Schenectady

Making Schenectady more bicycle-friendly could require talks that make people uncomfortable, official says

Guy Delauniere of Niskayuna rides his trail bike on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady on Wednesday
PHOTOGRAPHER:

Guy Delauniere of Niskayuna rides his trail bike on Fehr Avenue in Schenectady on Wednesday

SCHENECTADY — City engineer Chris Wallin suggested that Schenectady officials would need to have deeper discussions about some of the more costly, longer-term components of the city’s Bicycle Infrastructure Master Plan.

During a webinar Wednesday about the city’s four-year-old master plan, Wallin said pushing into the second and third phases of the plan would require “having to do things that make people uncomfortable.”

The City Council adopted the plan, an update to one that was adopted in the early 2000s, in 2017. Few of its components have been implemented.

Phase 1 of the plan, called low-hanging-fruit type projects that are easier and less costly to implement, consists of painting lines on roads and establishing bike lanes.

Components of the second phase of the plan include creating a side path on major thoroughfares such as Balltown Road, and bike lanes on State Street and Route 146.

Generally, exploring the second and third phases of the plan would ask residents to make changes such as not parking in front of their homes, or maybe a two-way street would have to be changed to a one-way road, Wallin said.

The meeting was facilitated by Art Clayman, president of Cycle Schenectady, a year-old bike advocacy group that is calling for implementation of the plan and lowering the speed limit on most city streets from 30 mph to 25 mph.

Wallin discussed various accomplishments completed under Phase 1.

He noted that a 2018 study of a bike trail through Railroad Bridge in the Stockade section of the city is on hold because it conflicts with a project to move homes out of the floodplain.

Some work has been done on the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, and a partial sidewalk was installed on Brandywine Avenue, linking Bradley Street and Vale Park, he said.

Bike lanes are planned for Washington Street and Grand Boulevard and there’s a pending federal project for bike lanes on Broadway, from Weaver Street to 4th Avenue, he said.

The city is also adding a dedicated bike lane between Weaver and Congress streets where it has excess pavement and doesn’t allow on-street parking, Wallin said.

Schenectady is also in the final design stage of a project calling for markings to indicate that drivers have to share the road with bicyclists, which Clayman considers the least ideal solution, and signage from Congress Street to Fourth Avenue.

The city will also pave over a series of holes that were the result of a National Grid project to upgrade gas infrastructure on Washington Avenue, where there are counterflow bike lanes.

Grand Boulevard is in line for paving, as Wallin said he is working with Niskayuna, where a large portion of the boulevard extends.

While Wallin acknowledged that the city was lacking in signage and striping of bike lanes, he noted that the striping superintendent has expressed a concern about maintaining striping as more are added to the bicycling infrastructure.

Rima Shamieh, a transportation planner with the Capital District Transportation Committee, who helped develop the city plan when she worked here as an assistant planner, said Schenectady doesn’t have a perfect grid or generously wide streets to accommodate most types of bicyclists.

Shamieh noted that the city’s 2011 bike crash rate of .5 percent was higher than the state’s per capita rate of .3 percent.

Between 2010 and 2015, the city had 177 reported bike collisions, 79 percent of which resulted in injuries, and 8 percent reporting severe injuries such as brain damage, blindness, burns on 50 percent or more of body, or loss of limb.

Shamieh said the majority of those accidents were concentrated on State Street west of Fehr Avenue; Nott Terrace; Brandywine Avenue; and Broadway, particularly under the I-890 overpass; and Mont Pleasant Street where it intersects with Crane Street.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

One Comment

RICHARD A MACKINNON

I drive in Boston all the time and note their success with bike lanes. Boston is as old as Schenectady. The lanes were instituted after DEATHS occurred. I see no reference to consulting with other cities to benefit from their experience. Schenectady should not have to invent anything.

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