Complete Streets Come to Albany
by Kaylee Pagano
A meeting to jump start the process of implementing safer streets in Albany takes place at City Hall Thursday at 5:30 p.m. The Common Council’s, general services, health and environment committee will review plans for legislation proposed by Pine Hills Councilwoman Leah Golby. The project is known nationally as complete streets.
In cooperation with fellow council members, Golby brought the discussion of safer streets to the agenda in the city just recently. But, the process of putting these safer streets into action will be a lengthy one as the discussion is just starting.
Complete Streets has been passed at both the national and state level, yet those laws are only the beginning of the project. Advocates of the law urged local municipalities across the nation to pass their own versions of the law, “because the NYS law only applies to road design projects when both federal and state funding is used,” said Golby. This highly restricts the number of projects that can be created in the city, and Golby hopes to alleviate that restriction.
Philadelphia is just one of the many cities across the country improving the landscapes of its roadway to promote safety for the most vulnerable travelers: pedestrians. Within the past month, the city has finalized and published its handbook for complete streets, which outlines the goals and guidelines of the initiative that the city will follow.
The process was a lengthy one in Philadelphia, and was started through an executive order issued by Mayor Michael Nutter in 2009. The handbook was just published within the past few months. The creation of the handbook took nearly two years to complete, and cost about $125,000, said Ariel Ben-Amos, a senior planner/analyst for the City of Philadelphia. “Legislation is one-third of the process,” said Ben-Amos.
The legislation introduced by Golby at the Common Council meeting shares many similarities with the Philadelphia handbook. The purpose of the complete streets plan is to consider all users of the roadways; this is evident in both the handbook and the Golby legislation.
Golby’s legislation emphasizes the need for repaving along with redesign. Repaving is a major concern for a number of residents, especially cyclists. Road conditions, especially throughout the Pine Hills neighborhood are not safe and cause cyclists to swerve into traffic. Lorenz Worden, a member of the Albany Bicycle Coalition, has said that even simple repaving the streets would greatly improve safety.
Vice President for the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, Virginia Hammer, is a passionate supporter of the complete streets legislation. “Streets should be safe for everyone, streets are not owned by the drivers, it’s a right for everyone to have safe access,” said Hammer.
Councilman Dominick Calsolaro of the 1st Ward agrees with Hammer, and said that complete streets will promote the safety of all, especially pedestrians and cyclists. Complete streets will make roads, “more user friendly, not just for drivers,” said Calsolaro. Calsolaro cosponsored the legislation with Golby.
The proposal, “still needs to be looked at by the engineers,” said Calsolaro. The Common Council will work with the city traffic engineers at the committee meeting in order to begin the conversation of safer streets in Albany.
Complete streets calls for a number of basic updates to improve the safety of pedestrians. This provisions focus on the usability of the crosswalks throughout the City of Albany. Small changes such as the addition of countdown timers at all crosswalks, and the construction of pedestrian medians on wider streets, would make life easier for all.
The reason that people move into cities is for the opportunity to walk, use public transportation, and bicycles, said Hammer, that is the core strength of all cities. Complete streets will only help the city to build on that core strength by making it safer for people to make use of the opportunities of city living.
“Complete streets saves lives, promotes healthier living, walking, riding bikes, and using our transit system,” said Golby. -30-