Category Archives: Bike Lanes

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

Lane Markings Clinton Ave. – Refreshing

Unlike longitudinal motor vehicle traffic lane makings, bicycle lanes – like cross walks and stop lines – are subject to continual scrubbing from wheels, street sweepers, and snow plows. Accordingly, the schedule used to maintain these critical pavement markings has to be adjusted for these differing wear rates, the criticality and nature of the street in question, and the severity of the weather. With the very few marked bicycle lanes in the City of Albany, it is essential that they be maintained.

Clinton Ave. in particular – because it is mostly residential and surrounded by residential streets with limited commercial activity – depends on clear bicycle lane markings to ensure (1) safety of people on bicycles and (2) guidance for people in cars that they need to calm both their speed and their driving behavior. This letter calls for refreshing the pavement makings on Clinton Ave.

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Pray for People on Bicycles

October 12, 2020

RE: Lane Markings Clinton Ave.

The Honorable Kathy M. Sheehan

Office of the Mayor

City Hall, Rm. 102

24 Eagle St.
Albany, NY 12207

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.

Park Where?

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.

Sincerely yours,

More Bike Lanes, More Smiles!

Promoting cycling in the Capital Region

ABC is a 501(c)3 corporation recognized by the Internal Revenue Service.

Member – League of American Bicyclists, New York Bicycling Coalition, South End Connector Task Force, Capital Region Complete Streets, Madison Avenue Traffic Calming Coalition, Capital District Transportation Committee-Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, Cycle Schenectady, Transport Troy, and Livingston Ave. Bridge Coalition

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Traffic Calming on Western Ave. – Make It Happen

The following letter to Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan calls for Traffic Calming on Western Ave.

The Albany Bicycle Coalition proposes the logical extension of the Madison Ave. bicycle lanes from their terminus at S. Allen and Madison Ave./Western Ave. to the city line. There they will join the Town of Guilderland’s long established bicycle lanes at the city line/University at Albany. These combined lanes would provide just over 4 miles of safe cycling for riding to work, school, errands, and health care. It would afford an option for those wishing to avoid COVID-19-risk buses or environmentally damaging petrovehicles. It would also provide safe, affordable commuting for those who do not have access to a motor vehicle.

Your support can make the happen:

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Plenty of Room from Here to the City Line – Build It!

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The Wide Open Western Horizon

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July 30, 2020

RE: It’s Time for Western Ave. Traffic Calming

The Honorable Kathy M. Sheehan

Office of the Mayor

City Hall, Rm. 10224 Eagle St.
Albany, NY 12207

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 recently 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 in the Times Union

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” level. We look forward to working with you and staff to bring it about.

Sincerely yours,

Albany Bicycle Coalition, Inc.

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Filed under Activisim, Bike Lanes, Support the Cause, Western Ave.

Northern Blvd. Bicycle Lane Network

[UPDATED 7-1-20]

There are  0.2 miles of new bicycle lanes on Northern Blvd.-Manning Blvd. running from Pennsylvania Ave./McCrossin St. to Lark Dr.  This expands the Northern Blvd. /Memorial Hospital area bicycle lane network to a total of 1.4 miles. The network connects to the Village of Menands/Department of Transportation 1.5 miles of bicycle lanes on Van Rensselaer Blvd. (See more background and photos here: Bicycle Lanes in the City of Albany.)

This brings the City of Albany total installed bicycle lanes to 4.9 milesThe final 2009 Albany Bicycle Master Plan designated 18 “major bikeways” within the City of Albany. While the plan did not specify bicycle road treatments, it suggested many – Including bicycle lanes but with long stretches of shared lanes. In several instances, the plan called for narrowing motor vehicle travel lanes to provide space for bicycle lanes. The approximate total miles of these 18 bikeways is 40.64 (using Google Maps distance function). While not a 1:1 comparison, this 4.9 miles of bicycle lanes is 12 percent of this total.

With anticipated completion of the South End Bikeway Connector (about 1.5 miles of cycle track/bicycle lane plus a side path), the total will be 6.3 miles or 16 percent of the 2009 total.

New bicycle lanes – looking southeast from Northern Blvd. toward Manning Blvd. The bridge crosses the I-90/I-787 entrance/exit ramps.

Looking SE on Northern-Manning at Rt9 Overpass 6-18-20

A view in the same direction with Northern Blvd. petrovehicle traffic entering from the left and Pennsylvania Ave. on the right (taken from McCrossin Ave.).

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Looking back up Manning Blvd. toward Northern Blvd. from Lark Drive. The Albany Fire Department Arbor Hill Station is to the right. Note buffered bicycle lane.

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There’s still a challenging “shared lane” area on the Rt. 9 overpass – high speeds, no rideable shoulders, entrance/exit ramps to/from Northern Blvd. to Rt. 9.  The proper use of a Shared Lane is to connect “real” bicycle facilities. According to National Association of City Transportation Officials (https://nacto.org/publication/urban-bikeway-design-guide/bikeway-signing-marking/shared-lane-markings/ ) Shared Lane Markings (SLMs), or “sharrows,” are road markings used to indicate a shared lane environment for bicycles and automobiles. The shared lane marking is a pavement marking with a variety of uses to support a complete bikeway network; it is not a facility type and should not be considered a substitute for bike lanes, cycle tracks, or other separation treatments where these types of facilities are otherwise warranted or space permits.

In the instant case, the SL do connect two of bike lane segments. It’s still a squeeze unless the rider ‘takes the lane.”

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Bicycle Lanes Gone Bad

Here is what happens when people who never walk and never ride set out to design bicycle lanes.

One would think the first photo one has something to do with a pedestrian crosswalk, but no ….

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 The second photo shows (1) that the bicycle lanes are ON THE SIDEWALK, (2) that there are people walking on the sidewalk, and (3) that, later on, the city of Annapolis put its BikeShare “hub” in the sidewalk area and on its misguided bicycle lane.

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 This scene is from Annapolis MD – a flat, bike-able, and walkable city but one that is totally tuned to an “all cars-all the time” philosophy.

 

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