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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Update on Champlain Canal Trail and the Empire State Trail North from Waterford

Bad News on Champlain Canal Trail – Upper Newtown Rd. – According to 11/9/20 information from the Town of Halfmoon on the Champlain Canal Trail (Empire State Trail) from Upper Newtown Rd. to Mechanicville, a decision was made to stop this project. The engineering consultants who designed this trail, submitted revised figures to Hudson Valley Greenway that increased the construction costs an additional $1.9 million. The increase is due to several factors including materials for construction due to COVID-19, National Grid costs, and to a large portion being in a wetlands area. SO, “Work in Progress” below becomes “on hold.”

A Bump in the Trail

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Work progresses on the trail and towpath from Upper Newtown Rd. to Mechanicville.

Work in Progress

There is currently no good (that is, off road) bicycle route connecting the Champlain Canal Trail trailhead on Upper Newtown Rd. and Mechanicville. There are three on-road alternative routes:

  • Ride 2.2 miles on the road/shoulder of Rt. 4/Rt. 32 (also NYS Bike Route 9)
  • Climb 2.5 miles up Upper Newtown Rd. and then follow Rt. 146 for 2.7 miles back down to Mechanicville
  • Climb 2.5 miles up Upper Newtown Rd. and then follow Rt. 146 and Pruyn Hill Rd for 2.9 miles to Mechanicville.

For an earlier posts, go here and here.

Arriving in Mechanicville (Photo courtesy Ed)

Construction on the Champlain Canal Trail on from Upper Newtown Rd. Trailhead (Photo courtesy Ed)

Here is the Trail Description in and from Waterford from the May 2019 “Champlain Canalway Trail Action Plan: Waterford is at the junction of the Hudson River, the Champlain Canal, the Mohawk River, and the Erie (NYS Barge) Canal. It is the start of the of both the original and current Champlain Canals. The Champlain Canalway Trail lies along the Old Champlain Canal and is developed fully throughout the Town and Village of Waterford. The trail runs from original Champlain Lock #4 at the southern point of the Town (called “North Side”) just across the dammed-up Mohawk River from Cohoes (where Lock #3 was located) and east of Rt. 32/Saratoga Ave. (Just up the wooden stairs from Lock 4 is the Waterford Historical Museum and Cultural Center. Locks #3 and #4 were not there to raise and lower canal boats but to equalize the water level of the slack pond behind the damned-up Mohawk River with that of the Cohoes and Waterford sections of the canal. Lock #4 currently helps to control water level in the NYS Barge Canal.)

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The Mule at the Waterford Harbor Visitor Center

The trail continues north along the Old Champlain Canal for about 1.25 miles to the 4th St. Bridge into the Village and onto South St. It then continues to and through the Barge Canal Lock #2 Park across Broad St./Rt 32. No traffic control here – use caution. From this point, you follow the original Champlain Canal Trail from Broad St. for about 0.35 miles to the Village border just after the Old Champlain Canal Weighlock (remnants) and the overhead railroad bridge.

The Beautiful Trail Approaching the Weighlock

Old Champlain Canal Weighlock

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5 – View 1

Note setbacks for lock gates

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5– View 2

Old Champlain Canal Lock #5– View 3

Note setback for lock gate.

The trail then continues north for about 1.9 miles to the Town’s border with the Town of Halfmoon.

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The Champlain Canal Trail at Waterford

You will pass Champlain Canal Lock 5 and then ride on to “Landfill Mountain” by Momentive Performance Materials.

Enjoy the Methane!

Momentive Performance Materials

Then, following a narrow paved road onto Bells Ln. (that changes into School House Ln.), you’ll enter Halfmoon with their towpath trail skirting the old Champlain Canal on your left. This undeveloped area is about as close as you’ll ever get to ride along the original canal through its surroundings. You can almost hear the clop-clop-clop of the mules’ hoofs. At 5.3 miles from Waterford, you’ll arrive at a trailhead with parking for 4-5 cars at Upper Newton Rd.

The On-Road Path North of Momentive

The North End Trail Head

Just across the road from the trailhead is evidence of construction of the new trail. The trail follows the towpath of the water-filled dug canal.

Natural State of the Champlain Canal Trail (2016)

This will be part of the Empire State Trail north connecting New York City to Canada. Go here for more detail on the currently rideable portions of the Champlain Canal Trail at Waterford.

MAP Champlain Canal Trail Upper Newtown Rd. 7-15-20

Afterword – learn more – Go here for a Chronology Champlain Canal.

