Report Recommends 'Protected Bicycle Lanes' For Albany
Bicycle enthusiasts are pressing for the upcoming "Road Diet" recommended for Albany's busy Madison Avenue to include protected bike lanes.
Albany’s Protected Bicycle Lane Coalition has released a paper entitled "Protected Bicycle Lanes in Albany: A Transformational Opportunity," which it believes makes a case that PBLs are the best choice for the span of Madison Avenue that stretches from Allen Street to Lark Street.
Jason D’Cruz is with the Protected Bicycle Lane Coalition. "Madison Avenue is going to be redesigned very soon, and the number of travel lanes is going to be reduced. Our aim is to get Protected Bike Lanes on Madison Avenue, bicycle lanes that are physically separated from vehicular traffic. The report not only outlines the advantages of protected bike lanes for all users of the street, but also argues that Madison Avenue is a feasible place to implement them."
The report, a year in the making, reviews each of the city’s five road diet alternatives that were issued in July, analyzes parking demand in key areas of the corridor, discusses options to address snow removal costs and makes a case that either of the two Protected Bicycle Lane alternatives presented by the city would provide a unique opportunity to increase bicycling in Albany. "One of them has got a two-way bicycle lane on one side of the avenue, and the other one has one-way bicycle lanes on either side of the avenue. The other options we think are deficient for different reasons."
Those reasons mainly involve layouts that would do little to encourage would-be bike riders to travel along Madison, which would be little change from the current configuration. "I ride all around the city. Whenever I can, I avoid Madison Avenue. It's so dangerous. There are so many cars overtaking each other, you're put between parked cars and car that are speeding, and so I think the explanation why there's not been many bikes there is that it just hasn't been very well designed, as of yet."
The bike lane would be a boon for two-wheelers looking to travel from Washington Park and Albany Medical Center uptown to the College of St. Rose and Price Chopper Supermarket. Not to mention the assorted shops and restaurants along the route.
10th ward councilwoman Leah Golby has been at the forefront of the PBL movement. "The city did a bicycle master plan, I think it was put in place in 2009 after a few years of work on it and it really does talk about Albany becoming a more bicyle-friendly city and the city has been making steps, incremental steps towards that. But after that was published, there has been just a tremendous exponential growth in protected bike lanes across the country and North America, and they are showing in city after city that they bring out so many of these what we call the interested but concerned, those folks who would love to try to bicycle, for transportation that is, not for recreation, but to get from point A to point B. Protected bike lanes do that at much higher rates than your conventional bike lane."
Supporters of PBLs point out the lanes will be a novelty at first, and take a bit of time for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians to get accustomed to, much like when roundabouts first appeared in the Capital Region. "This seems to be a crucial moment for Albany. Madison Avenue is one of those rare roads that's wide enough for us to install protected bicycle lanes. It's a signature avenue in Albany. It would be a real pity to miss out on this opportunity. So we're really hoping that the mayor considers our report carefully, and considers implementing protected bike lanes."
Mayor Kathy Sheehan says it all began as a "Road Diet" plan to make Madison Avenue safer for everyone who uses it, by wheel or by foot. "We have consultants who have looked at that. They've done a traffic study. They've come up with some recommendations. I've asked them to go back and answer some additional questions. But we really have to ensure that we're keeping that road safe for all users, including emergency vehicles, public transit, and that we're doing it in a way that's gonna be sustainable, so that we can maintain it going forward. And I think no matter what we're gonna end up with a roadway that is going to be vastly different than it looks now. Traffic is gonna be moving more slowly, there are going to be lanes for bikes, and whether those are protected lanes or dedicated lanes, we're still working out and asking our consultants questions on that. But I think it's gonna be a phenomenal roadway and really enhance the businesses, the neighborhood, and the look and feel of Albany."
Opponents argue the parking regulations would make it difficult for snow removal in winter. The report suggests any concerns about loss of parking spaces could be mitigated if the city would move to cut parking spaces from the current 20 feet to 18 feet. There is no word as to when to expect further discussion on the matter. A public meeting to present the recommendations for the Madison Ave Road Diet had been set for earlier this month, but was postponed to a future date, yet to be set.