Three thoughts about the push for protected bike lanes in Albany

protected bike lane rally

The rally in Albany this week for protected bike lanes.

This Wednesday is a big day for one of the most interesting transportation projects in the Capital Region because the city of Albany will be publicly presenting options for the Madison Ave Road Diet. The range of options will be on display, and public comments collected, at the College of Saint Rose Wednesday at 6 pm.

The project is aiming to make the popular thoroughfare through Albany's Pine Hills neighborhood safer by reducing the number of lanes in an effort to "calm" traffic. It's a notable example of how the thinking about the way people get around is evolving from a perspective that places a high, almost sole, priority on cars, to an approach that intends to be more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists.

The Madison Ave Road Diet is also potentially important because it could end up including the first protected bike lane in the city of Albany -- that is, a lane designated for bikes that's protected from car traffic by some sort of barrier. Cycling advocates have been pushing for such an amenity, and see it as a significant step towards more bikeable city.

Here are three thoughts about the push for protected bike lanes.

protected bike lane vancourver by flickr paul krueger cc
A protected bike lane in Vancouver. / photo: Flickr user Paul Krueger (CC BY 2.0)

1. This is about all sorts of people

First and foremost, obviously, it's about people who ride bikes. And talk to anyone who regularly uses a bike for transportation around Albany and you're likely to end up hearing a story about dangerous encounters with cars. It's a not-uncommon occurrence.

Sometimes it's a near miss and some shouting. Other times it's much more serious. At a rally Monday for protected bike lanes, Albany resident Arnelle Coqueran told the story of being hit by a distracted driver in 2011 and suffering serious injuries, including a ruptured spleen. As Coqueran told the media: "I want to be able to ride a bike and not think I'm going to die today." And there's evidence that protected bike lanes do reduce the number of injuries for people on bikes (as well as pedestrians).

Arnelle Coqueran

"People on bikes" is a wide group. It's not just people out riding recreationally or the spandex-clad super cyclists. It's also people for whom a bike is their best option for getting around town -- because they can't afford a car. At the rally Monday Lorenz Worden of the Albany Bicycle Coalition said these types of riders face the challenges of riding on bike-unfriendly streets without other options: "There are adults using the sidewalks. Why? Because they're afraid to use the street. You get on a street like Morton, Lark, Washington, Central, certainly, people are afraid to ride in the street. And these are people who ride all the time. I recognize some of them. They're using bicycles as their singular means of transportation."

Protected bikes lanes are also about people who are not yet cyclists. As we mentioned last year during the bike share pilot, riding a bike in regular traffic can be intimidating for people who aren't experienced riders. And if you're reluctant to take on some of the area's major thoroughfares (and understandably so), it's going to significantly limit where you can go on a bike. Protected bike lanes are a way to provide less-experienced cyclists with routes that aren't as intimidating (and in turn they can gain experience and maybe become more confident riding elsewhere).

madison ave protected bike lane schematic
A schematic created last year by the Albany Bicycle Coalition's Lorenz Worden looking at how Madison Ave could potentially be reconfigured for protected bike lanes.

So, ultimately, protected bikes lanes are one way to make streets more inclusive for different types of users. As Worden put it to us: "The road belongs to everyone in the city. It's paid for by everyone in the city, either directly through their property taxes or through their rent with their landlord paying the taxes. So we're all entitled to a part of that street. And Madison Ave right now is just hell to ride on, can't describe it any other way."

2. Madison Ave should be the beginning, not the end point

bread and honey 2015 storefront madison ave
Storefronts along Madison Ave.

If protected bike lanes are about opening transportation options to a wide range of people, then it follows that the lanes should potentially be expanded to a wide range of places in the city.

Madison Ave is a good place to start. It's an important corridor through the city that connects downtown and uptown, with a range of destinations and businesses along it. And the road diet project creatures a prime opportunity to try out the idea.

So if protected bike lanes are successful -- and other cities' experiences indicate there's a good chance of that -- the next step should be planning on how to build out the network. Is there a major north-south route that could accommodate a protected bike lane? What about major corridors within other neighborhoods, such as Clinton Ave on the north side or New Scotland Ave on the south side?

Adding additional protected bike lanes -- and linking them together -- turns them into something more like a system. And that makes riding a bike in the city that much more useful (for both riders and the city).

"A bicyclist is not entitled to a facility on every street -- that's crazy," Worden said Monday. "But they are entitled is a way to get to any address within the city."

3. This is also a cultural change

No doubt there will be arguments against both the road diet and protected bike lanes -- some of these arguments might even be pretty strong. Cost is sure to come up -- both in building the lanes and maintaining them -- and that's something the city always has to pay attention to because it's facing a tight budget.

