvd. from Lark St. to Livingston Ave.
Complete Clinton Ave. bike lanes from Ten Broeck to Broadway where they can connect to the new Albany Skyway and the Empire State Trail/Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
Work with Menands to extend Broadway bike lanes to provide safe downtown bicycle access from Menands to North Albany.
Improve Everett Road I-90 interchange/overpass to make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists who must use this road to cross I-90 and the railroad tracks.
Provide bike lanes and traffic calming for Washington Ave. west of Brevator
Change Belgian blocks (“cobblestones”) on Lark St. and South Pearl St. intersections to a traffic calming surface that does not cause bicyclists to fall.
Coordinate with Colonie and Guilderland to install bike lanes and or multiuse side path along Rapp Road/Lincoln Ave. from the City of Albany’s Rapp Road Waste Management Facility to Village of Colonie’s Cook Park to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, and hikers using the Pine Bush, Six Mile Waterworks lake, park and trail, and Cook Park trails.
Coordinate with Delmar and Town of Bethlehem to extend Delaware Ave. bike lanes and traffic calming efforts from the Normans Kill Bridge to McAlpin Ave. Establish safe cycling routes from that point to Hackett Blvd. and Madison Ave.
Work with the Town of Colonie to develop the Patroon Creek Greenway from Six Mile Waterworks to Tivoli Lake Preserve and the Albany Skyway
Cross-Town bicycle Expressway – Construct a cross-town connector between Northern Blvd./McCrossin Ave. to Clinton Ave. bicycle lanes and to Whitehall Rd./Delaware Ave.
Extend Hackett Blvd. multi-use path with bicycle lanes to Manning Blvd.
Improve informal path/trail from Lark St. behind Hackett Middle School to Hackett Blvd. multiuse path at Holland Ave. by the McDonald’s
General Principles for the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan
Safe Street Infrastructure Improvements
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 to restrict the parking at corners until funds are available to reconstruct the curbs.
Emphasize “safe streets” over “complete streets.” Make safety the priority in all street designs. 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 safety the primary goal. Rather, Complete Streets implies a compromise over all mobility modes without paramount consideration for the vulnerability of certain road users. Since most Albany streets and intersections are or were designed for maximum motor vehicle throughput, it stands that no street redesign project proposal should ever consider the null alternative “do nothing.”
Prohibit 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).
Reduce speed limit on all residential streets to 25 mph.
Reduce to 20 mph the speed limit in a newly established “green zone” bounded by Clinton Ave., Broadway, Madison Ave., and Henry Johnson Blvd.
Work with New York 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” described above.
Reduce speed limit on park roads in the City of Albany to 15 mph with traffic calming changes made 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.
Close parks to all through traffic driving on Sundays between noon and 5 pm
Reduce all in-city motor vehicle travel lanes to 11 ft or less except where the passage of emergency vehicles dictates greater width. These narrowed roadways and/or travel lanes will calm traffic thereby improving traffic safety on the roadways. Each street design project will suggest different approaches to this objective. In some case, for example, painting shoulders might suffice. Other cases might call for bicycle lanes, bicycle lane buffers, or curb relocations.
Post more “No-Turn-on-Red” signs and use illuminated “No-Turn-on-Red” signs that activate at certain periods during the signal cycle or when pedestrian push buttons are active. This will increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. Increase the number of intersection where “no right on red” is the rule especially in areas with high pedestrian and public transport traffic. An example would be for all cross streets on Central Ave.
Analyze intersection crashes to improve intersection safety and then designate these areas for redesign, education, and enforcement. To not limit this investigation to Albany Police Department traffic incident reporting.
Provide motorcycle-only parking spaces. Establish these spaces at the beginning or ends of parking areas on each block (angle parking for motorcycles). Determine the number of spaces per block or area by working with motorcycle groups and the Albany Parking Authority. (This will improve intersection sight lines and reduce risk to motorcycles of parking in conventional parking spaces.)
Review traffic patterns to determine if the city needs to change signs and traffic signals.
Perform a city-wide traffic sign inventory. Reduce number of signs where possible to increase compliance with the posted regulations or warnings. Analyze the results with the following objectives: reducing sign clutter (to increase the utility/impact/effectiveness of the remaining signs); assessing whether signs installed “years ago” are still needed; and assessing whether or not evolving traffic patterns suggest new, revised, or unneeded signage. Continue to prohibit all signage not directly involved with traffic control and safety. Do in phases to control costs. This would dictate removal of all promotional and commercial signage, with the possible exclusion of some directional signage.
Develop a master plan for Traffic Engineering. Develop an Engineering approach to calm aggressive driving.
Analyze on-street parking in the City of Albany with a special emphasis on the following: enhancing viewing space for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at intersections, restricting parking at intersections, and striping to preclude driver creation of an informal right-turn lane), and establishing pull off/pull out for buses (i.e., analyze problem “stops” and remove parking as indicated). Gradually reduce the number of on-street parking spaces from designated areas to enhance community growth and street-side ambience.
Start and continue a share-the-road campaign to make roadways friendlier for all modes of transportation.
