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Mini-festival at the Madison Theater

April 8, 2015

by Greg Meyers

The Albany Protected Bike Lanes Coalition, a group that focuses on getting protected bike lanes on Madison Avenue, is teaming up with the Madison Theater Monday  to host  a mini-festival of movies.

The films, produced by Streetfilms, is an organization founded in 2006 by Clarence Eckerson, a 1990 graduate of the state University at Albany. His company creates and produces films on urban planning, cycling, public awareness as well as other forms of transit. Eckerson’s goal is to try and motivate reform around safe transit.

“For positive change to occur, people need to be able to see visually examples of good things happening in other cities and countries to adopt those ideas in their city,” said Eckerson. “I wanted to be able to multiply the things I have seen and the experiences I have been through so that others could educate themselves about biking, walking, transportation and liveable streets.”

Leah Golby, a city council member is dedicated advocate to getting protected bike lanes on Madison Avenue, hopes that the short films shown at this event will help spark enough attention to encourage the city to adopt protected bike lanes.

Leah Golby, Council Member for the City of Albany/Greg Meyers

Leah Golby, Council Member for the City of Albany/Greg Meyers

“They’ve definitely helped to raise awareness and build public will around the idea of creating streets that are safer for everybody who uses the road,” said Golby. Streetfilms also brings attention to other urban issues and tries to change audience thinking about the way they see public transportation and public safety.

Eckerson hopes that his videos motivate change, giving organizations and various groups tools to make cities better places for residents.

“That usually is by encouraging choices,” said Eckerson. “Safe walking, better bicycling and routes, improved and more efficient transit and places in neighborhoods for people to gather.”

Madison Avenue has four lanes that were originally designed for streetcars, but are now too narrow for the current traffic pattern, according to observers. Golby said that there are plans in motion to get Madison Avenue fixed, and she, as well as the Albany Protected Bike Lane Coalition, is fighting to get the bike lanes.

“I’m interested in making the streets safer,” said Jason D’Cruz, a member of the Albany Protected Bike Lanes Coalition. “I want to make my kid safer; lots of accidents happen on Madison Ave., it’s a really dangerous road.”

D’Cruz, also a professor at the University at Albany, wants protected bike lanes for safety reasons, as he rides his bike to work and wants the streets to be safer for his young child.

From November 2008 to October 2011, according to the Madison Avenue Traffic Study, there were 481 crashes on Madison Ave between Allen Street and Lark Street.  Seven percent of those accidents involved cyclists and pedestrians, which is a reason why D’Cruz, Golby and the Protected Bike Lane Coalition are pushing so hard for protected bike lanes on Madison Avenue.

Doors for this event, sponsored by the Madison Theater, will open at 6:15 p.m. on Monday, where people can purchase snacks and get information on urban planning, cycling, pedestrian safety and environmental groups. The movies will begin to play at 7 p.m., the plan as of now is to show about eight films or 45 minutes worth of material. The screening of these films will be followed by a question and answer with Eckerson himself, who has been called “the hardest working man in transportation show biz.”

Madison Theater/Greg Meyers

Madison Theater/Greg Meyers

Golby and D’Cruz both were enthused about having the Streetfilms mini-festival at the Madison Theater.

“The Madison Theater is a terrific community partner,” said Golby, who said that Eckerson has a sentimental connection to the Madison, where he was a patron when he was a student.

D’Cruz added, “The Madison Theater is part of the revival of the city of Albany and it’s a wonderful theater.”

Bike lanes in Albany will benefit the city, as well as the theater, said Dan Laiosa, co-owner of the Madison. He hopes the mini-festival creates awareness for this cause.

“I think it will help increase business” Laiosa said. “It’ll drive people to the area; make the city a more livable place. We support it and hopefully this will gain some exposure towards the whole movement.” -30-

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