New is hard. New is uncertain. New is extra. So, the general default position here might be to just say no.

But there also seems to be a growing sense in the city of Albany that people here aren't satisfied with the current transportation situation -- if only because it occasionally scares the hell out of them. That's one way to read the red light camera initiative. Albany police chief Brendan Cox has said in the past that it grew out of hearing neighborhood groups repeatedly mention that they were concerned about traffic safety. And the fact that city officials, like the police chief, now frequently mention the topic feels like a change.

So maybe there's a cultural shift happening. Maybe the default is evolving from "Why should we have bike lanes?" to "Why should we not have bike lanes?"

And part of that shift is political expression. That's what happened in Copenhagen -- people made bikes a political issue in the 1970s and the city is now one of the world's capitals of bike culture.

Of course, this sort of change doesn't happen quickly. People have been working on these issues for many years. At the rally Monday, Pine Hills Neighborhood Association president Virginia Hammer pointed out the idea of a road diet for Madison Ave first popped up in 2004. But sometimes that's the way culture shifts -- an idea first seems odd, then some people champion it for a while with little success while awareness grows, and then whoosh, the situation flips.

Jason D'Cruz

We were talking about this potential shift in Albany with Jason D'Cruz, one of the organizers of the protected bike lane rally. His thoughts:

"I think we're at a relatively early stage, but there's a lot of low-hanging fruit, which is exciting. So there can be changes to our city that can really, really make a big difference. ... [T]he design of the city is just so ideal for walking, for public transportation, for getting around by bicycle, things like reducing traffic speeds, reducing numbers of lanes, and having separated use for cyclists, pedestrians, and driving. I think that we can make a pretty big stride in a short amount of time. We're a concentrated city. We're perfectly designed for these things. And we just need the political will. And finally there's a sense that in Albany there is a political will to do that. With the new mayor, there's some hope that things can change, and can change for the better. So I'm pretty optimistic."

What's next?

The Madison Ave Road Diet public presentation is Wednesday, July 29 at the College of Saint Rose's Lally School of Education from 6-8 pm. The city is expected to present a range of options for public comment -- probably between three and five options. One of them is expected to include protected bike lanes.

After that, the choice about which option to pursue will be up to Albany mayor Kathy Sheehan, and the decision could come this year. So, whatever your stance on this topic, now is the time to say something.

Earlier on AOA

+ A bit more about protected bike lanes in Albany

+ Taking the Capital Region Bikeshare for a spin

+ On the road to Albany red light cameras

+ Not in the driver's seat


Thanks! This is a really thourough synopsis of the Protected Bike Lane! Please sign the online petition!

I am all for protected bike lanes and all for an increase in bike ridership. I would like to see more compliance with basic rules of the road and general attention to prudence and safety. I see DAILY bike riders going the wrong way on one-way streets, ignoring red lights, and cutting in and out of traffic lanes. I saw a passenger yesterday standing up on the back of a bike, like someone in a circus act. Perhaps those who are lobbying for protected lanes could also work with their bike riding constituents to promote common sense.

The percentage of property owners who own bikes in MY NEIGHBORHOOD is TINY! They do no pay for the upkeep of these roads via tax on gas in their bikes,as do cars!
This is not the1940's, and it it a city not country road!
When it goes back to less lanes, i will be hearing cars honking, stereos blaring, and smelling exhaust!
There are FOUR empty storefronts on the next block, DOES THE CITY WANT MORE TO FOLLOW , because of this new ill-advised,and EXPENSIVE PLAN ?

It would be wonderful if protected bike lanes got up in Albany. I am more used to the country towns and I do have to admit that biking with the crazy traffic is a bit nerve wracking. But I would love to be able to bike to work instead of take the bus all of the time. The protected lanes would be wonderful for that.

This all sounds like a great first start and look forward to it being a great showcase for what a city that safely encourages all modes of traffic can be (despite some viewing it as going back to the 1940's).

@KM, couldn't agree more, but as someone who primarily walks, I see the misdeeds occurring by both bikers, drivers, and yes, even walkers. Using your logic, we'd have no commuting infrastructure to speak of if we modeled our investments on the judgement of users "inattentive" behaviors. With that said, while I don't really bike (due to lack of safe infrastructure), I do get the literature from the main biking proponent Co-Exist, and this group does extensive outreach on the "proper and legal" ways to operate your bike on the streets. Unfortunately, like drivers who get educated by the DMV, but somehow have selective hearing when it comes to how to slow at a yellow/stop at a red, or make that right hand turn at a red, when the signs says "NO!", all users are none the wiser, despite their constituent groups providing them with the resources and education need to commute legally and most importantly safely.