Starting with Albany Police Department traffic/crash data, identify existing danger areas. Analyze the areas for remediation through engineering, education, and enforcement. Consider publishing the results. Consider special signage, lane reconfiguration, road redesign, markings, or speed limits for the identified “danger zones.”
As a rule, reconfigure all intersections to have 90-degree turns to reduce speeds and enhance safety for pedestrians. This will discourage high-speed turns that can be deadly to pedestrians and cyclists.
Bicyclist Specific Safety Improvements
Concentrate on establishing a city-wide network of bicycle facilities rather than on isolated segments.
Restrict installation of shared lanes (“sharrows”) only as provided by National Association of City Transportation Officials in conjunction with bicycle facilities such as bicycle lanes, protected bicycle lanes, and cycle tracks. Although people on bicycles may ride on all non-limited use highways (e.g., interstates), bicycles may at times legally share (or “take”) the traffic lane. Shared lane markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street. This is especially true where keeping to the right is unsafe. They serve as a reminder to people in cars that bicycle riders may be present and that they have “taken the lane” for their own safety.
Improve on the League of American Bicyclists’s Bicycle Friendly Community designation.Analyze the suggestions provided by the League of American Bicyclists in its review of City of Albany’s bicycle friendly community designation.
Selectively establish bike-only and or separated bikeways to promote more biking.
Promote work-place bicycle lockup areas for those who ride to work.
Install and build more bicycle accommodations throughout the City including bicycle racks, fix-it stations, lanes, and intersection “bike boxes.”
Install signal detectors capable of identifying bicycles. Mark areas at selected intersections to inform bicyclists where they should be on the pavement to activate the traffic signal at intersections that have actuated approaches.
Pedestrian Specific Safety Improvements
Re-program all on-demand pedestrian crossing lights to a “pedestrian priority” sequence wherein pressing a demand button will provide for crossing immediately after the end of the current motor vehicle phase in the complete cycle. Allow pedestrians to enter their demand even when the street to be crossed is currently red to stop motor vehicle traffic after the next motor vehicle cycle.
At selected signalized intersections, implement an advanced pedestrian interval or exclusive pedestrian phase in the signal operations to improve pedestrian safety. Examples for this treatment include Lark St./Madison Ave. Delaware Ave., Washington Ave. /Lark St., Delaware Ave./Holland Ave./Morton Ave., and Allen St./Madison Ave./Western Ave.
At select signalized intersections, increase yellow clearance times and all red times to increase intersection safety during high pedestrian use hours.
At selected signalized, high-pedestrian-use intersections, employ ALL WAY STOP signalization. Do this in such a way as to not increase or encourage “pause” by people in cars who do not want to continuously stop at intersections.
For pedestrian heavy streets, install midblock crossing locations preferably with raised, sidewalk-high “green zones.” Where appropriate, signalize these midblock crossings (e.g., Central Ave., Washington Ave.)
Install sidewalks on all roadways to encourage walking and improve safety on roadways. This is especially relevant where pedestrians currently have to share the travel lanes with motorists and bicyclists.
Where sidewalks do not exist, install warming signs for motorists and, where appropriate, “walk left” signs for people walking.
Bus/Bus Rider Safety
Establish ADA compliant bus stops in logical locations with bump outs to provide areas where buses can discharge or pick up passengers on the sidewalk and not in the travel, bicycle, or parking lanes.
Coordinate with Capital District Transportation Authority in analyzing “problem” bus stops using CDTA and city data and driver testimony.
Determine what actions the city might take to ease reentry of buses into the traffic lane.
Work with City School District on an engineering approach to school bus safety. This includes safe pickup and drop off locations that still meet all guidelines and laws. Implement School Zone Safety program. Provide bus, parent drop off/pick up areas at each school large enough to accommodate each. This will improve transportation on roadways around the schools. Work with the School District through the education and enforcement groups to ensure the engineering plans are followed. Encourage the School District to embrace traffic safety that goes hand in hand with school safety. Coordinate with the School District on analyzing trouble spots at the exits/entrances of identified schools. Once completed, use this as a model for the public-charter and private schools (perhaps asking them to do a self-analysis)
Priority sequence all of the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan’s major projects.
Provide a specific time line for each major planned project in the Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan with a completion-by-date specified.
Improved coordination with neighboring municipalities to provide a regional bike transportation network. Pay particular attention to the interface points between municipalities (e.g., Everett Rd. at I-90, Delaware Ave. at the Normanskill, and Western Ave. at the city line with Guilderland).
Divest all City of Albany Parking Authority Parking lots/garages and sell to private business. This will increase the cost of “downtown” parking and provide the city with tax revenues.
Encourage use of park-and-ride. Analyze traffic and public transport data to assess the benefits of having more park-and-rides. Identify businesses/agencies that should be encouraged to support park-and-ride.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”
[SOURCE: Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”]
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.)
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!
Albany Bicycle Coalition is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. Membership dues and donations are fully tax deductible. Annual dues are $25.00. Any donations are welcome. The 2020 CARES Act allows taxpayers who don’t itemize their deductions to adjust their income up to $300 per taxpayer ($600 for a married couple). This adjustment is available for cash gifts to public charities, such as ABC.