“Knowledge is no guarantee of good behavior, but ignorance is a virtual guarantee of bad behavior.” – Martha C. Nussbaum [SOURCE: https://www.azquotes.com/author/18217-Martha_C_Nussbaum]
Election Day 2021 was a very sad day for people in cars, on foot, in wheel chairs, on public transit, and on bicycles and for business growth. “No” votes for Bethlehem’s Prop. #6 came from 4,461 (56 percent) “anti” people vs. 3.386 (43 percent) “pro” voters – a difference of 1,075 votes. (See (https://www.timesunion.com/elections/albany/.) Even without data on the non-voting, “I-can’t-be- bothered” people (there are some 35,000 people in Bethlehem), a good number were affected by “off year malaise.” This result squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to convert 1.3 miles of Delaware Ave. to a traffic-calmed, walk-able, drive-able street vs. a high-speed highway. It appears that the concepts of “Complete Streets” or “Vison Zero” or “road safety” or “livable community” present an insurmountable mental barrier for many Bethlehemers.
Prop #6 – Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project Revisited – The “pro” contingent waged a good campaign based on a factual presentation of the issues and how Traffic Calming would address them. They produced a very impressive video, had many lawn signs, and several supportive letters, commentaries, and articles in local media. See https://www.facebook.com/Bethlehem-Bicycle-Pedestrian-Committee-130190633781279/ The feasibility/design consultants produced a fact-filled, analytical report that left little doubt as to the benefits of the Traffic Calming movement. At two public meetings, all but one or two voiced unequivocal support for the project.
Why the Loss? – One local analyst noted that “off-year” elections bring out the angry voter. The results in the City of Albany mayoral race suggest this. Other opponents are simply ignorant. The “anti-Prop. #6” cabal (jokingly self-identified as the “Bethlehem Coalition for Common Sense Urges Voters to Vote No on Proposition 6”) was masterful in repeating and repeating half-truths and untruths to influence successfully many voters (a familiar stategy?). Essentially, 4,461 voters decided the issue for all of the 35,000 town residents and all those many others who use Delaware Ave. Therefore, between these “angry voters,” the voluntarily ignorant, and those who prefer not to vote at all, this opportunity for Delaware Ave. and the larger region slipped away.
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Dumb and Dumber Cont’d – The Times Union weighed in on the failed Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project in its 11/8 editorial. The Times Union has been generally supportive of the project and against the referendum. The report reminds one of the adage: “Stupidity is not inherited; it is learned and nurtured.” See – https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/ (The Bethlehem piece was not live on the website (https://www.timesunion.com/opinion/ ) at 9:15 AM, so check back later!
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Bicycles? – Some of the “anti” arguments were against bicycle lanes as either unneeded, unsafe, or unwanted. This position completely ignores the calming effect of narrowing the road using bicycle lanes as a device – even if no cyclists ever used it. That is, the Delaware Avenue Complete Streets Project was never a “bicycle project” although people on bicycles were included along with all other road users (that mysterious “complete Streets” idea again).
From the Peanut Gallery – The following verbatim comment is from a local “next door” webpage and serves to illustrate the above points (Italics added to highlight the writer’s “thought” process.
“Prop. 6, why I am voting no! I remember when Delaware Ave. was widened in 1958 to accommodate more businesses and more traffic on the road. Supporters of Prop. 6 are afraid to call it what it is: less (sic.) lanes of traffic. A road does not eat food, so it cannot diet. Road diet is a misleading term to get more support. Less (sic.) lanes of traffic will not work. Delaware Ave. has always been a way for people to go to Albany, and come back again. There will be more traffic congestion during the rush hours. A minute or two in Delmar can mean another longer delay in Albany and beyond. There will be delays going to Albany, and delays returning to Delmar. The bike lanes will not be used most of the time. People do not ride their bikes in the cold, snow, icy winter weather, or in the rain. People do not ride bikes to shop at the supermarket, and usually they do not ride them to go to restaurants or do other shopping. It is a safety issue. The bike riders will be in danger. On one part of Delaware Ave., there are 15,000 vehicles a day. On another part of Delaware Ave., there are 18,000 vehicles a day. We do not put bike lanes on very busy roads like Central Ave., route 787, or the Thruway. Why is Delaware Ave. the only place in the town where people are insisting on dangerous bike lanes? And I have been a bicyclist for many years. I am not against bicyclists. I am afraid there could be bad accidents involving them and motorists on a very busy road. I drive on Delaware Ave. a lot. I see very few bike riders, but when I do, I fear for their lives and safety. Most days I see no bicyclists. The less (sic.) lanes of traffic plan would also mean delays for emergency vehicles like ambulances, fire trucks, and police cars. Delays of a few seconds or minutes could result in deaths, destruction of property, or serious crimes. Fewer lanes of traffic mean more congestion, longer travel times, danger for bicyclists, and longer response times for emergency vehicles. Town businesses were never consulted in the beginning. Nor were delivery companies, bus drivers, or a lot of commuters and town residents. And how many tens of thousands of dollars did the town pay to the consultants? I support our local businesses, who will be harmed by this proposal and oppose it. The economy is bad enough already. I am voting no on Proposition 6. It has too many flaws.”
Businesses Join Together – Coupled with the promulgation of these truths and half-truths, the “anti-Prop. #6” cabal ran a very impressive campaign to recruit businesses to support its position Quote: “The Coalition counts the following organizations in support:” Andrianos Pizza, Bliss Juice Smoothie, Bueneau’s Opticians, Capadona’s Pizza, Choices Hair Salon, Dave’s Glass, Delaware Plaza, Delmar Beverage Center, Delmar Bistro, Delmar Chiropractic, Delmar Wine and Liquor. Dunkin Donuts, Empire SiteCom, Inc./New Scotland Communications, Expanco Holding, LLC, Fortitude Lyfe Fitness, John Fritze, Jr. Jeweler, Geurtze Builders, Gustos, Handy Dandy Cleaners, Havill’s Auto Body, Kelly Kleeners, LC Smith, Los Panchos, My Place & Company, Nail City, Nationwide Insurance, O’Slattery’s Irish Pub & Restaurant, Phillips Hardware, Pratt & Associates, Rain Hair Studio, Scissor Society, Shalimar Restaurant, St. Croix Tan, The Paper Mill, Tool’s Restaurant, Uncrushable Nutrition, and Upstate Wine and Liquor.