It’s rather sad for comments against the intelligent and fair redesign of Madison Ave. being made from a position of total ignorance about how city streets are financed. Those who do not have or use motor vehicles contribute to the construction and maintenance of the City of Albany road network through city and county property taxes (or such taxes as included in rent) and sales tax. Even those state and federal funds they are allocated to the county and city come from the same source – the pockets of all, whether they ride, walk, drive, or crawl.

Roughly, a person who travels only by bicycle (or by transit, or by foot, or by wheel chair, or not at all) subsidies the road network about $250/year while those who are in cars, in turn, are subsidized (by all the rest of us) about $240/year. The source for these data is “Bikenomics,” Elly Blue, 2013 pgs. 13, 174). Many critiques operate under the delusion that “gas tax” somehow pays for our streets and roads when in fact this tax revenue has gone singularly to the interstate highway system (the condition of which supports the contention that the “gas tax” (being a flat amount per gallon rather than a percentage) has NOT kept up with the need. Further, fewer cars and cars that are more efficient has reduced even more the revenue from this source.

With respect to project costs, the plan put forth by the Protected Bicycle Lane Coalition does not add substantially to that of simply rebuilding Madison Ave. in its present configuration.

As for “cars honking, stereos blaring, and smelling exhaust” these will all be reduced with the advent of Protected Bicycle Lanes and Madison Avenue Traffic Calming. Left turn provisions and bicycles NOT being in the motor vehicle traffic lane will cut the honking. Bicycles (and transit riders and walkers) generally do not have “stereos blaring.” Exhaust will be reduced by more bicycles (with no exhaust), cars moving smoothly and efficiently by virtue of proper signalization and lane design, and increase use by people walking and riding transit.

I urge everyone to go to the Facebook about Protected Bicycle Lanes in the City of Albany and there to inform him or herself accurately:

The idea of making Albany's streets more friendly to non-drivers is long overdue. We've already tried leveling neighborhoods to put in commuter highways. Let's try going in the opposite direction!

I ride everyday from Pine Hills to the Empire State Plaza. I currently use Western Ave. because the two lanes of traffic on Madison are filled with potholes and drivers that change lanes without signaling or looking for cyclists. Protected bikes lanes would only require the cost of an extra curb and some paint. The maintenance should be easy enough with one of the small street sweepers the city already has.

The reason cyclists ride the wrong way on one way streets is that there are often no other options to get from Point A to Point B, without going far out of the way or using borderline dangerous roads. These lanes would be good for everyone.

The Madison "Road Diet" appears to be happening regardless of whether bike lanes are included. They should be included as the cost is minimal and the impacts for everyone would be great. I would definitely patronize businesses on Madison Ave more often if was easier to simply stop from a protected bike lane rather than have to dodge traffic and then potentially make a left turn across four lanes of traffic.

This would be wonderful in a warmer climate where people ride bikes year round. I think the city can find better ways to spend this kind of money than on a project for a small minority of people that will only be used for part of the year.

It would surely be much more cost effective to combine this with the Bus Plus purple line that has been proposed. It follows a similar east/west route and would only have the occasional bus passing by. It would not hamper the flow of vehicular traffic like cutting out half the lanes on Madison ave would surely do.

@KM - as a cyclist, 100% agree. As a pedestrian, cyclist and motorist...would also like to extend that to all users, especially motorists.

@mg - these are jokes, right?

I just spent some time in Vienna and while I didn't get a chance to ride a bike I loved all the protected bike lanes. It makes everyone safer.

While there are bicyclists who disobey the law, the biking population is no different from car drivers or pedestrians who do the same thing - some are going to break the law no matter what you do.

I would like to point out that cars don't actually pay for roads - their use costs more in road maintenance than they provide through any fees and gas taxes. People who don't use cars actually end up subsidizing car use through other taxes that pay for road upkeep.

Thanks for sharing this.

It has been a terrible year for haters. Here's hoping the run of inclusionary thoughts and actions continues.

Spencer: "This would be wonderful in a warmer climate where people ride bikes year round. I think the city can find better ways to spend this kind of money than on a project for a small minority of people that will only be used for part of the year."

These bike lanes will lead to more people riding bikes. Also, I see people riding all year long. And even if they weren't, so what?

"It would surely be much more cost effective to combine this with the Bus Plus purple line that has been proposed. It follows a similar east/west route and would only have the occasional bus passing by."

What do you mean by "combining this with the purple line?" This does combine with it. Madison Ave has only the occasional bus going by, whereas the purple line would run every 7-15 minutes most days.

"It would not hamper the flow of vehicular traffic like cutting out half the lanes on Madison ave would surely do."

