Category Archives: Editorial

Multiuse Path Etiquette

The approaching spring weather suggests that trips to the nearest multi-use path are in the near future. With that in mind, it’s time to remind ourselves that multi-use means just that – people will be there with a multiplicity of modes of transport ranging from babies in carriages to mobility devices to road warriors on carbon-fiber bikes. It is a good time to review some of the appropriate protocols or rules for using a multi-use path.

The very first one and probably the most important to both walkers/joggers and cyclists is to keep to the right. Sometimes walkers are confused since they were raised to walk on the left side facing traffic. However, that is on a road or street with no sidewalks. A multi-use path is not a roadway so walk on the right and ride on the right.

Here are some other tips:

Walkers –

  • It’s great to walk in twos or threes for the social benefit, but keep in mind the need to move to the right into single file to allow faster moving traffic – generally bicycles, skaters and joggers – to pass safely by.
  • As needed, just move to the right trail edge. Don’t scatter in different directions, and divide to different sides of the path or stand still in the middle like a bunny in the headlights!
  • Stay alert to what is behind you.
  • Small children and dogs on leashes need to be kept under control for their safety and for the safety of others on the trail. This is especially true when a dog is on a retractable lead as it allows the animal to range across the trail forming a barrier.

Cyclists –

The main rule is to be aware that you are traveling faster than other trail users. You are obligated to extend courtesy to them as you pass by.

  • Always signal your presence by ringing your bell, calling out, or clearly indicating you’re passing on the left – “on your left!”
  • Avoid startling those being overtaken.
  • Always yield to pedestrians and mobility devices – no exceptions.
  • If traveling two or more abreast, be prepared to single up when overtaking other path users, approaching other users, or when being overtaken by faster riders.
  • Experienced riders who are out on training rides must remember that the multi-use path is not a racetrack and that you put yourself and others at risk by riding at speeds that are far in excess of all other users. Nobody wants to get hit by the combined weight of cyclist and bicycle moving at any speed – especially if the rider is using a peddle assist bike with the added weight of a battery, motor, heavier frame, etc.
  • If you need high speed training rides, choose the appropriate time and place.

Both Walkers and Riders –

  • If stopping, get off the trail to allow others to pass by.
  • At dusk and in the dark, have a light front and rear.
  • Bring out any trash you bring to the trail (plus a little more if you can). Take it with you or deposit in appropriate container when you leave.
  • Those who bring dogs need to clean up and discard or carry out any “by-product.”
  • If you reach the trailhead by a motor vehicle, park where indicated and ensure that your vehicle is not blocking another.
  • If you come across someone having difficulty, check to see if you can offer needed assistance.
  • Stay off private property. Be courteous to local residents and respect their property.

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Filed under Capital Trails-New York, Editorial, safety

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.

How the Grinch Stole [Christmas] Safety

How the Grinch Stole Christmas Safety

[Choir of pedestrians and bicyclists]

“I’m dreaming of a safe Christmas just like the ones I used to . . . (gulp) . . .  (gasp)  . . . YIKES!“

[Grinch]

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is grinch.jpg

Hey, you bicyclists cut the din,

Can’t you see the mood I’m in?

Bicycles, bicycles everywhere.

Riding around without a care.

I’ll tell you right off the bat,

We’ll soon put a stop to that!

No delay for cars is what I say,

So get your two wheels out of the way.

E-bikes what a curse,

If I see one more. I’ll need a nurse!

Complain, complain – Oh my head

So what if a few of you are dead?

If it’s too unsafe for you to ride,

Then just go over to the side and hide

Oh, you’re such an infernal pain

But I’ll throw in one more shared lane.

Buffered Lanes? Not so fast,

How will cars zip past?

Traffic circles they’re all the rage,

As you ride through, you’ll certainly age.

Traffic circles and (Glenmont) roundabouts, they’re the best

Try to ride through them – be my guest.

We design ‘em, you can bet,

I haven’t seen one that’s bikeable yet.

Four-lane highways they’re the pip

Too bad if you get hit.

No bike lanes? That’s tough,

Good old sharrows are more than enough.

Buffered lanes now that’s a riot,

Don’t hold your breath until I try it.

Complete streets that’s my scam

I’ll “consider your needs” and then I’ll scram!

