SARATOGA SPRINGS — Laura Faulk’s family uses Union Avenue every day, including her kids, who ride their bicycles along it.
“My husband’s work is on that route and my son’s school is on that route,” she said Tuesday evening during the Saratoga Springs City Council meeting.
Faulk was one of over a dozen residents to address the council during a public hearing about enhancing the roadway, which is a storied intersection in the city that has been cause for concern for both bicyclists and pedestrians trying to navigate the busy roadway.
The city is planning to hold a public discussion that provides details about the project and data collected regarding the roadway. The event will also allow the city to garner feedback from residents about the concept. That discussion will take place at 6 p.m. on Feb. 9 in a location that has yet to be decided.
“As we consider how best to use public funds today, I hope that it will be with the aim of promoting equal access, equity, inclusion, diversity and sustainability, especially as we decide on projects that will transform public spaces such as our shared roadways and sidewalks,” Faulk said. “Building bike lanes on Union Avenue would signal the city’s appreciation for members of our community who rely on bikes as their primary means of transportation, including members of the backstretch community.”
Other residents, such as Bikeatoga President Greg Faust, said adding bike lanes to the roadway would benefit the community and support the city’s motto around health, history and horses.
“The health of cycling,” he said. “The history of Union Avenue. It’s been mentioned that it’s been a historic bike lane in the past and obviously horses–it’s going to take people to the track.”
Other residents raised concerns.
Union Avenue resident Andrea DeAngelis asked the council to hold off on voting for any project to move forward until it could answer questions such as the impact any changes would have on the track, as well as questions surrounding safety and infrastructure.
“There is no room for a safe bike lane between East and Nelson without putting it down to one lane each way,” she said. “It’s already gridlocked all through racing days with two lanes each way. How does the council justify the disruption of traffic flow for our many thousands of paying visitors, none of whom arrive on bikes?”
During the council meeting, Mike King, a member of the Complete Streets Advisory Board, provided a brief presentation about the city’s plans to enhance the historic street.
Currently, the roadway from Nelson Avenue to Circular Street is 70 feet wide and all asphalt with four lanes of roadway for cars to travel. Kind said the lanes only need to take up a maximum of 44 feet, meaning the city has room to add in a protected bike lane and other features to make the street safer.
King said currently the average speed traveled on the road by cars is 41 mph. The speed limit is 30 mph.
“It’s 3.5 times more dangerous than a similar type of road in the state,” he said.
King also said the road faces several structural issues including stormwater management issues and flooding.
To resolve issues on Union Avenue, the proposed idea is a three lane roadway with a turning lane, bike paths that could be elevated and protected and the addition of permeable paving to help with storm water drainage, as well as more trees.
“We want it to be safe,” he said. “We want it to be for everyone. We don’t want it to be ugly and we need to recognize and respect that it is a serious conduit between the track and downtown.”