The studies for the project showed that this would not hamper traffic on Madison Ave. If anything, four lanes is a much worse situation, with constant changing of lanes. I believe it will slow down traffic a bit, but again I ask, so what? The road is not there just for cars.

They do no pay for the upkeep of these roads via tax on gas in their bikes,as do cars!

I can't vouch for lorenz' stats but there's also a strong argument that not only do bikes have a fraction of the impact on roads as cars, increased bike usage can replace vehicle usage, easing congestion and reducing maintenance costs.

As for cyclist scofflaws, the other comments are spot on, doing most of my traveling in the city by foot it also bothers me but there's not nearly as much outrage for driver who, for example, don't stop or stop in the crosswalk before making a right on red. Bad driving habits aren't used as an excuse to keep roads from being redesigned or further developed. And it doesn't help the law abiding cyclists who are struck by cars.

If it's not obvious, in a tussle between a car and a bike the bike always loses.

I work and live in Albany. Unfortunately - opposite sides of Albany. It takes me 12 minutes to drive to work, but over an hour if I used a bus. Being as that it's 8 miles away, I would love to bike into work instead.

The state of our roads makes it too dangerous for me to want to use my bike to go to work. It's scary enough to walk/jog around town and have people fly through stop signs/lights when I'm using intersections... and on a bike it's that much worse if you attempt to bike legally in the street. This would be a great start to making our community more safe in general.

We have to start somewhere.

I ride my bike around town. I don't see enough bicycle traffic to justify this effort or expense. Building bike lanes in hopes of increased ridership is simply taking a gamble with public funds.

I've used bikeshare programs in other cities, but honestly am nervous about buying a bike to use in my home city. Albany is a disaster when it comes to biking:

The idea of biking down Madison (or even Delaware and Lark where the painted bike symbols on the road do nothing to encourage drivers to share the road) seems like a death wish. And where I do see cyclists, mainly on Central, they are worst traffic safety offenders I encounter in the city.

Protected bike lanes will go a long way to encourage more cyclists, AND encourage safe biking technique. I'd love to see the city start with Madison, and hopefully expand the program.

I know this post was concentrating on the bike lane piece of the Madison Rd Diet, but lets put things into perspective here. The bulk of the cost to this project are tied to improving road infrastructure for drivers, through repaving, modernizing traffic signalling infrastructure, and improving their safety (not to mention that of other modal users). As has been pointed out, the bike lane piece is a modest expense and it would be fool hardy to do it outside of a significant infrastructure project like this one (doing it on its own would cost far more).

I swear, you hitch the word bike or bus to any infrastructure project and the car addicts howl at the moon in frustration, abandoning all reason, and ignore the central truth...that these projects largely benefit the car, cost the most due to the requirements necessary to keep car users safe and efficient in driving, and often lighten congestion, which, yes, lets say it together, "Benefit the car user!"

how long is bike riding season...
what becomes of those lane in winter.

you see NYC doesn't get enough snow...and when it does it is gone in 2 days

lets learn to get along

you have fools in cars, you have fools on bikes. eliminate the fools...problem fixed


You'd probably be surprised by the breadth of bike ownership across the city. Have you considered that maybe you don't see your neighbors on bikes because currently they aren't comfortable on the streets?

I am a home owner in Center Square and chose to live in the city in order to NOT be dependent on a car. I pay substantial taxes for the development and upkeep of infrastructure within the city and dedicated bike lanes are exactly the kind of project that I want to see my tax dollars being spent on.

You are correct that cyclists aren't paying taxes on gas, but you are overlooking that the wear-and-tear on roadways caused by bikes is trivial compared to cars. It's the same reason that tolls are much higher for freight vehicles than for passenger vehicles.

To the comment "This is not the1940's, and it it a city not country road!"... The past decade has seen a major trend towards dedicated bike lanes and bicycle infrastructure in major cities across the US and the world. Take a look at the recent work done in NYC, LA, Washington DC, and London to name a few. All have made substantial and successful investments in cycling infrastructure. The question here is whether Albany is ready to keep up with the times and embrace better transportation solutions or wants to stay stuck in the 1980s.

"When it goes back to less lanes, i will be hearing cars honking, stereos blaring, and smelling exhaust!"... All change is difficult and it will take time to achieve critical mass. However, once people feel comfortable cycling in the city, the net result will be more bicycles and fewer cars, so less horns, exhaust etc. Addressing congestion and exhaust emissions has been a primary motivator behind many of the cycle-infrastructure investments in other cities and it is paying off.

As far as empty storefronts... cyclists are moving at a slower pace and MORE likely to stop and shop. There's less difficulties with parking. In NYC closing (yes I mean full closure to motor traffic) has been shown to INCREASE business to bricks and mortar stores.

