SARATOGA SPRINGS — More than 50 people attended a public hearing during Tuesday’s City Council meeting to voice support or concerns about adding a bike lane to Lake Avenue.
A bike lane along Lake Avenue — from Broadway to Weibel Road — could be one of 10 that would be added throughout the city as part of the Complete Streets Plan, which City Council adopted in December 2016.
Saratoga County Chamber of Commerce President Todd Shimkus said bike lanes could help propel economic development in the city.
“Becoming a more bike friendly city is a goal to attract more visitors and create more opportunities for them to get around,” he told City Council.
Shimkus added that bike lanes could also address a problem many companies are having.
“Every company in every sector is struggling to attract talent, and the next generation of the workforce has the highest percentage of passports, so they’re travelling the world and looking to settle in world-class communities,” he said. “They also have the lowest rate of driver’s licenses, so if you want to attract talent, you have to figure out how to put in bike lanes.”
Bob Lippman, a Saratoga Springs commercial attorney, agreed that bike lanes could help the city’s economy.
“Most of my clients are commercial clients who struggle to bring good-quality employees to this area,” he told City Council. “My clients look for bike-friendly areas, so bike lanes could be an economic growth engine when we’re able to say, ‘Saratoga Springs is a bike-friendly city.'”
A standard bike lane, according to the Complete Streets Plan, extends at least 5 feet from the curb along the shoulder of a roadway.
Cyclist and Saratoga Springs resident Keith Forbes, who uses Lake Avenue to get around, said he supports bike lanes, as they could help send a message to motorists.
“Two weeks ago, I was riding my bike along Lake Avenue when a man got out of his truck and threatened me for riding my bike in the shoulder,” he told the City Council. “Putting in bike lanes won’t necessarily solve everything, but it will let drivers know that it’s not illegal for cyclists to use the shoulder.”
Those who are against adding a bike lane on Lake Avenue include Jane Kromm, principal of St. Clement’s Regional Catholic School on Lake Avenue.
Kromm told the City Council she’s concerned about congestion, especially at nearby East Side Recreation Park, which is also on Lake Avenue.
“Cars are always lined up on the street, and on weekends, with events at East Side Rec, parking is horrendous,” she said. “I don’t know where the cars can go, so I think there should be an alternate plan to put [a bike lane] on another street.”
Lake Avenue resident David Torres said that, while he supports cyclists, he’s concerned that adding a bike lane along a truck route is a major safety concern.
“I have a hard time raking my lawn without cars coming inches away from my backside,” he told the City Council. “The speed limit is 15, but no one goes 15.
“I sometimes I have to go out and stop traffic for women with baby carriages, so they can cross the road safely.”
Torres cited the death of Clifton Park resident Justin Price, 20, who was killed while riding a bike on Lake Avenue in August 2013.
“I’d like to see a bike path, but I want the city to explore its options,” he said. “Why use a truck route?”
Commissioner of Public Safety Peter Martin said he plans to chat with Torres and others who expressed safety concerns.
“While the vast majority want it as part of the Complete Streets Plan, we have to make sure we’re doing it right,” he said. “We want to put it together in the safest way possible.”
Martin said he expects to put forth a resolution at the City Council’s next meeting for an engineering study to be done along Lake Avenue.
City Council is scheduled to meet next at 7 p.m. on June 19 in City Hall, 474 Broadway in Saratoga Springs.