A Hidden Gem – Dott Ave. and the CapitalNYBikeMap

One of the major challenges in developing and refining the CapitalNYBikeMap (formerly the “BikeAlbanyMap”) is identifying streets, roads, trails, and intersections that are up to the map’s established standards of being safe and comfortable to ride. Since the map covers much of the Capital Region – with more to come – it is inevitable that the routes it proposes will have to contact streets that the Albany Bicycle Coalition would never recommend for a “traffic concerned” rider. This includes Central Ave., Washington Ave., Fuller Rd., and so on.

In some cases, there simply is no alternative. In these instances, the map provides instructions and cautionary icons. These may say, “Walk bicycle to traffic light can cross at the light” or “busy intersection with high traffic volume – use caution.” Alternatively, the map may suggest a more indirect route but one that avoids hectic streets or intersections.

Frequently, through many hours of evaluation and on-site assessment, we have been able to identify routes that one would never heretofore considered. This is about one such route – once hidden but when revealed shows a new and safer way to navigate the area.

Current Situation – To get from the Crossings Park in the Town of Colonie to the Six-Mile Park on Fuller Rd., the CapitalNYBikeMap has to get people on bicycles across the ever-challenging Central Ave. Briefly, the map uses Frederick Ave. It suggests using the traffic light at Frederick and Central, and then the sidewalk along Central Ave. to continue on Interstate Ave. 

As You Head Toward Death-Defying Central Ave., There’s a Traffic Light and Dott. Ave Straight Ahead!
View from Central Ave. – It’s “Dead End” for Cars but not for Bicycles!

A Glimmer of Hope – But wait! Immediately across Central Ave. from Frederick Ave. is Dott Ave. As we can see, Frederick – with the help of the traffic light to get us across Central Ave. – leads right into Dott Ave. What not use it? A closer view shows there are not one but two “dead end” signs as you head south on Dott Ave. from Central Ave. It is a dead end. Not atypically, “dead end” means “dead end for people in cars” but how about on bicycles?

A Closer Look at Dott Ave. Connecting Railroad Ave. and Central Ave. – (See https://www.google.com/maps/@42.6945823,-73.8130095,17z) The map shows Dott Ave. in the center with the direct connections to Fredrick to the northeast and to Rail Road Ave. to the southwest.

(See CapitalNYBikeMap   https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/albany_bike_map/ )

The Albany Bicycle Coalition suggests that the Town of Colonie open the dead-end Dott Ave. as a multiuse path for people riding bicycles or walking. Dott Ave. is entirely within the town so changes to it are simplified and of minimal cost.

Dott Ave. is more direct than the currently proposed route via Interstate Ave. It would not require walking bicycles along Central Ave. Dott Ave. is a dead end. Currently, a hole in the fence is big enough for a bicycle, but it is off center and southbound riders cannot see it until they are 200 feet away. First-time visitors might conclude there is a mistake on Albany Bicycle Coalition’s map and turn around. Often, there are many vehicles parked on the south of the fence so that even northbound riders could only find the hole with difficulty. The photos clearly show that this is a classic “no brainer” – a easy lift to facilitate safe travel for people on bicycles.

View from the End of Dott Ave. Toward RR Ave.

The Town of Colonie would have to arrange for removal of one or two motor vehicle parking spaces, add some signage, and conduct minor paving/re-paving.

View from the RR Ave. side toward Dott Ave. and Central Ave.

As a side benefit to the residents of Dott Ave., clearly marking the passage through the fence and building appropriate structure might deter truckers from trying to open the existing gate to reach the industrial park. Plus, they’d have some nice people on bicycles waving to them!

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Filed under CapitalNYBikeMap, Colonie

Your New Year’s Resolutions

Resolutions for people on bicycles who want to make cycling safer for all by promoting a positive image of cycling and make the City of Albany and the Capital Region a place where people want to live, work, and relax …

Comments Received after publication:

  • What a great list. Happy New Year, stay safe, stay healthy on & off your bike. (submitted byJKM 1/7/21)
  • Excellent.  I love these resolutions. I only have one modification or supplement to the second one.  If the temperature is below freezing don’t ride if there is black ice and limit rides to 30 minutes.  Don’t Ride below 15 degrees F. (submitted by EH, 1/1/21)
  • Thank you! (submitted by AB, 1/1/21)
  • Good morning – I agree with those pledges, so I guess I’ll pump up my tires today! (submitted by IV, 1/1/21)
  • I will – Smile and say “good morning,” “good afternoon,” “hi,” etc. to everyone I meet while riding.
  • I will – Remember that to increase safety for people on bicycles is to ride my bicycle as often as I can.  All the bicycle lanes, tickets, smart traffic lights, “share the road signs,” blinkie lights, and reflective clothing will do little if not accompanied by MORE PEOPLE riding MORE OFTEN.
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  • I will – Shop locally at locally owned businesses who hire local people and pay a fair wage. (See Local Bike Shops | Albany Bicycle Coalition) I will buy on the internet only when my bicycle shop does not stock or cannot order what I need.
  • I will – Obey the traffic law.  I will stop for signs and signals especially when people in cars or on foot can see me, and I will stay off the sidewalks.
  • I will – Check that my brakes work (lever is a thumb’s distance or more from the handle bars when brake is full “on” and the pads contact the wheel rim braking surface).
  • I will – (added by alert cyclist Eric) – Not ride if the temperature is below freezing especially if there is “black ice.” I will limit rides to 30 minutes and will not ride below 15 degrees F. (unless I am thoroughly prepared for these conditions).
  • I will – Learn how to use CapitalNYBikeMap so that I can help others find stress-free routes in the capital region. (See – CapitalNYBikeMap | Albany Bicycle Coalition )
  • I will – Learn how to sign out a CDPHP Cycle! BikeShare bicycle for day use so that I will be able to help visitors (tourists, family, friends) get a bicycle. (See CDPHP Cycle!)
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  • I will – Be deferential to all pedestrians no matter how crazily they act.
  • I will – Speak out on behalf of people on bicycles in a polite and non-confrontational manner.
  • I will – Signal my stops, scan and signal my turns, and make eye contact with people in cars and on foot.
  • I will – Speak out and write in on issues facing cycling. I will keep up to date on developments that affect safe use of the streets by people on bicycles.
  • I will – Support my local bike rescue (See Bike Rescue | Albany Bicycle Coalition.)
  • I will – Wave and smile to those in cars who are bothered by my presence on a bicycle on my streets (and no “one finger waves,” s.v.p.)
  • I will – Lube my chain and check air in my tires.
  • I will – Be Kind.

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Filed under Activisim, New Years

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

A Mystery at Schuyler Flatts

While snooping around the new cycle track in Watervliet (see Cycle Track in Watervliet – Update 9-8-20)  and winding back to Broadway/Rt 32, we came across a curious sign at the “dead end” at the southern terminus of Broadway. Clearly, this sign was placed with some intent. The google street view (image dated 2007) DOES NOT show the Erie Canalway Trail (ECT) and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail (MHBHT) signs. The Village of Menands notes that “The Park includes a walking and jogging trail with access to the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Path.” Maybe there are yet more signs to be found in the park!

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The sign attests to continuation of both the Erie Canalway Trail and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. Why is it there? What was the plan? Where does it lead?

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Mystery Sign

Close Up – Mystery Sign

Option 1 – If south-bound riders on the Empire State Trail/Erie Canalway Trail/Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail were unfamiliar with the connection of Broadway in Watervliet to the I-787 underpass leading to the MHBHT south to Albany or had just missed the turn, they could follow the sign into the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park. The park shows clearly in the photograph. After some considerable confusion, the riders might have headed south on Broadway/Rt 32 searching for more MHBHT trail signage – a futile search indeed. It would be one group of confused cyclists! (If there is any signage for the MHBHT/Corning Riverfront Park on southbound Broadway, it is well hidden.) On the following map, use the dark blue trail and the red making on Broadway.

Schuyler Broadway Route Map

OPTION 2 – South-bound riders who wanted to get to Broadway/Rt 32 would find this sign very welcoming. Following it, they would avoid the traffic and intersections on Rt. 32 in Watervliet and would, instead, have a pleasant ride through the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park. Following the paved path through the park, riders would exit onto Broadway at Village One Apartments/Schuyler Inn. While there is no active traffic control at this intersection, there is a well-marked pedestrian crossing with blinking caution lights. Riders then could proceed south on Broadway’s wide shoulders either to immediately leave for the “Albany Rural Cemetery Bypass” after 2/10 miles or to continue south on Broadway. (The “Albany Rural Cemetery Bypass” takes one to the bicycle lanes on Van Rensselaer Blvd. and Northern Blvd. and then to those on Clinton Ave.) This, of course, assumes that our riders are familiar with this option – leaving the MHBHT at 4th St. Those not aware of the mystery sign would have vended their way through city streets and could have reached the Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park via  2nd Ave. and entered the park on Schuyler Ln.