I think sometimes you might find a chicken and the egg scenario with cyclist traffic scofflaws and a lack of cycling infrastructure. As someone already said, cyclist ALWAYS loss in tussles with cars, and are very cognizant of that fact. I don't think there are many cyclist who wouldn't gladly disavow all their illicit V&T habits - weaving out of traffic when they feel insecure due to the drivers around them, removing themselves from intersections (which are inherently dangerous for cyclists) prematurely, or riding the wrong way down one-way streets to avoid major thoroughfares - if they could instead travel in protected bike lanes.

As a Center Square resident, I am the exact person who would be more motivated to ride if bike lanes existed. I recently purchased a bike, but have already had so many near misses riding on Madison and Lark (despite reading all the rules for bikers in traffic) that I get a knot in my gut when I think about taking my bike out. I don't want to fear for my physical safety every time I put on my helmet!

If I ride at all, it's usually on the sidewalks, where I feel guilty trying to move among pedestrians. It's a crappy bargain, but I'd rather trust myself to be respectful of those walking than to trust drivers in this city to respect bikes on the road.

I'm a car owner and I drive 2 miles to work because I do not feel safe biking. I really hate cars though. They are loud, smelly, and terrible all around for the promotion of vibrant and healthy communities. Do you ever wonder why people love Venice so much? Perhaps one reason is that there are no cars!

Having protected bike lanes is one method that promotes multi-modal transportation. We are in the 21st Century and should encourage options for commuters. There is a big population of people who commute on bike in the City of Albany that work close to their place of residence. What a unique opportunity for the City of Albany to rise to the occasion and join in with other cities that are taking a leap into more sustainable options for their residents!

Al, that's a gamble well worth taking. Car drivers shouldn't have all the space on the roads.

blj, please DO NOT ride on the sidewalks. If you really feel you can't avoid it, sell your bike or only ride in the riverfront park after a bus ride down the hill. But stay off the sidewalk.

Aside from Madison, one street on CS could be made "bike only" without disrupting traffic (with the exception of parking only for residents, if necessary). The same is true for most of the city. Reserving one or two streets for bikes only would go a long way towards facilitating bike riding and would have zero impact on city traffic.

@Joe A: That's an awesome idea!

Thank you, Mike. I always thought that one could create a network of bike-only streets throughout Albany (just looking at a map one can see how to connect the network), in streets that already have very little traffic, at very low cost and with safety that no bike lanes can offer. The only expense would be to place highly visible crosswalks where bike-only streets cross streets that carry all traffic.

I ride my bike around town. I don't see enough bicycle traffic to justify this effort or expense. Building bike lanes in hopes of increased ridership is simply taking a gamble with public funds.

If Madison goes to one lane it's going to have a bad impact on most of the business on that strip! How will deliveries be made, or fire trucks, God forbid get thru? We have a very large percentages of senior citizens, and handicapped who would not,and certainly CAN NOT ride a B I K E!
I use Star Bus, and have unfortunately have needed to call for emergency vehicles for a household member.
This is not sunny Florida, or California where the mother nature lets the sun shine all year. If next winter is anything like the last two GOOD LUCK on your bikes, folks!

@mg - still off your rocker. there is no "one lane" proposal. the proposal in the illustration above is 2 travel lanes and a turning lane. In heavy traffic, emergency vehicles will have an EASIER time navigating that configuration than 4 travel lanes full of cars.

double-parking for deliveries is a problem to begin with. limiting delivery hours, providing loading zones, delivering to the rear (where possible) might help with that, road diet or no. the whole issue is a red herring.

The feasibility study shows the road diet proposal to be safer overall and effectively equal to the current configuration in moving vehicle traffic. The road diet is going to happen. The question is only which configuration it will take. Cost-wise, the question isn't whether to put bike lanes in, but where.

mg, Madison Ave isn't going to one lane, it's going to three. At least some businesses along this stretch are pushing for this. Firetrucks and deliveries are made on much narrower streets in the city every day. Senior citizens in the area have no effect on others who do ride bikes, and their presence offers no reason not to put bike lanes in. (In fact, there's no connection between the two all, so I don't even see why you brought that up.) Montreal is also not sunny Florida, but they have a very large network of bike lanes.

Nothing you've listed is a reason not to put in these lanes.

How would emergency vehicles have any problem traveling in the center turning lane? Drivers in Albany are notoriously bad but thankfully they do pull over and stop for lights and sirens.

I'm scratching my head to figure out how single lane with a turn lane will make deliveries and bus stops impossible.