The Champlain Canal Trail is a major component of the NYC-Canadian/USA border portion of the Empire State Trail. 

People on bicycles can make a detour from their tour of the Erie Canalway Trail as it passes through Cohoes to visit Waterford and the Champlain Canal Trail. A round trip from the Corning Riverfront Park in Albany to the preset end of the Champlain Canal Trail and return is a great one-day ride. See The Black Bridge and Beyond.

Alert Cyclist John M. provided much of the detail for this post.

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Get Out and Ride While the Leaves are Falling

While COVID-19 has eliminated or moderated several bicycle-related activities, the fine early fall weather provided plenty of opportunities for social distanced rides. Looking ahead, there is some nice riding in late fall and winter whether for recreation/exercise or errands/work. Here are a few riding tips to encourage your riding and to keep you safe:

  • Check your lights front and rear. “Too many lights” are just about right in the low light, fall and winter conditions. Your lights are to make you visible (both day and night), but also to avoid those hidden ruts, potholes, and bumps in the street. Road debris at night is another hazard which good front lighting will help you avoid.
  • Add a helmet or head-mounted lamp to help see those potholes, debris, etc. at night. While a front light in blink mode makes people more aware of your presence, the headlamp helps you see obstacles. The advantage of a headlamp is that when you move your head, the light goes with you. When on trails with little or no street lighting, both the headlamp and front light (in steady mode) will light the path.
  • Replace the batteries. Keep your re-chargeables charged.
  • Have someone view your bicycle from behind in the dark with the lights “on.” Ensure that your gear or clothing does not block the light beams (front and rear) and that the rear light(s) aim toward following vehicles.
  • Spoke lights or spoke reflectors are both fun and provide visibility from the side.
  • Watch other people on bicycles and judge their visibility index as a guide to improving your own.
  • Add an extra “blinky light” front and rear and use them both as nighttime supplements and as “daytime running lights.”
  • Use a helmet-mounted rear-facing light.

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  • You will probably ride safer and smarter if you are comfortable – so plan your riding gear accordingly. Think layers.
  • As you bundle up, look at your outer layer. If it is dark in color, either choose something that is not or pick up a reflective vest from your locally owned hardware or big box home center.
  • Wet leaves and snow are slippery so anticipate your stops and turns.
  • Pay special attention to puddles of water or clumps of leaves as they can mask the plentiful potholes, ruts, utility caps, and craters in the paved surface.
  • Recall that some pavement markings can also be slippery when wet or extra slippery when covered with wet leaves, snow, or ice.
  • Keep your chain clean and lubricated (especially after riding in melted slush).
  • You might want to inspect your tires for wear. You might swap the front to the rear (since the rear takes the most weight and wears quicker). If planning to ride in snow, you might invest in wider, knobby tires for better traction (if your bike accepts them).
  •  Consider reducing tire pressures from max by 5 to 10 psi for better grip.
  • Sunglasses are very important this time of year as well. With the days getting shorter, there is a greater chance you will finishing or starting a ride in low light conditions. Switch your tinted lenses to a rose or clear lens for better visibility in low light conditions.
  • When riding into that low fall sun, remember that the people in cars behind may not see you, as they also will be blinded.
  • Plan your braking and turns to avoid a spill.
  • Be mindful of slippery metal surfaces (such as utility covers and grates).
  • Fall and winter is a good time to get ready for next year’s riding 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 –

To enjoy low stress, safe cycling, plan your route with the free, interactive CapitalNYBikeMaphttps://albanybicyclecoalition.com/albany_bike_map/

To find more bicycle-related events, go to – https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/upcoming-events/  

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Patroon Creek Greenway Trail Ride II

Introduction – The Capital District Transportation Committee’s Capital District Trails Plan envisions a network of core trails for the capital region.  The Patroon Greenway, connecting the Albany Waterfront to the Albany Pine Bush Preserve, is one of six core Albany County trail components of that planned network. 

Other better known core trails include the Albany County Helderberg-Hudson Rail Trail, the South End Bikeway Connector and the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail. 

The initial detailed proposal for the Patroon Greenway done by the Capital District Transportation Committee in 2004 is available on their website and is linked at the end of this document.  Over the past sixteen years there has been no significant progress toward making this trail a reality.  Three recent developments make this an ideal time to take a good look at this project:  the recently funded Albany County Skyway and the newly completed Patroon Creek Daylighting, and the installation of wayfinding signage on the existing Six Mile Waterworks trail.

