Comments on the Town of Colonie Comprehensive Draft Plan

Albany Bicycle Coalition, Inc.
127 S. Pine Ave.
Albany, NY 12208

March 6, 2019
RE: Town of Colonie Comprehensive Plan and Complete Streets

The Honorable Paula A. Mahan Supervisor
Town of Colonie
Colonie Memorial Town Hall
PO Box 508
Newtonville, NY 12128-0508

Dear Supervisor Mahan:

Thank you for hosting the February 27, 2019 meeting on the Town of Colonie Draft Comprehensive Plan. Because of the Town’s central location, connection to many bicycle trails, and proximity to the City of Albany, we in the Albany Bicycle Coalition are extremely interested in the direction the town will take especially as it relates to Complete Streets and to bicycle/pedestrian accommodations.

We provide our comments herewith.

From our own analysis of the plan and from several comments made at the meeting, we believe that the Town should engage the services of a planning consultant to (1) re-write the plan and (2) assess all the comments received making changes to the plan as needed. Candidates include Behan Planning and Design, Alta Planning + Design, and Planning 4 Places. While we agree that much work and thought has gone into the plan, in its present form it (1) sells the Town short and (2) risks discouraging engagement by Town residents.

We look forward to the opportunity to work with you and Town officials for a better Colonie.

Sincerely,
+++++++

Albany Bicycle Coalition Comments on the Town of Colonie Comprehensive Draft Plan March 2019 –

 SOURCE: http://coloniepedd.org/attachments/comprehensive-plan/Town-of-Colonie-Comprehensive-Plan-Update-02-11-19-Draft.pdf

#1 – Our recommendation is for the Town of Colonie to have a Complete Streets refresher and implementation training for their entire staff. This would include Comprehensive Plan Advisory Committee (CPAC) members and Town Board members. This effort is a follow-up to the Complete Streets symposium conducted for town leaders by the Albany County Department of Health in fall 2016.

#2 – The Comprehensive Plan needs to reflect the Siena College survey desires from 2,000 Town of Colonie residents, which relate directly to Complete Streets for pedestrians, people on bicycles, and the mobility challenged.

  • 85% Engage in physical activity
  • 65% Support installing bicycle lanes on existing through roads
  • 85% Support constructing new sidewalks along main roads
  • 66% Support installing additional off road recreation trails
  •  1) Albany Loop (Rt 155 Connector which also includes Albany Shaker Road corridor) on road – 15.2 Miles (Capital Trail “C”)
  • 2) Shaker Trail – off road – 2.8 Miles (Capital Trail #13)
  • 3) The Crossings Connection – off road – 3.6 Miles (Capital Trail #9)
  • 5) Consaul Road Bike Route – on road – 4.5 Miles (2.9 Miles in Albany County) (Capital Trail #7)#4 – The Albany Bicycle Coalition recommends that the Town of Colonie establish a Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee to assist in implementation of Complete Streets transportation/safety initiatives. This advisory committee would consist of Town residents, bicycle and pedestrian advocates, Town of Colonie police, parks and recreation staff, Villages of Colonie and Menands representatives, traffic engineer, etc.  
  • 4) Bike Route 9 – on road, off road – 11.5 Miles (Capital Trail #8)
  • 2) Albany-Colonie Connector – off road 4.5 Miles, on road – 4.5 Miles (Capital Trail #14)
  • B. Supporting Trail Network 
  • 2) Mohawk – Hudson Bike-Hike Trail on road, mostly off road – 41.1 Miles (Capital Trail “C” and part of the 700-mile Empire State Trail)
  • A. Core Trails 
  • #3 – Recently published Capital Trails NY plan incorporates a four-county Capital Region core and supporting trail network for both pedestrians and bicyclists with a planned 289 miles of trails. The Capital District Transportation Committee identified two of these critical trails as “Core Trails” and five as “Supporting Trails.” These are in Albany County and the Town of Colonie as well other adjoining communities. The Town of Colonie is perfectly situated to make these trails available to its residents and visitors simply by building safe connections to them. With an effective trail network, more people might be inclined to use the trails for communing and running errands and not just for recreation. The relevant trails are the following:

Specific Section Comments

Pg. 59 and 66 – Improve mobility throughout the Town. This includes thoughtful investments in roads and highways to relieve significant impacts of traffic congestion and to enhance the safety and attractiveness of active transportation modes (walking and biking). Continue to expand and improve access to public transportation. Coordinate with our partners at Albany County, CDTC, CDTA, and NYSDOT in addressing these mobility issues.

