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Protected Bike Lanes Part of Madison Avenue Road Diet

December 15, 2014

by William Mayer

Madison Avenue is going on a diet in 2015 with new designs that will be implemented over the next few years. The city plans to hire a contractor to develop the design early next year, said Leah Golby, 10th Ward Council member.

The construction of the project will be divided into three phases  The first section will involve the stretch of Madison Avenue between South Allen Street and Partridge Street, the next phase between Partridge Street to South Lake Avenue and the final between South Lake Avenue to Lark Street.

“My understanding is that once the design phase is complete, work on implementing the first third of the road diet will happen immediately — so hopefully the 1st third will be complete in the spring of 2016,” said Golby. Funding is only available for the first portion of the initial phase. To Golby’s knowledge the city officials are already seeking funding for the last two phases of the project so that by the time the first third of the operation is complete they will begin the next phase.

The plan calls for traffic lanes to be reduced from four lanes to two with one middle lane built for turning according to the Madison Avenue Traffic Calming study by the New York State Department of Transportation.

The funding for this project is primarily grant monies from the Capital District Transportation Committee and the region’s Metropolitan Planning Organization. Golby said the Common Council authorized $550,000 in borrowing in April, 2014 that will be matched with 80 percent of federal funds coming through the CDTC. These funds will be programmed through the New York State Transportation Improvement Program. The total project cost of the 2014-2015 preliminary engineering, design, and construction is $505,000 and the city will be reimbursed with federal funds for 80 percent of the project cost. The estimated cost of the full road diet from South Allen Street to Lark Street would be for about $1.5 million, said Golby.

“The major cost driver is upgrading the traffic signals,” Golby said. They will be upgraded to timed traffic signals. The breakdown of funding can be found in the project’s TIP listing at: http://www.cdtcmpo.org/tiplist13/A549.HTM.

A new draft study prepared for the city says it’s not only possible to reduce the traffic lanes but could help reduced accidents by as much as 55 percent. The draft is a traffic calming report that was conducted in February 2013 and is called “Madison Avenue Road Diet Feasibility Study.” In this draft it states that the goals of the study are to provide an assessment of the feasibility, benefits, and impacts of a road diet in the corridor by evaluating alternatives that consider bicycles, pedestrians, transit, parking, safety, and passenger vehicle operations. In the draft there are three options for a road diet on Madison Avenue. Option one is a shared travel lane for bicycles and vehicles. Option two is a shard parking lane in which there is a wide parking lane for bicycles and parked vehicles. Option three is an exclusive bike lane in which vehicles, bicycles, and parked vehicles each have delineated space. Some protected bike lanes use poles and physical barriers.

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As the city scales back Madison Avenue, there has been a proposal of installing a protected bike lane on Madison Avenue by the Albany Bike Lane Coalition. A “road diet” with a protected bike lane on Madison Avenue will be advantageous to the pedestrians, local businesses, and colleges and can make the area economically friendly and safer for its people and the environment.

Once a design firm is hired for the project, meetings will be held by a public process to discuss the incorporation of a protected bike lane into the design, however, there will not be a formal vote by the Common Council, Golby said.

The Albany Bicycle Coalition has been pushing for the design to include bike lanes and has spent a long time working on a design that would work best within Madison’s 57 foot width, said Virginia Hammer, president of the Pine Hills NA. The design will use paint and street markers in its entirety. This would make the project more affordable and easier for snow removal.

Protected bike lanes are being discussed and supported throughout the city by the Pine Hills Neighborhood Association, the Park South Neighborhood Association, and the Protected Bike Lane Coalition. However, some citizens still have concerns about the layout. The main concern is whether parking would still remain on both sides of the street.  It would, However, the north side of the street would be shared but separated by a painted flat buffer with east and west bound bike lanes.

“All the research shows that protected bike lanes make people feel safer so that there are more cyclists on the streets. Cyclists spend more money per month at local businesses, giving a boost not only to existing businesses, but attracting new businesses to the area,” said Hammer. She also said that protected bike lanes would have a big impact on local colleges like Saint Rose.

“St. Rose students will be able to expand their travel radius without having to rely on personal transportation. Protected bike lanes, along with Capital Car Share and CDTA’s bike/bus program will make it convenient, safe, and cheap to get around town. Also, they will be doing their part to reduce pollution and maintain a healthy lifestyle that reduces health care costs,” said Hammer.

Protected bike lanes would also have an impact on UAlbany as well. Philosophy professor, from UAlbany, Jason D’Cruz, is a regular bike commuter from Center Square to UAlbany.

“I live with my wife,” said D’Cruz, “We are constantly on our bikes in and around Washington Park, Madison Avenue, and Pine Hills. We use Madison to get to Bread & Honey, the Point, and Tierra Café.”

When they bike with their 2-year-old son, they usually use the sidewalk to shield him from cars.

“This is not ideal, since it is an uneven surface for bikes, and inconvenient for pedestrians. If we had a protected bike lane on Madison, these problems would be solved,” said D’Cruz.

Protected bike lanes have proven to be better for the environment as well as the economy.

“More cyclists and fewer drivers mean cleaner air and less noise…both factors have an affect on Pine Hills property values,” said Hammer.  She also said that it will benefit those who can’t afford cars because it allows residents to connect to major bus routes.

Although protected bike lanes have not been finalized, the Albany Bicycle Coalition remains confident.

“There is data from across the nation that shows that this is a successful idea,” said Lorenz Warden, the president of the Albany Bicycle Coalition. -30-

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