Category Archives: Editorial

Update on 25 MPH in New York State

The Bottom Line – If New Yorkers want safer streets, they are going to have to “stand up and be counted” against those forces that – knowingly or otherwise – stand in the way of this goal.

The Backstory – Once, a long time ago, the statewide municipal speed limit was 25 mph. The highway limit was 50. Somewhere along the way to our present state of roadway mayhem, the municipal limit was raised to 30 and the highway to 55 (1974). Remember? Somehow the “traffic engineers” decided that if we were killing people at 25, why hesitate to go to 30? Aren’t people in a hurry to get somewhere? But wait! “Results show that the average risk of severe injury for a pedestrian struck by a vehicle reaches 10% at an impact speed of 16 mph, 25% at 23 mph, 50% at 31 mph, 75% at 39 mph, and 90% at 46 mph. The average risk of death for a pedestrian reaches 10% at an impact speed of 23 mph, 25% at 32 mph, 50% at 42 mph, 75% at 50 mph, and 90% at 58 mph.” National Association of City Transportation Officials will tell you the same thing. This is the AAA speaking, probably one of the organizations that, of any, backed the “all cars-all the time” situation in which we now suffer. Would you want to guess what the average actual speed is in 30-mph zones?

What We’re Doing – Albany Bicycle Coalition (ABC) is part of the statewide Safe Streets Coalition that pushed for the 25-mph legislation. It passed last year, 2022. ABC worked with the bill sponsors to coordinate the campaign to get passed. It was part of the set of bills called the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act (CVRSA) that was regularly discussed at ABC meetings. ABC members made calls and wrote to State Legislators and the Governor, participated in a Lobby Day at the Capitol, and spoke before the Assembly Transportation Committee. ABC was successful in getting Albany City Common Council to unanimously pass a resolution in support of the CVRSA. Other cities and towns followed. Three of those CVRSA bills passed including the 25-mph bill.

The 25-mph law was a victory, but it was tempered with a late amendment placing substantial barriers in the way of implementation. This same mentality is also the reason we still don’t have a 3-foot safe passage law for cyclists as is the case in 36 other states and the District of Columbia.

The Cities Speak – After the bill passed Albany, Troy, Schenectady, Bethlehem, and Saratoga Springs all started to pursue lowering their speed limits. We are following their progress and need to be ready to speak out when these ordinances are ready for public comment. In the meantime, there is great confusion about what is required to meet the hurdle of the language below. We hope that the Capital District Transportation Committee (CDTC) will hold a webinar to help everyone contend with it all the barriers to this critical, “safety-first” speed limit.

ABC and other Safe Streets members are concerned about the lack of clarity on how to proceed to 25 mph. We ask – why not base the speed-reduction ordinances on these factors?

  • Rate of fatalities and injuries.
  • Existing studies (e.g., the data already in Albany’s Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan).
  • Increasing prevalence and deadliness of larger vehicles.
  • Increasing statewide traffic violence (e.g., all traffic fatalities in NY up another 4 percent in first 9 months of 2022).

In the meantime, we are waiting for regulations. If they are not satisfactory, we will probably seek a new amendment to the statute.

Act Now – This year ABC is joining with the Safe Streets Coalition in pursuing the bills that can be found at The collection of bills is called the Safe Streets Act (instead of the Crash Victims Rights and Safety Act). You can help by following the link and then clicking on “Take Action Now for Safe Streets”. It will help you auto-generate a message to your NYS Senator and Assembly Member. You can edit the message to include your comments about the current 25-mph bill!

You can also help make streets safer locally by spreading word about the Capital Region Vision Zero Alliance. This Alliance is taking the effort for safer streets beyond bicycle and pedestrian groups. We aim to diversify, coordinate and amplify the demand for the tried-and-true changes we need on the local level.  We want to bring in organizations concerned with public health, crime, safety for our young and old, and even AAA – anyone concerned with safe roads.

Barriers – This is the Infamous language (the complete source appears below) included in the 25-mph law:  “No speed limits shall be established pursuant to the provisions of this  section except in accordance with the engineering considerations and factors for speed limits set forth in the manual and specifications for a  uniform  system of traffic control devices maintained by the commissioner of transportation  pursuant  to section sixteen hundred eighty of this title, as such  manual and specifications may be amended from time to time, certified by a licensed professional engineer who specializes in traffic operations.”

This is a gross misunderstanding of the intent of the law and its implementation. The 25-mph law needs to be a political and societal decision based on the safety needs of all road users and not a technical/engineering one based on outmoded priorities and dated expertise. It is absolutely insane that cities cannot determine the best speed limit in certain area. Thirty mph on narrow, one-way streets is too fast as it is on many residential and commercial areas. If imposition of the 25-mph limit is contingent on a traffic study, cities, such as Albany, will delay movement on 25 mph waiting for the study. They have no choice. 