OPTION 3 – Really sophisticated riders who were planning on the “Albany Rural Cemetery Bypass” or who merely wanted to visit the park, would have left the MHBHT at 8th St. and then taken an immediate left turn onto 1st Ave or onto the unmarked road just past 1st Ave. to visit the Erie Canal Lower Side Cut Lock Park. Historically minded riders would have left the park on what is now an alley between 1st Ave./2nd Ave., and 3rd Ave. and followed the filled-in prism of the original Erie Canal to Schuyler Ln. and the Flatts. There are a couple uncertain spots on this route, but the perseverant rider will enjoy tracing the canal from the US Army Watervliet Arsenal to Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park and the preserved remnant of the original canal.

Option 4 – Riders who got to 4th St. at the I-787 underpass (leading to the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail south to Albany) could also brave the almost unride-able Schuyler Flatts Trail to the Flatts. They could hop the curb just after the left turn toward the Hudson River and follow the very scenic trail to its end at Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park. Sadly, this trail has been essentially abandoned with poor or misleading signage, broken pavement, and falling fencing. See the dark blue trail in the park and along the trail to 4th St. to follow the “Option 4” route.

Schuyler Flatts Route Map

More on the Schuyler Flatts Cultural ParkSchuyler Flatts Cultural Park – Located on Rt 32 between Menands and Watervliet in the Town of Colonie, this 12-acre park opened in fall 2002 on what was once the farm of the Schuyler family. The Schuyler farm was a staging area for revolutionary war encampments. Prior to this, it was the site of a Mohican summer encampment.

The area has great historical and archeological significance and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Park includes a walking and jogging trail with access to the Hudson-Mohawk Bike Path. The park itself is a tranquil, wide-open green space for strolling and picnicking. A notable feature is a replica of a Dutch barn, testimony to the extensive (and lasting) presence of the settlers from the Netherlands. Of perhaps of more interest to the Erie Canalway Trail rider is the preserved prism of the original “Clinton’s Ditch” Erie Canal located just along Broadway. Tracing imaginary lines north and south from this point, will bring one to the canal’s former route along the Hudson-Mohawk Animal Shelter and then to “Canal Rd. S.” and Erie Blvd. in Albany. North will take you to the Watervliet alley and the Lower Side Cut Lock (see more in Option 3 above).

The Erie Canal was 363 miles long and included 18 aqueducts (to carry the canal over ravines, streams, and rivers) and 83 locks (with a rise of 568 feet from the Hudson River to Lake Erie). The cross-section or “prism” of the original Erie Canal was 4 feet deep, 40 feet wide at the water surface, and 28 feet at the bottom. It floated boats carrying 30 tons of freight. There was a 10-foot wide towpath along the bank of the canal for the horses (for packet boats) or mules (for cargo barges).

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Filed under Comings and Goings, Erie Canal Trail, Local Bike Rides, Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, Trail Network, Watervliet

Changes to South End Connector – City of Albany

Following substantial completion of the South End Connector, the Albany Bicycle Coalition detected a number of issues needing resolution. We had identified some of these even before design and construction began on the Connector. On 9/17/20, we asked the city to explore how we might get these projects on the city’s “to do” list for 2020-21.

Key members of the Albany Bicycle Coalition have had some considerable experience with the new South End Connector and many years of observation and riding in the S. Pearl St./Connector area. We believe the city should make several modifications to realize the full potential of this new asset. We detail these below. They include maintenance, safety issues, signage/lighting/striping, a new interchange, and traffic control.

Our major concerns are safety issues related to the Broadway/Quay St. and the S. Pearl St.-South End Connector junction. The Broadway/Quay St. issue derives from the original “all cars-all the time” poor design of this interchange. In fact, it was here that a SUV ran down and killed 60-year-old cyclist Jose Perez on August 3, 2006.

One of the major impetuses for the very conception of the South End Connector was the motor vehicle death of a young lad on S. Pearl St.

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Multiuse Path Maintenance – the City of Albany Department of General Services was quite responsive to our recent (September) 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 possibly 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 going north (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.

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. The striped area could be modified easily for this purpose with only the addition of some striping (e.g., a green path) and 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 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 traffic control is a yield sign. This sign is ineffective since it is clear to a driver that there to 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.

What is not so clear is that the South End Connector channels people on bicycles directly to a cross walk which is somewhat hidden from people in cars. While riders are scanning to their left and rear, they also have to be alert to motor vehicles coming north on Broadway to continue on Quay St. or Broadway into the city proper. Here we need more demonstrative traffic control.

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Filed under Activisim, Equity, safety, South End Bike Link, South End Bikeway Connector