RESPONSE: Should include neighbor and citizen groups and pedestrian/cycling advocate organizations.

RESPONSE: In the “Implementation Table,” we agree that this effort should have top priority for nothing is more important to the Town that safe and direct movement through and within it.

RESPONSE: As in the 2008 Pathways Plan, the Town of Colonie should include specific pedestrian and bicycle pathways either from the 2008 plan or from newer recommendations. This should include reference to the Capital District Transportation Committee’s Capital District Trails Plan – 2019 to ensure that the Town takes advantage of this growing network of trails/multiuse paths.

Pg. 59 – Establish a point person at the Town for transportation issues – this person would be responsible for coordinating with partners at CDTC, CDTA, Albany County, and NYSDOT.

RESPONSE: The Town of Colonie should designate this person as responsible for the Complete Streets implementation.

Pg. 59 – Utilizing the Albany Shaker Road Corridor Study as a model, undertake land use / transportation studies for targeted corridors – especially those where neighborhood quality of life and thru traffic concerns appear to conflict.

RESPONSE: The Albany-Shaker Rd. study is not a desirable model as it seemingly ignores that this route is a major thoroughfare for people on bicycles and on foot.

Pg. 59 – Work with CDTC to develop and disseminate information about “Complete Streets” and the benefits that this approach provides for all users of the transportation system, including automobiles. As one of the core features of New Visions 2040, the region’s long-range transportation plan, complete streets will continue to be a focus of the region’s transportation investments in the coming years; and therefore, more dialogue about this approach and how it can be applied in Colonie would be beneficial.

RESPONSE: Why are motor vehicles singled out and an inclusion when it is clear that most roads in the Town of Colonie are already car-centric? All modes should be listed as “included” or none.

Pg. 59 – Incorporate “Complete Streets” design concepts and guidelines into the next Zoning Code update.

RESPONSE: Yes, Complete Streets should be include in the Zoning Code but progress on Complete Streets should commence immediately for any roadway treatment including resurfacing or re-striping.

Pg. 64 – Cooperate with the Villages of Colonie and Menands, the school districts, and other neighboring and regional municipalities, agencies, and organizations on issues of mutual concern. Look for opportunities to share services when appropriate.

RESPONSE: Within this objective should be provision for safe and direct movement for people on bicycles and on foot from one municipality to another to enhance the attractiveness of the Town of Colonie and to encourage non-motor vehicle commuting/recreation.

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Capital Trails-New York

In January 2019, the Capital District Transportation Committee – the designated Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO) for the Albany-Rensselaer-Saratoga-Schenectady metropolitan areas – released its final plan for the four-county trail master plan.

Capital Trails-New York is an overall branding and area designation. Individual trails within the system will retain their own identity much as is the case with the statewide Empire State Trail network. The advantage of this approach is twofold – it will attract newcomers – tourists and new residents – to the area and will encourage those with allegiance to a local trail to continue their involvement.

The complete plan is here – www.cdtcmpo.org/trails

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CDTC developed this plan as a toolbox for local governments, trail advocates, and organizations. CDTC cannot implement the plan because it cannot initiate capital programs. The economic data, maintenance case studies, and branding plan provide the spine for cities and towns to create their own trail and/or Complete Streets plans to connect to the system. These data also will help in competing for funding and offer ideas for local friends groups to promote trail projects, advocate for trail connections, or support an existing trail and a marketing strategy to attract private sector support and champions.

Since this plan will drive development of trails for years to come, it is imperative that you be familiar with it. While the plan is packed with interesting and valuable information, you should check the pages that refer to your area:

  • Albany County – page 28
  • Rensselaer County – page 34
  • Saratoga County – page 39
  • Schenectady County – page 44

In each such section, you will find a trail map and detail description of each trail and its features.

If this plan is to reach its goal of 148 miles by 2020 and 289 miles after full implementation and for the region to benefit economically and socially from a trails network, you will need to get involved in supporting your municipality and advocacy groups in pushing for completion – trail by trail.