The Ride – On Sunday August 30,2020, Aaron Corman, Glenn Sandberg, Ed Brennan, Mark Maniak, Rob Carle and Shelly Nevard met up at Quackenbush Square to review the potential for a city street route from the forthcoming Albany Skyway to the Patroon Creek Greenway.  The Albany Skyway will provide cyclists and pedestrians a bridge over I-787 from the waterfront and the Corning Riverfront Park section of the Empire State Trail to Broadway next to Quackenbush Square and the Albany Visitors Center.   Our initial destination was Tivoli Lake Preserve which was the endpoint or our Patroon Creek Greenway I ride in November 2019.  That ride began at Six Mile Waterworks. 

The Skyway plan is show below.  It would take a little used ramp from Quay Street by the waterfront over I-787 to where it merges with a ramp from Southbound I-787 to connect to Broadway at the base of Clinton Avenue.

The picture below shows where this ramp meets Broadway.  The right lane of the ramp (left side of photo) would be limited to pedestrians and cyclists.  An Albany Planning Department employee recently remarked that cyclists would be expected to walk their bikes over the Skyway.

We crossed Broadway and continued up Clinton Avenue two blocks to Ten Broeck Street.  Note there are currently no bike lanes along this section of Clinton.  The Clinton bike lanes begin at Ten Broeck.  It was suggested by the Planning Department that improvements to this area might bring bike and pedestrian accommodations to these last two blocks.  Hopefully, that will mean the Clinton bike lanes will be continued to Broadway.  It is interesting to note that there are also plans underway to improve Federal Park which is on the North side of Clinton between Broadway and Pearl.  These improvements along with the Skyway can be expected to bring significant increases in foot and bike traffic.  This block is shown below from the perspective of Clinton and Broadway.  Clinton is certainly wide enough for bike lanes if there is the will to disrupt current traffic patterns.

The group turned right on Ten Broeck Street which has bike lanes until it meets Livingston Avenue.  Note the car parked in the bike lane.   Many Albany drives assume bike lanes are in fact an invitation to double park.

When Ten Broeck crosses Livingston it becomes Manning Blvd and the bike lanes cease.  We continued along Manning.  We found this part of Manning to be a wide quiet street with a gentle curving incline up toward our destination.  The green roofed public housing we passed on Manning is shown below.

The hill up Manning is shown below.  There appears to be plenty of room here for bike lanes.  A pedestrian bridge overpasses Manning.  It provides a connection from Colonie Street.  We do not know if the bridge permits bikes. 

Arbor Hill Park is shown on the left of Manning below and Lark Park on the right.  It should be noted there are instances of diagonal parking along Manning that could be hazardous to cyclists.  One such spot is partially shown below.

Bike lanes (aka parking lanes to many) resume where Manning Crosses Lark Street.  These bike lanes also provide a buffer zone between cyclists and traffic.

As Manning approaches the Route 9 overpass, it becomes Northern Blvd.  The buffered bike lanes continue.

It is interesting to note that after crossing Route 9 the buffer zone switches from providing space between cyclists and traffic to protecting cyclists from the door zone of parked cars.

We followed Northern Blvd to where another small disconnected section of Manning Blvd. provides access to the Tivoli Lake Preserve.  The intersection of this Manning Blvd and Northern Blvd is shown below.  The old Livingston High School (now apartments) is in the background.  Kipp Tech Valley Middle School (not shown) is on the right.

This section of Manning ends where two gravel trails begin in Tivoli Park.  One trail goes to the newly “daylighted” Patroon Creek.  A photo of that trail from our November ride is shown below.

The other trail is being rehabilitated and not yet reopened.  It goes through the park, around the lake and exits on Livingston Avenue near Ontario.  Unfortunately, it was recently announced this trail is to be limited to foot traffic.   This policy would need to be changed and that trail widened if Tivoli Park were to be used as a bike connection to Livingston Avenue as discussed below.

The second leg of our Patroon Creek Greenway Ride II explored on street options from the Livingston Avenue Tivoli Park entrance by Ontario to Everett Rd.  The original CDTC Patroon Creek Greenway plan from Everett Road to Tivoli Park required large capital expenditures – especially the need to build a cantilever bridge along I90 and improve an old railroad bridge to cross the RR tracks.  There will also be safety issues to contend with due to the proximity of the railroad tracks and high speed Amtrak trains.  To make the Patroon Creek Trail happen in the nearer term, there will need to be some interim on road sections.

Our group rode around Tivoli Park and down Livingston Avenue noting the Livingston Avenue parking lot as one possible exit of a path thru Tivoli Park as well as the currently gated exit by Livingston near Ontario Street.  The latter path exit is shown below.

