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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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). 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.
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.
Washington Ave. Flyover – A Call for Change – In fall 2012, the long awaited “Flyover” to route through motor vehicle traffic from Washington Ave. to the Washington Ave. Extension was completed. This and the accompanying series of traffic circles on Fuller Rd. were clearly designed under an “all cars-all the time” philosophy. These means that people on bicycles who want to travel on Washington Ave. and its Extension, on Fuller Rd., on the University at Albany’s “purple path,” and on the Six-Mile Trail must be in the Advanced/Experienced “Strong and Fearless” or “Enthused and confident” 1 percent category.
The following letter calls for the New York State Department of Transportation to revisit this area and to modify it to accommodate people on bicycles.
Sam Zhou, PE – Director
Region One – NYS Department of Transportation
50 Wolf Road
Albany, NY 12232
Dear Mr. Zhou:
This is to seek your assistance in clarifying safety concerns of the Albany Bicycle Coalition and of people on bicycles who use Washington Ave., Washington Ave. Extension, and Fuller Rd.
Because of our advocacy role in the region, we receive questions and comments about riding conditions. One common area of concern is navigation of the Fuller Rd. traffic circles, the Fuller Rd./Washington Ave. intersections, the Flyover, and bicycle travel on Washington Ave. Extension. As you are aware, fear of riding in traffic is the single, major impediment to bicycle travel. This is nowhere more apparent than in those spaces where motor vehicle movement was the paramount design feature.
In response to these concerns, we formed a study group to develop questions and recommendations about these specific roadways. We are at the point where we need advice from you or members of your staff on what are feasible treatments for this Washington Ave.-Fuller Rd. area.
I am asking that you arrange for our group to meet with you or staff for a learning session where we can articulate our concerns and our ideas. I am enclosing some specific ideas that result from our site visits and deliberations. Because several of our members work during the day, it would be helpful to have such a meeting at the end of or after the businesses day. This meeting could be augmented by site visit(s).
We look forward to hearing from you.
++++++ Attachment ++++++
ALBANY BICYCLE COALITION, INC.
SPECIFIC RECOMMENDATIONS ON FULLER RD./WASHINGTON AVE. FLYOVER
Bicycles Ahead Signage – Place several signs near the merge areas on both Fuller Rd. and Washington Ave. (Share the Road, Bicycles In Lane, etc.). Of particular emphasis is the on ramp to westbound Washington Ave. Extension from southbound Fuller Rd.
Bicycle Lane Markings – Install conventional bicycle lane pavement markings on the Washington Ave. “flyover” shoulders to designate clearly where the people on bicycles should be riding. These markings will instruct both cyclists and people in cars.
Bicycle Lane – Install “Bicycle Lane” signs near and at both entrances to the Flyover.
Activation Alert – Install bicycle-activated sensors to illuminate a bicycle symbol sign on the Fuller Rd. exit onto westbound Washington Ave. These will alert motorists when cyclists are present. Bicycles would activate these as they pass over the correct place on the shoulder (bicycle lane) without stopping. (A less effective alternative is MUTCD-compliant flashing LED edge-light signs with high-intensity LEDs.)
Intersection Crossing Pavement Marking on Westbound Washington Ave. – Install crossing markings (e.g., dotted green and white) in the median to guide people on bicycles from the proposed bicycle lane on westbound Washington Ave. to the proper lane to continue west on Washington Ave. Extension. This will (1) alert people in cars to the presence of bicycles and (2) guide cyclists away from the tail of the merge lane (where they would risk conflicts with both the through motor vehicles and the merging motor vehicles).
Shared Lanes Markings – Install Shared Lanes pavement markings on all lanes leading to and from the flyover.
Walk Your Bicycle Assist – Install enhanced walking instructions for those people on bicycles who prefer not to navigate by bicycle the multiple traffic circles to access the Six-Mile Trail, Washington Ave., the University at Albany campus, or Fuller Rd. Ensure continued diligence to maintain and clean the sidewalks, curb cuts, and pavement markings/signage.