SCHENECTADY — Plans for Schenectady to establish new bicycle lanes on city streets and improve bike trails around the city were adopted by the City Council on Monday.
The council unanimously adopted a new bicycle infrastructure master plan that will lead to expanded bike access around the city, including installing directional signs that will help visiting cyclists — some of them using the statewide Erie Canalway Trail that runs through city — find their way around the Electric City.
“We are one of the few fortunate cities along the Mohawk-Hudson bike trail, so we are in a prime location,” said Peter Knutson, assistant city engineer, who oversaw development of the master plan, said last week. “We can actually help get people downtown and spending money and stuff like that.”
When the City Development and Planning Committee recommended the plan last week, City Engineer Chris Wallin said the council needs to be aware that adopting the plan will bring changes that may encounter some resistance, specifically from people used to parking in areas that will be designated as bike lanes.
The plan is being adopted at a time when more adults are using bikes for recreation and commuting, though there’s also a hope that children not yet old enough to drive will bicycle more.
The 255-page plan was developed for the city by Alta Planning + Design of Saratoga Springs, using a $75,000 grant from the Capital District Transportation Committee, the Capital Region’s transportation planning agency. It’s been in development since the spring of 2016, with meetings including a public input meeting in June. The city’s current bike plan was adopted in 2001, before the most recent surge in interest in cycling.
The plan is broken into three phases of work, with the first being improvements that can be accomplished relatively quickly because the streets involved are wide enough to accommodate a bike lane or the work can be done relatively inexpensively.
Phase I projects listed in the plan include re-striping the road to establish bike lanes or shared-use paths on Broadway, Brandywine Avenue, Washington Avenue, Grand Boulevard, Crane Street and other city-owned roads. Shared-use paths are separate from the road but are shared with pedestrians.
The city has applied for grant money to add bike lanes along Craig and Main streets, which could become the backbone of a Hamilton Hill neighborhood cycling network and create a bike link to the Mont Pleasant neighborhood. Initial work will also include new signs and other work intended to improve connections between the Mohawk-Hudson path and areas visitors might want to see, including downtown and the historic Stockade neighborhood.
There isn’t a timeline yet for any of the work, though Wallin said the approval means the city will actively pursue the plans.
The plan’s Phase II projects, which would require additional planning and be more difficult to accomplish, include establishing dedicated bicycle lanes along State, Union and Hamburg streets, as well as developing neighborhood routes.
Phase III projects, which would take the longest to achieve, would require coordination with railroads, the state Department of Transportation or other communities.
“Our bike infrastructure is really so limited, we really want to close all the gaps that we have,” Knutson said during a committee presentation last week. He said the goal is to have bike infrastructure located within a couple of blocks of everyone in the city.
Also, the council approved taking $282,000 from the city’s fund balance to pay the cost of two major emergency building demolitions earlier this year, including the razing of the downtown Nicholaus building on April 7 and the demolition of a three-story Schenectady Street building on April 19. The Nicholaus building cost the city more than $176,000, while the Schenectady Street building cost $157,000. Between them, the demolitions depleted the city’s contingency account.
The council’s Finance Committee has recommended approval last week as part of the city’s year-end budget adjustments.
The city is suing the owners of the Nicholaus building for the demolition costs, but the Schenectady Street building was a city-owned foreclosure property, so the cost must be borne by the city.