We continued west on Livingston Avenue for about a block and turned right on Terminal Street.  Livingston Avenue is a fairly busy road with no bike lanes.  Terminal Street did not appear busy, but our ride was held on a Sunday.   This is the start of an industrial/warehouse area that can expect to have some truck traffic.

There is also a hill on Terminal Street leading down to Commerce Avenue where we turned left.  The hill on Terminal Street is shown below.  It should be noted that the existing road did not appear wide enough to support bike lanes.  On street parking did not appear to be an issue.  Using Manning to connect to Commerce as an alternative would encounter much more on street parking and perhaps more traffic.

Along Commerce Avenue we noted the spot where the famous Engine 999 was constructed, “the first creation of man in the history of time to travel achieve 100 miles per hour”!

We also explored Industrial Park Road looking for access to the existing Patroon Creek Trail by way of the I90 railroad underpass, but found access blocked by fencing at the CDTA complex.  During last November’s ride we found this potential part of the trail was very close to the rail tracks and the space for a bike path under I90 was very narrow.  We think the railroad would object to the trail here.   At the very least, fencing of some sort separating bikes and pedestrians from the rails would be required.

We continued west down Commerce Avenue, which becomes Watervliet Avenue before it ends at busy Everett Road.  Commerce and Watervliet Avenue appeared wide enough to support bike lanes.  While I do not recall prohibitions against on street parking, none was observed.  Our ride conference at Everett Road is shown below shortly before we headed back to our starting point.  Our consensus was that our modified on street/Tivoli Park Trail Patroon Creek Route would need to meet up with the remainder of the Patroon Creek Trail at Everett Road.

As noted in the analysis of our November 2019 ride, the original Capital District Transportation Committee studies imagined that the Patroon Creek Trail will go under Everett Road between I-90 and the train tracks.  The CDTC study provided accessibility of the trail to and from Everett Road via construction of a “Dutch Stair”.  We also noted that significant signaling improvements would be needed on Everett Road to permit safe pedestrian and bike travel to cross the I90 ramps.  The cost of the Dutch stair and traffic signaling are probably the greatest hurdles to connecting our modified route to the rest of the Patroon Creek Trail running from Everett Road to Fuller Road.  The political issues around disrupting motor vehicle traffic flow are also significant.

The arrow in the picture below shows imagined ped/bike travel along the sidewalk of Everett Road from the area where the Dutch stair would come up from the Patroon Creek Tail below.  The “S” marks show where signaling improvements would be needed to permit safe ped/bike crossings of the I-90 ramps.  Bikes would likely need to be walked and/or the sidewalk significantly widened.

In the original CDTC Study, the Patroon Creek Greenway Trail passes under Everett and continues on north side of I-90 south of the railroad tracks.  It then uses a cantilever bridge along the north side of I-90 to cross the railroad tracks.  It would then cut back under I-90 using Anderson Rd.  An approximation of this route is shown below.

From Anderson Road the CDTC Plan envisions crossing the railroad tracks by redeveloping an abandoned railroad trestle to a point near the Freihofer (now Bimbo) Bakery site.  Here it is also not far from the Tivoli Park Patroon Creek Daylighting Trail as shown below.  The Cantilever Bridge and rail trestle rehabilitation envisioned in the original CDTC plan would also require large capital expenditures that would greatly increase the costs of the Patroon Creek Greenway.  Such costs are over and above significant costs of acquiring rights to and improving the lengthy trail itself. 

Conclusion – The forthcoming Albany Skyway and Patroon Creek Daylighting project provide a singular opportunity to kick off a campaign for the long dormant Patroon Creek Greenway plan that has been collecting dust in CDTC’s archives.  COVID has also led to a substantial increase in the number of people turning to cycling and trail hiking as a safe means of getting exercise and enjoying the out of doors.  The long awaited South End Connector has also contributed to rising local trail use for those that have access to it.  It is great that the Patroon Creek Daylighting Project and the other Tivoli Lake Preserve trail rehabilitation we saw will provide such recreational access to Albany’s West End and Arbor Hill citizens.  Connecting the Albany Skyway and Patroon Creek Daylighting project could be phase I of the larger Patroon Creek Greenway.  It would not only open up Tivoli Lake Preserve to a great many more Albany area citizens, it will also provide a safe bike route for West End and Arbor Hill citizens to the waterfront, the downtown theater district, the Empire State Trail/Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail and the Albany County Rail Trail.