Pages 81-104 provide case studies of what people (like you) were able to accomplish. Starting with our own Friends of the Rail Trail and the Helderberg Hudson Rail Trail, these case studies relate how great success was achieved but also how important was involvement by the citizenry. The studies are loaded with how-to tips.

As a side note, we in the Albany Bicycle Coalition were pleased to see the Albany-Colonie Connector adopted as Supporting Trail #14 as one of the key connectors between Guilderland, Albany, the Village and Town of Colonie, and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail at Lions Park. See page 33. This connector ties in with the Albany Loop (Core Trail “C,” pg. 29), Patroon Greenway (Core Trail “D”), Shaker Trail (Supporting Trail #13), and the University at Albany Purple Path. The Albany Bicycle Coalition has promoted this connector and has reached out in this effort to municipal leaders and local NYS Assembly members.

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The Leaves are Falling (and a Little Snow Too)

There are plenty of opportunities for some nice riding whether for recreation/exercise or errands/work. Here are a few riding tips to keep in mind during the fall season:

  1. Check your lights front and rear. Too many lights are just right in the low-light fall conditions. Your lights are to make you visible (both day and night), not necessarily to light the path ahead.
  2. Replace the batteries. Keep your chargeables charged.p50315471 - Copy.jpg
  3. Have someone view your bicycle from behind in the dark with the lights “on” to ensure that their beams are not blocked by gear or clothing and that they aim toward following vehicles.
  4. Watch other people on bicycles and judge their visibility index as a guide to improving your own.
  5. Add a blinky light front and rear and use them both as nighttime supplements and as “daytime running lights.”
  6. You’ll probably ride safer and smarter if you are comfortable – so plan your riding gear accordingly. Think layers.
  7. As you bundle up, look at your outer layer. If it’s dark in color, either choose something that isn’t or pick up a cheepy reflective vest from your local big box home center.tumblr_inline_neml72xshI1r2v92h
  8. Wet leaves and snow are slippery so anticipate stops and turns.tumblr_li3fainZGQ1qakvm6o1_500
  9. Pay special attention to puddles of water or clumps of leaves as they can mask potholes and craters in the paved surface.
  10. Recall that some pavement markings can also be slippery when wet or extra slippery when covered with wet leaves, snow, or ice.
  11. Keep your chain clean and lubricated.
  12. Plan your braking to avoid a spill.
  13. Be mindful of slippery metal surfaces (such as utility covers and grates).
  14. Fall and winter is a good time to 414057_10150558104377778_290371472777_8772451_121834680_o with a tune up from one of our local bicycle shops. This is a good time to support your local shop and to help them over the slower winter season. November through March is good time to get that special attention from your bicycle mechanic. Find out where at – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/resources/

Other winter riding tips –

https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2015/12/21/ears-cold-try-these-2/

https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2012/01/12/what-is-spinning/

https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2011/12/05/windchill-effect-while-riding-a-bicycle/

https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2010/10/23/1064/

To plan for low stress, safe cycling, plan you route with the Albany Bicycle Coalition BikeAlbanyMap – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/albany_bike_map/

To find out about bicycle-related events, go to – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/resources/events/

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MIPS to You Too!

Using guidelines that a helmet should be replaced every 5 to 10 year and noting that the current helmet had a bunch of scrapes and scratches and well as being (a cool but) invisible black, a “Hi-Viz” replacement seemed in order. But wait – what about the new MIPS technology: What It Is and Why You Need It?

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MIPS stands for Multi-directional Impact Protection System.” Created through years of research, the combination of the brain’s own protection and MIPS can provide better protection from angled impacts. When a MIPS helmet hits the road and sticks initially due to the high friction, one’s head can slide relative to the helmet thus reducing rotation of the head during impact and minimizing strain to the brain.

So here is a Bontrager MIPS helmet (TREK – $99.99 + tax and tip) (note the WindBlox noise blockers ).This is a very comfortable helmet with the only disadvantage being the cheesy, twist-prone quality of the chin strap meaning that it has to be smoothed out before wearing.