I've lived in warmer climates. We have just as many months of nice weather as they do. The difference is their bad weather is 100°, not 10°.

Or, as the Norwegians say, there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing.

Four-lane-to-three conversions are nothing new. They've been around for decades, and have an impressive safety record. And that's what's really important, right?

Let's face it: this is not about bike lanes. Why "calm" traffic on Madison, when the avenue that needs "calming" is Central? This is an expensive proposal, and is a gift to the mostly white, mostly middle and upper middle class of Center Square and Pine Hills. It's not a serious proposal, because it doesn't touch any other part of the city, nor does it include a bike traffic study for the whole city. Incidentally, the biggest users of bikes in the city are minorities in minority neighborhoods, including children. Just go take a look. Ride your bike through them. Why don't we plan bike lanes there first? This is a farce, but it is the natural habitat for our mayor. We have already spent a load of money for one artery. I want to see plans for Central, Washington, etc. Where are they?

New name for this project: Upper East Side Bikeway.

Joe, given your own ideas for bike-only streets, it's tough to take your suggestions seriously. But you do raise a good point. This is hopefully the first step for real bike infrastructure, not the last. (And those involved also see it that way.)

Among the first bike lanes in the city was Clinton Ave, so they did start in the neighborhoods you would prefer. Central was redesigned very recently and likely won't be again anytime soon. (Though I agree, it could use it.) Madison Ave is in desperate need of a diet, regardless of the racial makeup of its residents (you also might want to spend some time there - I think you'd be surprised).

Where are other roads like Washington in this process? Next, hopefully, as long as unrealistic naysayers don't have their way. Don't let perfection stand in the way of progress.

Jay, it's too bad that my comment would prevent you from taking my suggestions seriously, but my suggestions were precisely aimed at implementing a plan citywide, and not a Champs Elysees (please see my comments on another post on this subject). Here's why: if anyone needs bike lanes, it's the poorest neighborhoods in the city. Why, you ask? For many reasons, but primarily because they contain folks with the least number of car ownership and are the largest users of bicycles as means of transportation. Children are also very heavy users of bicycles. Now, you are correct about Clinton, but you havent' been there. There are no "bike lanes" on Clinton, per se, but paint on the pavement. Since it is one of the heaviest commuter throughfares in the city, those bike lanes mean very little. If anyone was serious about those lanes, they would have been protected. However, we all know that bike lanes without protection (a physical divider) are just as dangerous as no lanes at all. I suggested bike-only streets. Why? Well, first and foremost because the city wasn't built just for cars, and therefore it's perfectly okay to take away some streets for other purposes and share the city. This would not require many consultants nor many designs, because the streets are already there -- only a traffic study, which would generate a citywide network (meaning, for all) of bikeable streets, which would not require any other special maintenance than the one already in place. Second, because many of the concerns addressed above, and very legitimate, as all concerns are, would no longer exist, such as deliveries, parking, etc. And, third, because bike lanes with dividers (an absolute necessity) are in fact expensive to install, and on Madison they would benefit a very small group of people. If you care to figure out its use, just sit outside the Lionheart on a good day and count the traffic (don't do it in the Winter, because the fingers on one hand are enough to count them).If folks in Pine Hills and CS want to make Madison more attractive, go for it, but please don't use the excuse of bike lanes. Incidentally, Western or Washington would have been far better, because the lanes would also connect two large colleges (St. Rose and SUNYA) to their spread out dorms and student housing, where it is predominantly located. So, let's be real, okay? This is not about bikes, but about gifting a neighoborhood, with zero guarantee that it would ever be duplicated elsewhere or expanded. I like the way some of the ideas look, but I'm more pragmatic and realistic. And again, I apologize if I offend some senses and sensibilities.

Whose streets? Our streets!


Where to begin? It's not even worth addressing bike-only streets, since they're such an obviously bad idea.

Clinton needs a divider, yes. But that was still the first step in doing anything for bikes in the city, so it was a start.

Madison is getting a road diet anyway. The project wasn't ever built around bike lanes, nor were they ever the central focus. At one point, they weren't even included, hence the citizen advocacy. Sit at the Lionheart all you want, you know you won't see people on bikes. They're currently on the side streets (that often involve a circuitous route as not all these side streets are continuous). If there were protected bike lanes, there would be more bikes.

Again, don't let perfection stand in the way of progress.

Actually, it's unfair not to address your bike-only streets idea. My apologies. The reasons I feel it's unrealistic and inadvisable.

- These streets are already being used by bikes to avoid the main roads. If you want bikes to use those roads, then don't change anything. However, I could see lots of benefit in designating some of these roads preferred bike routes in some way.