It is appears that the heaviest lifting for making the whole Patroon Creek Greenway Trail a reality lies in the middle section from Everett Road to west end of Tivoli Lake Preserve.  This section involves major expenditures to make Everett Road accessible from the trail and safe for pedestrians and cyclists.  Those improvements may also run head on into competing interests of motorists.  The original CDTC plan also entails major capital outlays for a cantilever bridge along I90 and rehabilitation of a railroad trestle.  The on street alternative route from Tivoli Park to Everett Road that we explored would also require spending for bike/ped accommodations along a short section of Livingston Ave, Terminal Street and Commerce Avenue-Watervliet Extension.  The project can expect resistance on this section from motorists, especially those concerned with trucking.  Limiting parking on the block of Livingston from Ontario to Terminal would also impact some residents.  We believe the economic costs and political battles that would need to be won to bring about either the original CDTC plan or a modified on street plan requires putting off this section of the Greenway for a later stage. 

The section of the trail from Everett Road to the Six Mile Waterworks also has challenges.  Providing safe access to the west end of the trail from Six Mile Waterworks across Fuller Road and its traffic circle at the I90 interchange will be difficult.  It will likely require costly traffic engineering and signaling changes and result in some motor traffic disruption.  As noted in our November report there was no traffic circle when the original CDTC traffic study was done.  Ownership issues for a new trail from the Circle to the start of the trail behind Ultrapet will need to be studied.  A crossing signal for where the trail crosses Central Avenue will also likely be required.  While it appears much of the trail over this section is subject to various public utility easements, there will need to be some coordination to formalize a public bike-hike trail.  The recent local success of building the Albany-Hudson Electric Trail over such a public utility right of way gives us reason to believe this can happen.

If the first stage of the Greenway outlined above can be achieved, we are more likely to find the political will to find funds and take on competing interests for other stages of the Greenway.   Since the section from Everett Road or at least Central Avenue to the Six Mile Waterworks is less costly in terms of capital and political costs, this might be considered for a second stage.   The heavy lift from Everett Road to Tivoli Park may have to wait until other ends of the trail are in use and demand exists for the costly connector in between.  The South End Connector is an example of how this process might successfully develop.

Maps

Proposed Stage 1 Hudson River/Skyway to Tivoli Lake Preserve

Proposed Stage 2a  Six Mile Waterworks to Central Avenue at Yardboro Avenue

Proposed Stage 2b Central Avenue at Yardboro Avenue to Everett Road

Proposed Stage 3 Everett Road to Tivoli Lake Preserve

Prior Albany Bicycle Coalition Reports

·      Downtown Albany and Patroon Creek https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2020/02/03/downtown-albany-and-patroon-creek/

·      Patroon Creek Greenway Trail Ride https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2019/12/11/patroon-creek-greenway-trail-ride-11-19/

·      Patroon Greenway Project – Yardboro Ave. to Everett Rd. https://albanybicyclecoalition.com/2019/11/23/patroon-greenway-project-yardboro-ave-to-everett-rd/

Capital District Transportation Committee Studies

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Albany Bicycle Coalition Positions on the Proposed Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan

The City of Albany is developing an Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan to replace the 2009 such plan. The earlier plan limited itself to bicycle issues while the proposed pan also addresses issues facing pedestrians since the vast majority trips by any alternative mode of transportation begins and ends with people walking.

The Albany Bicycle Coalition (ABC) was heavily involved in the development of the 2009 plan and has been fully engaged in monitoring the current effort. While the city has yet to release a draft of the plan, ABC offers recommendations for the plan as enumerated below. An emphasis of our positions is that the proposed Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan must embrace all forms of transposition since no one form can be addressed independently from the others – that is, “transportation equity.”

The Albany Bicycle Coalition, Inc. takes the opportunity offered by the development of the City of Albany’s Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan to present its transportation ideas for the future of our city. We present our program in two parts as follows:

  • Specific, bicycle-related projects that the city needs to begin work on immediately.
  • Foundational propositions that cover all aspects of the plan whether it impinges on pedestrians, cyclists, bus riders, or motor vehicle drivers.

Our position is that the City of Albany, like many, many cities, allowed itself to become car centric. All transportation issues center around and are decided upon accommodating more and more motor vehicle traffic or upon sustaining current volumes (“Level of Service”). Accordingly, people – regardless of their specific mode of transposition – are subjected to dangerous street conditions, air and noise pollution, and limitations to their enjoyment of the built environment. Our road and street network is completely “behind the times.” We believe that the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan is really the “Albany Transportation Plan” and, as such, must reach beyond considerations of walking or riding a bicycle to encompass all citizens.