But It’s Worse – In spite of NYSDOT abysmal design-for-death practices, it is empowered to interfere in almost any aspect of establishing 25-mph limits. According to the following, the NYS Legislature has again ignored NYSDOT’s past and current road design debacles and has re-empowered it to squelch any but the most strident safety advocates or municipalities. With DOT’s grip on the purse strings and with its power to frustrate almost any road/street project. It seems to hold all the cards in what is really only a baby step toward equitable road design.

Learn More – Here are some links for those who are genuinely interested in roadway safety and who are fed up totally with the “all cars-all the time” philosophy that drivers urban “traffic planning:”

Guidance on Implementation of 25-mph Speed Limits from New York State Department of Transportation – October 19, 2022 – Office of Traffic Safety & Mobility


A. NYS laws regarding speed limits were changed on August 12, 2022.

1. The minimum allowable area speed limit changed from 30 mph to 25 mph. The minimum allowable linear speed

limit remains 25 mph.

2. A provision was added stating that speed limits must be set in accordance with the engineering considerations

and factors for speed limits set forth in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices(MUTCD) and NYS

Supplement (Supplement).

3. A provision was added stating that speed limits must be certified by a licensed professional engineer who

specializes in traffic operations.

B. The changes in law did not include any change to who has the authority to set speed limits.


1. NYSDOT sets speed limits on all state highways. (NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law, §1620)

2. Cities and villages set speed limits on highways within their jurisdictions, except for state highways.

(NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law, §1643)

3. NYSDOT sets speed limits on town and county highways. (NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law, §1622)

4. Towns with populations greater than 50,000 people, and suburban towns, may set speed limits on all highways

open to public traffic in the town outside villages, except for state highways. (NYS Vehicle & Traffic Law, §1662-a)

Official status as a suburban town can only be obtained by following the procedures outlined in law, and filing the

necessary notice with the Secretary of State. (NYS Town Law, §50-a)

C. Setting speed limits in New York State.

1. Requirements come from the MUTCD and Supplement. NYSDOT Traffic Safety & Mobility Instruction

(TSMI) 17-05 provides additional recommendations.

2. An engineering study certified by a Professional Engineer who specializes in traffic operations is required.

3. The appropriate speed limit for a linear regulation should be determined using one of three methods:

a) Within 5 mph of the 85th-percentile speed of free-flowing traffic using radar.

b) Conducting a floating vehicle check during free-flow conditions.

c) Using USLIMITS2, a FHWA web-based speed limit tool.

4. An area regulation may be used where an area speed limit would be reasonable and warranted in terms of the

physical characteristics and development of the area involved. The appropriate speed limit for an area regulation

should be determined with respect to the “major streets” within the area. Major streets are those streets which

serve as main arteries in providing access to and from various sections of the area. This is distinct from a

“through street,” which passes completely through the area, and carries some traffic other than that generated

in the area, and a “minor street,” which generally serves motorists traveling between a point on a street within

the area, and the area entrance/exit.

D. References.

1. MUTCD Section 2B.13 (

2. Supplement Section 2B.13 (


3. NYSDOT TSMI 17-05 (



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Filed under 25 MPH, Article, Editorial, safety

By Their Fruits Ye Thou Shalt Know Them or By Their Business Cards You Can Figure It Out –

As with many organizations, the Albany Bicycle Coalition has evolved its public presentation over the years. This is particularly true in the case of its business card.

The first card was quite abstract and contained little information other than a website and a Google phone number. It was designed by Bob who was also instrumental in getting the Albany bicycle coalition’s designation as a not-for-profit corporation. It had a hint of the logo that the organization later adopted.

Was it a business card or a wine coaster? The second card was quite innovative stylistically. It was created by Marie. Not only was the card a radical departure from the traditional approach but it also introduced the ABC logo which has become a permanent part of the organization’s public image. Marie was a graphic designer with a multiplicity of talents including owning and piloting a cruise ship styled after a Mississippi River paddle boat. They “Caldwell Bell” cruises on the Hudson River and the Champlain Canal with a home port of Schuylerville. Marie took a quite different reproach with a circular. This card had quite a bit of information about ABC. Marie was also the designer and producer of the original run of ABC t-shirts which she did pro bono. But will it fit in a Rolodex? (What’s a “Rolodex?”)

The most recent 2022 card is a traditional approach to business card. It has a lot of information about the organization and will help the user to explore not only the organization but it’s signature product, CapitalNYBikeMap. This card was designed by Glenn

PS – If you want a supply of ABC business cards, send an email to: Albany Bicycle Coalition <a href="http://Albany Bicycle Coalition <>

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Filed under Feature, Fuller Rd.

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.


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 ( ) 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.


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). Strong Towns ( ) 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 Explained

Understanding the 85th Percentile Speed

The Wrong Way to Set Speed Limits

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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!“


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.


To end on a brighter note of what COULD BE, please go here

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Filed under Editorial, Riding in Albany, safety