- The nature of lower traffic volumes is that these streets don't go to destinations. There's nothing drawing people who don't already ride. If I'm going to ride up to the bagel shop on Madison, I'd rather take Madison (and I'll have to for part of the way). When I ride to work, taking any road other than Western is going to take longer (fortunately Western is pretty safe).

- They are often residential streets, and while I've never advocated for parking, it would still be unfair to deprive those residents of that. Many of them are families with small children. For those without cars, it adds difficulty when getting picked up by cabs, getting deliveries, etc.

- Banning cars from certain roads requires more than just traffic studies. It requires barring the roads to cars. Short of that, it requires enforcement of the ban, and we can't even get our police to enforce stop lights. (Though the argument that they have more important priorities is compelling.)

- The grid system in the city disperses traffic. When you're in a place with a cul-de-sac system that directs traffic onto feeder streets and arterials, there are fewer routes for each of them, which means they all must take the same road. There are some places in the city that suffer from this, but most of the city never really sees debilitating traffic, because it's easy to find a way around. Closing off these streets can limit that option, and worsen traffic at heavy travel times elsewhere.

- Infrastructure of any kind besides that dedicated to cars, or infrastructure that restricts cars in any way, is very unpopular and requires a growth in popular support to happen in most cases, such as this very one. Bikes already annoy people enough - taking entire streets away isn't the solution.

- The bike lanes are a small and uncertain part of the overall Madison Avenue traffic calming project. They weren't even included in drafts at one point in the process. You characterize them as the impetus for the whole thing, and a giveaway to the residents of Pine Hills, but the goal from the beginning was simply to make this street itself safer.

- Beyond the relatively small cost of the project, the lanes themselves need not be expensive. Compared to what we spend on roads, the cost of maintenance and installation of the lanes is itself very small. A painted curb can suffice, especially if a lane of parked cars separates the two types of lanes. No need for flower pots or a huge barrier, just the physical separation from cars and sidewalks.

I'll stop going on about the idea; I just find it to be the opposite of pragmatic and realistic. On the other hand, adding bike lanes is not only a real possibility and a great opportunity, but proven.

As I wrote above, designated side streets in conjunction with physically separated lanes that we're beginning to build now would be a great idea! And for the record, I vote for Clinton Ave to get the next separated bike lane.

Jay, it would be hard to deconstruct the nonsense that you state above, including statements that contradict each other. Trying to be right doesn't mean to be rational, in most instances.

The Madison Avenue Road Diet and Traffic Calming Project Information Meeting on July 29, 2015 was an eye opener for me and addressed many safety and quality of life issues for a small section of US Highway Route 20. The original Road Diet Plan seems to have shifted its focus from slowing traffic down and improving road conditions for the safety and convenience for all the users, to proposing major risky road lane changes that accommodate bicyclists more safely in new “Protected Bike Lanes”on Madison Avenue.
An ambitious and game changing plan like this should improve the safety and quality of life for all the people - residents, businesses and commuters. Will changing Madison Avenue from 4 lanes to “ 2 or 3 “ lanes make Madison Avenue safer for all the people? Will the changes have a negative effect for everyday users and the surrounding neighborhood roads? The Madison Avenue community is composed many neighborhood people who use our sidewalks, crosswalks, and roads. Pedestrians, walkers, runners, skateboarders, bicyclists, handicapped persons, delivery people, emergency and service vehicles, buses, and hundreds on-street parkers, as well as the 15,000 + commuter cars a day enjoy using Madison Avenue in its current efficient 4 lane configuration. Improving Madison Avenue without negative effects to traffic flow efficiency and the safety and convenience of all its users must be carefully considered in order to implement a successful changes to our busy road. Perhaps there are other things that could be done to improve mobility and safety concerns without major changes to Madison Avenue’s infrastructure. Please consider repairing and updating the road’s physical infrastructure as possible solution to help reduce congestion and accident risk! -roads should be smooth with no pot holes -roads should be properly painted and striped; crosswalks, stop lines, bus stops, street
-corners, parking parameters, fire hydrants … shared bike lane markings -review, replace and upgrade road traffic signs -address street lighting deficiencies
-coordinate traffic stop/go signal lights -major intersections need walk/don’t walk signs
-install red light cameras -enforce traffic, speed, cell phone use, violations more rigorously
-change outdated street parking rules (residential parking permits system expansion)
-change speed limit to 25 mph and enforce
-re-educate motorists, pedestrians and cyclists on laws and safe traveling
-plan for future increases in road use (eg. AMC and SUNYA expansion)
-Another idea for safe bicycle travel might be to use on less busy roads
Implementation of some or all of these improvements will help solve safety, accident and efficiency problems on our old and busy Madison Avenue. Please consider leaving Madison Avenue’s 4 lane structure as it is; it works and can accommodate the current high volume of traffic and future increases in traffic. Four travel lanes with shared bicycle lanes can handle the 15,000+ commuter cars a day, and help keep our residents, smaller residential side streets and children protected from Madison Avenues busy commuter traffic.