We base many of our propositions on the fundamental belief that our streets, roads, and sidewalks should be safe – not “pretty safe,” or “safer,” but SAFE. There can be no compromise. Sacrificing safety for the convenience of a minority of motor vehicle operators cannot continue.

We believe that the points we set forth in this document can pave the way for bold new thinking. If the City of Albany will embrace a new approach to transportation, it will provide unending benefits to its citizens, will position itself to be competitive in attracting new populations and businesses, and will become a model for other municipalities. The city will be able to cope more effectively with the coming change in the availability of cheap petroleum and increasing pressure to reduce its consumption and replace it with other forms of energy suited to transportation.

Specific, Bicycle-Related Projects

  1. Western Ave. Bicycle Lanes – Connect Western Ave. from Madison Ave. to the Guilderland portion of Western Ave. to form a seamless, calmed commuter and recreational route. Western Ave. from the University at Albany to Madison Ave. at Allen St. has two schools with posted 20 mph zones and many business and residences with exiting and entering traffic. The extra wide double lanes encourage speeding and erratic 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.
  2. Install bicycle lanes on New Scotland Ave. especially between Manning Blvd. and the Thruway Overpass. Bike lanes were strongly preferred over parking for traffic calming on this section of New Scotland by community members participating in the City’s recent Upper New Scotland Traffic Study.
  3. Install bicycle lanes on Green St. and improve the crossing at Madison Ave. to provide safe downtown bicycle access from South Albany
  4. Complete bicycle lanes on Shaker Rd./Loudonville Rd. to Broadway
  5. Complete bike lanes on North Manning Blvd. from Lark St. to Livingston Ave.
  6. Complete Clinton Ave. bike lanes from Ten Broeck to Broadway where they can connect to the new Albany Skyway and the Empire State Trail/Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.
  7. Work with Menands to extend Broadway bike lanes to provide safe downtown bicycle access from Menands to North Albany.
  8. Improve Everett Road I-90 interchange/overpass to make it safe for pedestrians and cyclists who must use this road to cross I-90 and the railroad tracks.
  9. Provide bike lanes and traffic calming for Washington Ave. west of Brevator
  10. Change Belgian blocks (“cobblestones”) on Lark St. and South Pearl St. intersections to a traffic calming surface that does not cause bicyclists to fall.
  11. Coordinate with Colonie and Guilderland to install bike lanes and or multiuse side path along Rapp Road/Lincoln Ave. from the City of Albany’s Rapp Road Waste Management Facility to Village of Colonie’s Cook Park to accommodate cyclists, pedestrians, and hikers using the Pine Bush, Six Mile Waterworks lake, park and trail, and Cook Park trails.
  12. Coordinate with Delmar and Town of Bethlehem to extend Delaware Ave. bike lanes and traffic calming efforts from the Normans Kill Bridge to McAlpin Ave. Establish safe cycling routes from that point to Hackett Blvd. and Madison Ave.
  13. Work with the Town of Colonie to develop the Patroon Creek Greenway from Six Mile Waterworks to Tivoli Lake Preserve and the Albany Skyway
  14. Cross-Town bicycle Expressway – Construct a cross-town connector between Northern Blvd./McCrossin Ave. to Clinton Ave. bicycle lanes and to Whitehall Rd./Delaware Ave.
  15. Extend Hackett Blvd. multi-use path with bicycle lanes to Manning Blvd.
  16. Improve informal path/trail from Lark St. behind Hackett Middle School to Hackett Blvd. multiuse path at Holland Ave. by the McDonald’s

General Principles for the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan

 Safe Street Infrastructure Improvements

  1. Enhance viewing space for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at intersections. “Daylight” all intersections as provided in the city parking code to 20 ft from each crossing street by painting curbs yellow and/or with painted “bump outs.” (§ 323-34 Street crossings kept open for passage – “… extending back into each street 20 feet beyond said corner, shall be kept free from all vehicles … “). Create a clear space at all intersections to improve visibility for bicyclists, pedestrians, and operators of motor vehicles. Do this by removing parking for a yet-to-be-determined distance and then “bumping out” the curbs to shorten crossings and prevent motorists from parking in the clear space areas (similar to the Delaware Ave. reconstruction.) Post signs to restrict the parking at corners until funds are available to reconstruct the curbs.
  2. Emphasize “safe streets” over “complete streets.” Make safety the priority in all street designs. New York State law defines a Complete Streets as roadways planned and designed to consider the safe, convenient access and mobility of all roadway … including pedestrians, bicyclists, bus riders, and motorists (Complete Streets Act – Chapter 398, Laws of New York, 8/15/11). While the law implies that safety will be a considered, it does not make safety the primary goal. Rather, Complete Streets implies a compromise over all mobility modes without paramount consideration for the vulnerability of certain road users. Since most Albany streets and intersections are or were designed for maximum motor vehicle throughput, it stands that no street redesign project proposal should ever consider the null alternative “do nothing.”
  3. Prohibit diagonal or perpendicular parking throughout the city except for previously established Albany Police Department facilities. Backing up is inherently dangerous to cyclists (and to motor vehicles).
  4. Reduce speed limit on all residential streets to 25 mph.
  5. Reduce to 20 mph the speed limit in a newly established “green zone” bounded by Clinton Ave., Broadway, Madison Ave., and Henry Johnson Blvd.
  6. Work with New York State legislators to provide home rule for cities to set speed limits below 30 mph (outside of schools zones). For specific projects, apply for “home rule” for traffic safety advancements such as a “20 Is Plenty” “green zone” described above.
  7. Reduce speed limit on park roads in the City of Albany to 15 mph with traffic calming changes made to roadways to discourage driving over the desired speed. Calming techniques include reducing the width of driving lanes, squaring intersections, installing speed bumps and speed tables, and changing the road surface.
  8. Close parks to all through traffic driving on Sundays between noon and 5 pm
  9. Reduce all in-city motor vehicle travel lanes to 11 ft or less except where the passage of emergency vehicles dictates greater width. These narrowed roadways and/or travel lanes will calm traffic thereby improving traffic safety on the roadways. Each street design project will suggest different approaches to this objective. In some case, for example, painting shoulders might suffice. Other cases might call for bicycle lanes, bicycle lane buffers, or curb relocations.
  10. Post more “No-Turn-on-Red” signs and use illuminated “No-Turn-on-Red” signs that activate at certain periods during the signal cycle or when pedestrian push buttons are active. This will increase pedestrian and bicycle safety. Increase the number of intersection where “no right on red” is the rule especially in areas with high pedestrian and public transport traffic. An example would be for all cross streets on Central Ave.
  11. Analyze intersection crashes to improve intersection safety and then designate these areas for redesign, education, and enforcement. To not limit this investigation to Albany Police Department traffic incident reporting.
  12. Provide motorcycle-only parking spaces. Establish these spaces at the beginning or ends of parking areas on each block (angle parking for motorcycles). Determine the number of spaces per block or area by working with motorcycle groups and the Albany Parking Authority. (This will improve intersection sight lines and reduce risk to motorcycles of parking in conventional parking spaces.)
  13. Review traffic patterns to determine if the city needs to change signs and traffic signals.
  14. Perform a city-wide traffic sign inventory. Reduce number of signs where possible to increase compliance with the posted regulations or warnings. Analyze the results with the following objectives: reducing sign clutter (to increase the utility/impact/effectiveness of the remaining signs); assessing whether signs installed “years ago” are still needed; and assessing whether or not evolving traffic patterns suggest new, revised, or unneeded signage. Continue to prohibit all signage not directly involved with traffic control and safety. Do in phases to control costs. This would dictate removal of all promotional and commercial signage, with the possible exclusion of some directional signage.
  15. Develop a master plan for Traffic Engineering. Develop an Engineering approach to calm aggressive driving.
  16. Analyze on-street parking in the City of Albany with a special emphasis on the following: enhancing viewing space for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians at intersections, restricting parking at intersections, and striping to preclude driver creation of an informal right-turn lane), and establishing pull off/pull out for buses (i.e., analyze problem “stops” and remove parking as indicated). Gradually reduce the number of on-street parking spaces from designated areas to enhance community growth and street-side ambience.
  17. Start and continue a share-the-road campaign to make roadways friendlier for all modes of transportation.
  18. Starting with Albany Police Department traffic/crash data, identify existing danger areas. Analyze the areas for remediation through engineering, education, and enforcement. Consider publishing the results. Consider special signage, lane reconfiguration, road redesign, markings, or speed limits for the identified “danger zones.”
  19. As a rule, reconfigure all intersections to have 90-degree turns to reduce speeds and enhance safety for pedestrians. This will discourage high-speed turns that can be deadly to pedestrians and cyclists.