Vision zero that’s a joke,

Don’t you realize we’re broke?

Broke that is until a new car way

Causes our minds to sway!

I’ve got my engineering manuals at hand

And they don’t cover your rowdy band.

Gotta problem with Central Ave.?

Why that’s the safest road we have!

About livable streets you’re free to dream,

But rest assured that’s not my scheme. 

A ped-bike master plan will calm your fears,

Don’t get excited – it’s smoke and mirrors.

On our plan from two thousand nine

We’re been doing just fine.

Added bike lanes for five miles

Doesn’t that bring you smiles?

Bicycle planning, we do a lot

But our action is mostly “not.”

Many plans on the shelf

Guarded by my elf.

Eco freaks with hearts of Fire?

Well guess what, I’m a denier.

Dying from pollution?

Bicycles are not my solution.

SUVs now that’s my Style,

I think I’ll go out and cruise a while.

Miles per gallon – not my issue,

If you don’t agree, here’s a tissue.

Move all those cars, that’s the need,

We let them go at any speed.

Lower the speed limit 

Sure… in just a minute.

Bike Lanes with no buffer?

Well that’s too bad – you’ll have to suffer

You got doored

Oh so sorry, but I’m just floored. 

Bike lane symbols faded away?
We’ll re-do them . . .  someday.

Can’t safely ride to work?

Well take the bus – what a jerk.

Hit a cyclist they’ll throw the book

Say you didn’t and you’re off the hook.

New Scotland Ave now that’s for parking 

St. Peter’s got the key so hearken.

Safe passing distance I’ll fight that one

Fight so hard it’ll never get done.

Buffered lanes, now that’s a riot

Don’t hold your breath until I try it.

Are cycle tracks what you want to see?

That’s a good laugh for my friends at dee oh tee. 

Reduce the speed,

What’s the need?

Car lane, parking lane, turn lane, more

But for cyclist anything at all is all chore.

You pay your taxes, and we’re glad 

But how we spend them will make you mad.

Roads, streets, turns galore

All I say is more, more, more.

Got hit by a car, slammed by a door

Well that’s too bad – I hope you’re sore. 

Albany, Schenectady, Guilderland too,

Sorry but we don’t have time for you. 

Colonie, Troy, Bethlehem are a riot,

Plenty of cars and trucks but no road diet.

But that’s too bad if you want peace,

Our disdain for you will never cease

I hope this tale doesn’t make you sad

But after all, it’s not that bad. 

Want to cycle safely on a trip?

Well go to Holland on a ship.

Separated Lanes they’re the best

But not in my plan like all the rest.

We can’t cater to just a hobby

We have to kowtow to the car Lobby.

Traffic’s dangerous, that’s a shame

There’s plenty of us to share the blame.

Hey, you guys are really nuts,

Get outta here before I kick your butts.

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To end on a brighter note of what COULD BE, please go here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AzyIFqXps_A

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Filed under Editorial, Riding in Albany, safety

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

Park Tool – #1

Sequence:

 7/2/19 – Park Tool PFP-4 (floor pump) malfunctions

7/3 (4:34 AM) – Email Park tool: “When I use on a Schrader valve, air comes out of the presta valve opening. Thus, no inflation takes place. What part do I need?”

7/3 (9:31 AM) – Email from Park Tool (St. Paul is a bit behind time-zone wise): “Hi —– It sounds like an issue in the head of the pump. We will send a replacement head. Thanks. Dan”

7/3 (2:29 PM) – Email from Park Tool with shipping notice for 3-day delivery.

7/8 – Not only the new head but complete head and hose arrive.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

7/11 – Switch head and hose – 30-45 seconds. Problem solved.

More …

Park Tool https://www.parktool.com/ offers a complete line of top-quality bicycle tools. Park Tool hosts a “fix it school” at – https://www.parktool.com/blog/repair-help where a search tool leads one to videos on all manner of bicycle service.

While the PFP-4 was laid up, the 1971 Schwinn pump came out of semi-retirement after continuous use from 1971-2007. This came from Klarsfeld Cycles – now CK Cycleshttps://ckcycles.com/ . Charles Klarsfeld, “CK,” founded the business in 1905.

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Filed under bicycle shops, Editorial, Product Review