SARATOGA SPRINGS — City officials are about to find out how easy — or difficult — it would be to make downtown Saratoga Springs more bicycle-friendly.
Starting Saturday, Henry Street will be made temporarily one-way southbound, as part of an experiment to see whether two-way bicycle traffic can co-exist with vehicle traffic and parking on one of downtown's well-traveled side streets.
"The whole idea of pilot tests is that it allows people to physically experience the change before we make the long-term investments," said Tina Carton, the city's administrator of parks, open lands, historic preservation and sustainability.
An open house to explain the Henry Street experiment will be held at 9:15 a.m. Saturday at the Saratoga Springs Public Library on Henry Street. Carton will give a brief presentation on the plans.
The pilot project will allow the city to test a low-cost idea for the urban segment of the Saratoga Greenbelt Trail, a larger plan for a bicycle and multiuse loop through the countryside around the city and into its downtown core. Henry Street will be made one-way southbound between Lake Avenue and Spring Street, parking will be limited to the west side of the road, and temporary two-way bike lanes will be marked on the east side, to see if Henry could feasibly become part of an-street bike route.
Carton said temporary pavement tape and traffic cones will mark where the bike lanes are and separate them from the traffic lane. "The street width is what the street width is, so [the question is] how do you get people through safely," she said.
The Greenbelt Trail, which the City Council approved as a concept in 2014, will eventually include 24 miles of shared-use path, encircling the city and coming into its downtown area. A complete streets policy adopted in 2016 requires accommodations for cyclists and pedestrians in new street projects.
The trail is being constructed in segments, as opportunity allows. The Downtown Connector, a 1.66-mile multiuse segment from City Hall to the Route 50 bridge over the Northway at Exit 15, is currently in preliminary design, after being awarded $2.67 million in funding from the state Department of Environmental Conservation and state Department of Transportation, as well as city funding. Carton said right-of-way acquisitions are being completed, and construction is expected in 2020.
A key to future progress will be how the trail extends around downtown after reaching City Hall. Carton said the results of the Henry Street pilot project will be evaluated in the coming months, and a public survey will be conducted during the pilot.
Ideas for where the trail should run beyond the Henry Street-Spring Street intersection are still being discussed, Carton said.
The next constructed segment to the south is along Railroad Run, where the city says 127,000 annual uses are recorded. The Railroad Run Trail extends to Saratoga Spa State Park.