Bicyclist Specific Safety Improvements

  1. Concentrate on establishing a city-wide network of bicycle facilities rather than on isolated segments.
  2. Restrict installation of shared lanes (“sharrows”) only as provided by National Association of City Transportation Officials in conjunction with bicycle facilities such as bicycle lanes, protected bicycle lanes, and cycle tracks. Although people on bicycles may ride on all non-limited use highways (e.g., interstates), bicycles may at times legally share (or “take”) the traffic lane. Shared lane markings reinforce the legitimacy of bicycle traffic on the street. This is especially true where keeping to the right is unsafe. They serve as a reminder to people in cars that bicycle riders may be present and that they have “taken the lane” for their own safety.
  3. Improve on the League of American Bicyclists’s Bicycle Friendly Community designation.Analyze the suggestions provided by the League of American Bicyclists in its review of City of Albany’s bicycle friendly community designation.
  4. Selectively establish bike-only and or separated bikeways to promote more biking.
  5. Promote work-place bicycle lockup areas for those who ride to work.
  6. Install and build more bicycle accommodations throughout the City including bicycle racks, fix-it stations, lanes, and intersection “bike boxes.”
  7. Install signal detectors capable of identifying bicycles. Mark areas at selected intersections to inform bicyclists where they should be on the pavement to activate the traffic signal at intersections that have actuated approaches.

Pedestrian Specific Safety Improvements

  1. Re-program all on-demand pedestrian crossing lights to a “pedestrian priority” sequence wherein pressing a demand button will provide for crossing immediately after the end of the current motor vehicle phase in the complete cycle. Allow pedestrians to enter their demand even when the street to be crossed is currently red to stop motor vehicle traffic after the next motor vehicle cycle.
  2. At selected signalized intersections, implement an advanced pedestrian interval or exclusive pedestrian phase in the signal operations to improve pedestrian safety. Examples for this treatment include Lark St./Madison Ave. Delaware Ave., Washington Ave. /Lark St., Delaware Ave./Holland Ave./Morton Ave., and Allen St./Madison Ave./Western Ave.
  3. At select signalized intersections, increase yellow clearance times and all red times to increase intersection safety during high pedestrian use hours.
  4. At selected signalized, high-pedestrian-use intersections, employ ALL WAY STOP signalization. Do this in such a way as to not increase or encourage “pause” by people in cars who do not want to continuously stop at intersections.
  5. For pedestrian heavy streets, install midblock crossing locations preferably with raised, sidewalk-high “green zones.” Where appropriate, signalize these midblock crossings (e.g., Central Ave., Washington Ave.)
  6. Install sidewalks on all roadways to encourage walking and improve safety on roadways. This is especially relevant where pedestrians currently have to share the travel lanes with motorists and bicyclists.
  7. Where sidewalks do not exist, install warming signs for motorists and, where appropriate, “walk left” signs for people walking.

Bus/Bus Rider Safety

  1. Establish ADA compliant bus stops in logical locations with bump outs to provide areas where buses can discharge or pick up passengers on the sidewalk and not in the travel, bicycle, or parking lanes.
  2. Coordinate with Capital District Transportation Authority in analyzing “problem” bus stops using CDTA and city data and driver testimony.
  3. Determine what actions the city might take to ease reentry of buses into the traffic lane.
  4. Provide more bus operator traffic signal control.
  5. Wherever possible, implement bus-only travel lanes.
  6. Work with City School District on an engineering approach to school bus safety. This includes safe pickup and drop off locations that still meet all guidelines and laws. Implement School Zone Safety program. Provide bus, parent drop off/pick up areas at each school large enough to accommodate each. This will improve transportation on roadways around the schools. Work with the School District through the education and enforcement groups to ensure the engineering plans are followed. Encourage the School District to embrace traffic safety that goes hand in hand with school safety. Coordinate with the School District on analyzing trouble spots at the exits/entrances of identified schools. Once completed, use this as a model for the public-charter and private schools (perhaps asking them to do a self-analysis)

Other

  1. Priority sequence all of the Albany Bicycle/Pedestrian Master Plan’s major projects.
  2. Provide a specific time line for each major planned project in the Albany Bicycle-Pedestrian Master Plan with a completion-by-date specified.
  3. Improved coordination with neighboring municipalities to provide a regional bike transportation network. Pay particular attention to the interface points between municipalities (e.g., Everett Rd. at I-90, Delaware Ave. at the Normanskill, and Western Ave. at the city line with Guilderland).
  4. Divest all City of Albany Parking Authority Parking lots/garages and sell to private business. This will increase the cost of “downtown” parking and provide the city with tax revenues.
  5. Encourage use of park-and-ride. Analyze traffic and public transport data to assess the benefits of having more park-and-rides. Identify businesses/agencies that should be encouraged to support park-and-ride.

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“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.”

[SOURCE: Jane Jacobs, “The Death and Life of Great American Cities”]

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