madison ave protected bike lane schematic

A bit more about protected bike lanes in Albany

madison ave protected bike lane schematic

A few bits of follow up on last week's post about the Capital Region bikeshare:

Protected bike lanes
We mentioned that one of the ideas to make parts of the Capital Region more bike friendly are protected bike lanes -- generally speaking, these are bike lanes that are separated from car traffic by some sort of barrier. These sorts of lanes are said to be safer for cyclists, and they may help more casual cyclists feel better about using a bike for transportation.

As it happens, there's a group organizing to support the creation of protected bike lanes in Albany, specifically as part of the redesigned Madison Ave (the "road diet"). The group's FB page is posting information about protected bike lanes and other bike-friendly ideas.

Also, a proposed Madison Ave redesign that incorporates protected lanes floated our way. The design is above -- here's a large-format version. It was created by Lorenz Worden of the Albany Bicycle Coalition. And it provides an easy-to-understand layout of how redesigned Madison Ave could maybe work.

We gotta admit we're not totally sold yet that protected lanes will prompt a significant number of people to start cycling more often. But the idea looks promising and it's worth a shot. Madison Ave seems like as good a place as any to try it.

Bikeshare recap
Over at the TU, Tim O'Brien has some numbers from the Capital Region bikeshare now that the pilot has ended: there were more than 250 participants, who averaged 2.8 rides during the trial period.


I had the pleasure of experiencing protected bike lanes in Montreal recently. It really made for a fast, efficient way to move both bike & car traffic. As a biker, it was easy to see how to navigate a busy road, and it was nice to have a bit of buffer/safety from traffic (or just knowing that the possibility of a car swerving in to you was incredibly low because of these features). As a driver, it was nice to see all of the bikes in one area, so that you don't have the errant biker who decides to blow through most of the traffic signals the wrong way down a street.

I think protected bike lanes (which the Madison Ave Traffic Calming Coalition now calls "PBLs") on Madison Avenue would be a transformational project for Albany, and would be a key step in getting the 60% of "Interested but Concerned" folks noted here: onto bicycles for short trips.

The corridor from Allen to Lark is a key connector route for people including College of St Rose students and staff and area neighbors who work for our city's largest private employer, Albany Med to get to school and work -- I'm sure PBLs would encourage more folks to ride that corridor by bike rather than car. PBLs would make trips from the many people students and year-round neighbors who live on the blocks off of Madison Avenue to the Upper Madison business area, Lark Street, the Quail-Partridge business area on Madison (that has some relatively new businesses and some vacant store fronts that could use some love), and Washington Park all much more accessible by bicycle.

The Albany PBLers of the Madison Ave Traffic Calming Coalition like to point to this video and other info on the Green Lane Project's "Protected Bike Lanes 101" page: to show the growth and enthusiasm across the country for protected bike lanes.

Protected bike lanes work best when there is a physical barrier placed in the painted the cones shown in some of the pictures. Road diets are exciting, this is good news!

Madison Avenue is a perfect place to start - not only is the traffic crazy for bike commuters, the condition of the road makes it impossible to stay out of car's way.

For anyone that's unfamiliar with the experience of riding in a protected bike lane, here's a video someone shot while riding along the de Maisonneuve bike lane during Montreal's rush hour:

Obviously Montreal is a much larger city than Albany (daily bike counts along this route can be in the thousands!) - but two important things (IMO) to take away from the video are how diverse the riders are - from their gender, age, dress, and their bike style - and the volume of vehicle traffic along the route. Speaking from personal experience, the path makes biking through a major downtown a much more pleasant experience.

Montreal wasn't always as bike friendly as it is today, but in the past 20 years they've made big investments in bike infrastructure - starting with painted bike lanes and eventually adding protected bike lanes. As the video clearly shows, it's paid off. I'm convinced Albany would see similar benefits if they finally decided to implement modern bicycle infrastructure across the city.

Protected bike lanes should absolutely be done, and I disagree with your opinion that protected bike lanes won't get more people to bike. People won’t start biking until there IS a safe bike infrastructure. But it has to be a whole infrastructure. Madison is a fine place to start, but there needs to be a larger system. Otherwise, it’s just a weird bike lane that starts and stops, and doesn’t help anyone get anywhere. Then no one uses it. And then it’s “proof” for the naysayers that we shouldn’t invest in more bike lanes.

I can't help being a Debbie Downer, so I also have to point out that bi-directional paths are less than optimal. They are more dangerous than one-ways because drivers have bicycles coming from two directions, and the bicycle closest to the flow of traffic is the one going against traffic.

Bike lanes should be where people are supposed to bike anyway: With the flow of traffic. A mish-mosh system of lane types and directions might just get no one to cycle more often.

@Ryan -- the 2-way schematic is only one option based upon the Madison Avenue Traffic Calming Coalition's understanding of acceptable lane widths given the street width of 57 feet (this is because the 2-way PBL requires only one parking buffer.) There are also considerably less driveways with less cars and less intersections on the north side of the street making traffic conflicts on the north side seemingly less likely.

However some experts have noted that they believe it would be possible to implement one-way PBLs on Madison going in the same direction as motorized traffic. The Madison Avenue Traffic Calming Coalition supports the concept of PBLs on Madison -- and is not attached to the 2-way design.

Also -- we completely agree that a Madison PBL would have to be a start of a network. We don't believe that PBLs should be implemented on every street, but we do agree that it's important to build PBL infrastructure on key roads in the city.

I relocated to the area this year and live on Madison and have been too terrified of the situation on Madison (narrow lanes, people rushing through yellow lights, and college student drivers) to even attempt a ride on my bike.

I have honestly started avoiding it by car, opting to drive on Washington instead when possible.