"Four travel lanes with shared bicycle lanes can handle the 15,000+ commuter cars a day, and help keep our residents, smaller residential side streets and children protected from Madison Avenues busy commuter traffic." If we keep it at 4 travel lanes, we might as well skip the whole project. Western Ave has 2 lanes and handles more cars than Madison, and more safely. The entire point is reducing the number of lanes. Protected bike lanes are also important if we're going to make the entire city better for all users.

"Another idea for safe bicycle travel might be to use on less busy roads " They already are, so now it's time to work on the truly dangerous ones, so that more people ride bikes.

The main point of your comment seems to be that keeping car traffic moving as quickly is the most important aspect of the road, and I disagree with the basic premise. This is a city street, not a highway, and needs to be heavily redesigned to accomplish this purpose.

@JayK -- I need to clarify traffic volume on Madison v. Western. It was stated by the consultants at the Madison Road Diet public meeting on July 29 that Madison and Western are often compared to each other, but this stretch of Madison from Allen to Lark does not have near the volume of traffic as on Madison. Apparently, the data that we pulled several years ago from the Albany Bicycle Master Plan had the incorrect traffic counts for that section of Western. Soo... the consultants *still say that Madison Ave is feasible for a road diet, but suggest that we look at Delaware Ave rather than Western Ave for a high volume traffic 2-lane road comparison.

As for my good friend Bob and his concerns about increased traffic because of Albany Medical Center's further expansion and the Tri City Rental project -- I also need to point out that in 2013 when the Common Council needed to approve the changes to the Park South Urban Renewal Plan, a traffic study was done as a condition of approving those changes one area they looked at was whether the Madison Avenue Road Diet would still be feasible and the study noted the following about the heaviest trafficked intersection in the corridor because of hospital traffic (Madison and New Scotland/ Washington Park) , "This four-leg intersection currently operates at level of service B and C conditions during the AM and PM peak hours, respectively. In the No-Build condition with the reduction in the through travel lanes on Madison Avenue associated with the Road Diet project and the implementation of signal and striping improvements planned at this intersection, overall levels of service C will be experienced during both peak hours. The additional traffic volumes associated with the development of the site will result in a drop in the overall level of service during the AM peak hour. The implementation of a westbound leading protected left-turn phase at the intersection will reduce the drop in level of service.

RECOMMENDATION: Replace the existing traffic signal, provide full pedestrian accommodations, modify the traffic signal phasing, and re-stripe the New Scotland Avenue approach to Madison Avenue to provide left and right-turn lanes."

There's no doubt that the hospital traffic at current and expected levels are detrimental to the quality of life of neighbors in the vicinity and that the hospital needs to adopt an aggressive parking and transportation demand management plant to reduce the number of daily employee single occupancy vehicles. There are many hospital employees who live nearby and walk -- but we need to increase that number. Incentives can and should be provided to employees to live nearby and walk, bike, and take the bus or to carpool if necessary. Some neighbors in eastern Pine Hills have been asking for permit parking to expand westward because it is very hard to find parking on weekdays (especially during the academic year) on S Lake and some of the side streets. This lack of parking is exacerbated by Albany Med employees looking for free on-street parking at the expense of tax paying residents who, perhaps dropped their kids off at school, only to return home and are not find a place to park. Though I might add that other neighbors are dead set against expanding permit parking because they feel they pay plenty already in property taxes and don't want to have to pay more for parking. These things are never simple, are they?

Thanks for the clarification, Leah. Any insight on why AMC is so resistant to partnering with CDTA? (A question open to anyone who may have an answer.)

oops, apologies for the many typos in my comment, but I think you can read between the accidentally omitted words and misspelling to figure out the overall gist of my comment. Any questions -- ask me on Twitter or via email (email address is posted here:

Don't start name calling Ed!
I have lived here , ALL MY LIFE!
When i was a child Madison Ave was , oh, sorry i mispoke a TWO LANE road.
Our side walks were much bigger, and we had mostly everything we needed with in a mile radius!
It is not like that anymore.
Most of the customers for business in my NEIGHBORHOOD come from other parts of the city, and maybe out of state, and NEED THEIR CARS!
Do you live on Madison Ave ED?
Were you at the St Rose meeting , didn't you hear them say about the bike barriers , taking away parking spots, and not being able to get emergency vehicles,and delivery trucks thru the streets?

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