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Previously, helmet shopping were limited to comfort, ventilation, price, style/color, weight, configuration, visibility, overall quality, and ease of buckling and adjustment. A 1999 federal law requires that bicycle helmets meet the CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) standard. Look inside your helmet (probably with a magnifying glass) to find this fine print attestation – possibly accompanied by a Snell Foundation label.** Thus all helmets provide the same level of safety; that is, the helmet does not block the rider’s vision, does not come off when after falling or during a crash, and reduces the force to the head when the helmet hits a hard surface. However, helmet crash testing has not evolved as the basic impact test is still smashing the helmet against an anvil in a test rig. (See also – https://www.cpsc.gov/Business–Manufacturing/Business-Education/Business-Guidance/Bicycle-Helmets )

Note the WindBlox on the strap – see – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2017/06/01/wind-blox-cut-that-wind-noise/

These criteria do not protect against all concussions or other brain injuries especially during slower crashes or crashes at oblique angles. MIPS addresses this gap in with a form of slip plane technology with two low-friction layers that rotate against each other, mimicking the rotation of the brain’s own cerebrospinal fluid (the body’s natural defense against oblique impacts). In short, a MIPS helmet can move relative to the helmet’s outer shell. MIPS technology provides an extra safety but at a slight cost premium.

The MIPS helmet’s outer layer is same impact-absorbing EPS* material as a conventional, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACPSC helmet. The difference comes in connecting the shell to a low friction inner layer that rests on the rider’s head. (Look inside a MIPS helmet at this clearly visible and moveable plastic interior liner with connectors joining it to the outer shell – see white arrow in photo.)

 

 

An earlier attempt at reducing rotational injuries was the transition from the white Foam Helmet“foam” “Bell” helmets of the 60s and 70s to a smooth, hard outer surface covering the shock absorbing EPS* material. This smoothness allowed the helmet to slide along a rough road surface rather than bouncing along the roughness and subjecting the head and neck to a rapid series of jolts that might result from the rougher surface of the “foam-style” helmet.

Does your helmet have MIPS? If it lacks a MIPS label, tell by looking inside as all MIPS-equipped helmets have a plastic interior liner that can move relative to the outer shell with connectors joining the inner and outer layers.

Since the Bontrager MIPS was already over $100, why not go all out in the visibility end with a Serfas TL-HLMT LED blink light? ($11.99 + tax). Curiously, the orientation of the hook-and-loop mounting strap is for a vertical helmet bar rather than horizontal,  Thus, when mounted, the light looks a little goofy.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If this helemet is not up to your standards, check out the Lumos Smart CPSC-CE Certified cycling helmet with wireless turn signal handlebar remote, built-In motion sensor, and 70 LEDs on front, rear, and sides at $179.00.

NOTES *EPS or Expanded Polystyrene has ideal crush characteristics with no bounce-back to make the impact more severe. The manufacturer places polystyrene beads (granules) in a pressure mold shaped like the helmet liner and expands the beads 2 to 50 times their original size with a blowing agent under pressure and heat. The beads expand to form the cells and fill the mold. The cells are tightly bonded and varying the density of the foam cells can produce optimal crush for a given impact level. Additives can increase cell adhesion to reduce splitting on impact. Manufacturers can also add internal reinforcing of nylon, carbon fiber, or plastics to reduce cracking, enabling designers to open up wider vents and still pass the lab impact tests.

**Curiously, the subject Bontrager helmet lacks the higher standard Snell Foundation approval. Its competitor, Specialized, seems to have many of its helmets so certified.

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ABC at the Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair

On Saturday, 10/20/18, the Albany Bicycle Coalition returned to the Energy Fair to promote bicycling and the environmental advantages of bicycles. The Fair ran from 10 AM – 4 PM at Doane Stuart in Rensselaer and featured “alternative energy” vendors, healthy food vendors, multiple presentations, and advocacy groups.

The ABC staff – representing many years of riding experience in the Catskills, Hudson Valley, the Erie Canalway Trail, NYC, Washington, and all over the Capital Region as well as many years advocating for bicycle interests with organizations, elected officials, and governmental agencies – were able to welcome guests to our display with knowledge, encouragement, and advice. The ABC booth featured the interactive BikeAlbanyMap projected on a large format monitor, a large map of the proposed Albany-Hudson Electric Trail map, “See and Be Seen” literature, and an array of handouts on the Coalition, Parks & Trails New York, and the Erie Canalway Trail.

As one might expect, we were warmly received by the Fair organizers, other exhibitors, and – most importantly – by those who stopped at or passed by our booth.

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