I was however able to pack my bike into my car this week and try out the Mohawk bike trail. Nice ride! - wore myself out being my first ride of year.

I ride everyday from Upper Madison to downtown and only take Madison Ave. on my bravest days. I agree that PBL's will engage the casual rider to get out more and Madison is the perfect corridor to start with. A city wide bicycle infrastructure needs to evolve from the Madison starting point. Every street does not need a PBL.

If we can get people to stop riding on the sidewalks and ride in the road (wearing helmets) the vehicles will adapt faster and give us our space.

Madison Avenue should absolutely be redone. New Scotland is also wide enough (past Lake) to have protected bike lanes. Once you have those two streets a system will start to develop. Upper-Washington Ave. is also very wide as is Western past Manning. All of these areas could be revamped for a protected bike lane.

I have many opinions on this. To prevent myself from writing a diatribe, I'll keep it short.

I love biking in Montreal. Like many larger cities, I don't like driving there. The model of separated bike lanes may not work for every street, but if we had a few corridor roads (Uptown/Downtown and "laterally") that would probably help.

I think this sort of thing would go a long way toward getting hesitant bikers out there safely.

Yay bikes! =D

This isn't going to be a very popular opinion on this blog, but there are already bike protected lanes everywhere. They're called sidewalks. Bicycles are a hazard to vehicle traffic, with drivers having to slow well below the posted speed limits when there is no room to pass, risking getting rear ended by less attentive drivers. Also having to swerve around them, even when there is room to pass, is still a risk. It also doesn't help that at least 75% (and this is no exaggeration) of the bicycle commuters I have to swerve around on my way in and out of Albany each day, do not follow basic traffic laws. They do not stop at stop signs or stop lights, or signal when they are turning. I think some of these riders feel that because they're not driving a car, they can do whatever they want. The police should start issuing them tickets.

It is much easier for bicycles and foot traffic to coexist than bicycles and motorized vehicles. See a bicycle coming on the sidewalk? Step to the side, as the bicycle slowly passes by. See a large group of pedestrians walking on the sidewalk? Slowly ride past them on the grass, and then re-enter the sidewalk. Does that really sound unreasonable? When bicycles can go the speed limit and are no longer moving obstacles to the flow of traffic, they will be welcomed back by me with open arms, but until then, stay off the road.

"Does that really sound unreasonable?"

Yes, every last bit of that sounds unreasonable to be honest.

Pete - cyclists who don't abide by the laws of the road drive me batty. I always think "Nooo, stop! You're making us look bad!" It definitely does create a danger on the road, and perhaps bike lanes will force better bike behavior.

Interestingly enough, AoA had a piece on bicycling on sidewalks, which is technically illegal in Albany:

AOA: Thanks for publicizing this important topic.

Pete: We're neighbors! Just a guess, since you probably live in or near Albany and this is such a small town. As neighbors, I hope we can learn to share our roads in a friendly and safe manner.

Sidewalks are not safe for bicyclists. Driveways and intersections are the problem. You can google the topic and read all day, but here is a piece from Cornell to get you started.
Educated bicyclists don't ride on sidewalks.

You are concerned that the presence of bicycles require you to travel at less than the speed limit. The posted limit is 30 in Albany, but you have the right to go 30. The speed limit is the lower of the posted limit and the speed that is safe. See Article 30 NY Vehicle and Traffic Law Section 1180(a) which provides that "No person shall drive a vehicle at a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions and having regard to the actual and potential hazards then existing." You slow down for construction workers, busses, garbage trucks, delivery people and pedestrians. You need to add bicyclists to that list. We are traffic.

You are concerned that you need to swerve around bicyclists. You do not and should not. Simply wait a safe distance behind the cyclist until you can move into the other lane to pass, leaving at least three feet between you and the cyclist, without exceeding the speed limit. I drive, too. When driving I never have to wait more than ten seconds, generally less, to execute a pass safe for both me and the cyclist. Please count it out next time you wait to safely pass. I hope the life of a cyclist, who is as likely as not to be a friend, neighbor or coworker, is worth ten seconds of your time.

I try my best to share nicely. I hope you can, too!

oops… "The posted limit is 30 in Albany, but you have the right to go 30." should have been "The posted limit is 30 in Albany, but you DO NOT have the right to go 30." I promise to preview my post next time!

While I mainly ride off road & in the neighbohood, I believe that our family would be out more often in the city with protected lanes. I see it as keeping cyclists & drivers safe and at the same time perhaps encourage cyclists to obey the rules of the road. As a rider, it personally drives me batty when cyclists want to be seen as vehicles but then selectively decide what traffic rules to obey.

I can only hope this finds success in Albany and makes its way to the other cities in the region.

The thing that is most upsetting is the vitriol this topic seems to create. Clearly the folks who insist on bicyclists using the sidewalk do not ride bikes. So why should we even waste our breath on them?

@Pete- Please, show us your studies that prove your point that bicycles are safer on the sidewalks. I'm very interested to see this ground breaking research that will contradict every previous study on the matter.

I do agree with you that police should ticket cyclists who run lights, ride against traffic, etc.

Pete I must respectfully disagree with you. I'm guessing that you aren't on sidewalks much or you would hate the notion of cyclists on sidewalks. When a cyclist sweeps by me on the sidewalk (suprising me from behind--let's not even get into the whole risk of tangled dog leashes or worse) I want to scream "put on a helmet (lots of people bike without) and get in the road!". Bikes on sidewalks are a hazard. And yes, cyclists need to follow the rules of the road.

Riding on the sidewalk presents it's own set of hazards. Namely, conflicts with pedestrians, driveways, and limited visibility. Of ost concern, however, is that at intersections and driveways drivers are most often looking left when making a right hand turn because they're not expecting counterflow traffic.

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