City of Albany to present Madison Ave Road Diet recommendations

Madison Ave at St Rose

Update: The meeting has been cancelled, according to the Albany Police Department (traffic engineering is part of the APD), and will be rescheduled. [APD FB]

The city of Albany has a public meeting lined up for Monday, November 9 to present the recommendations for the Madison Ave Road Diet. The meeting is at the College of Saint Rose's Lally School Building (1009 Madison Ave) from 6-7 pm.

The Madison Ave Road Diet is a project to reconfigure the lanes on the busy thoroughfare with the aim of calming traffic and making the street more friendly to pedestrians and cyclists. That could involve reducing the number of traffic lanes from the current two in each direction, to one in each direction with a turn lane.

The part of the project that's gotten the most attention lately is the possibility of the addition of protected bike lanes to the corridor.

A coalition has been pushing for the inclusion of the lanes in the plan, and they were a vocal presence at a public meeting earlier in which the city and its consultants presented possible options. Proponents have argued the lanes aren't just safer for cyclists, but they feel safer to cyclists of all sorts and as a result they'll encourage more people to bike along the corridor.

It'll be interesting to see if the protected lanes are in the plan presented Monday. Listening between the lines (so to speak) at the earlier meeting, it sounded like things might be leaning toward "regular" bike lanes -- a stripe separating the cycle lanes from car traffic, but no barrier -- because of comments about the potential cost of maintenance and snow removal, as well as the impact on the number of parking spaces.

In the grand scheme of things, protected bikes lanes on Madison Ave aren't a huge thing. They'd be more like the start of something, maybe a larger network of bike-friendly corridors, rather than an end point. But an enthusiastic group will be disappointed if they're not in the plan. And it would be a missed opportunity for the city to try out a potentially transformative idea.

This date of the event has been fixed in this post.

+ Options for the Madison Ave Road Diet
+ Three thoughts about the push for protected bike lanes in Albany


Protected bike lanes are attractive, but more problematic than one might think at first glance. A predictable and enduring segment of bike riders do not obey traffic signals. Rather than stop at a red light, they cruise through without even slowing, whenever possible. This creates a dangerous situation for any pedestrian who, having the light in his/her favor, has stepped into the bike lane as the first step of crossing the street. You can see this every day in NYC, where protected bike lanes have been installed.

I am all for expanded utilization of bicycle transportation in our cities. But I am also in favor of reasonable controls to protect the public safety. At a minimum, bikes used on the street should be regularly inspected, the riders should be licensed, and riders should be required to carry a meaningful amount of liability insurance.

Without those reasonable protections in place, the protected bike lanes create as many new problems as they solve.

The timing has never been better for implementing protected bicycle lanes on Madison Avenue. The federal funding is in place and the public will is behind the project. The road is wide enough that a significant number (although not all) of the street parking spaces can be maintained. Protected lanes will make the street safer for all users (cyclists, pedestrians, drivers, and transit users) and contribute to the economic vibrancy of Albany's signature corridor. Most of the anchor businesses up and down the avenue are behind the idea, as is the Mayor's own Sustainability Committee.

The time has come for Albany to make a bold move and embrace twenty-first century urban design, giving young people a reason to stay in this city rather than flee after graduation. This decision is a litmus test for whether Kathy Sheehan has the leadership ability and political courage to make a real impact on the city. The city recently ignored "complete streets" ordinances and failed to consider bicycle lanes for the re-paving of Myrtle Avenue. Let's hope they don't repeat their mistakes and that they do the right thing for Madison.

Albany doesn't do bold moves. Haven't you noticed.

twenty-first century urban design, giving young people a reason to stay in this city rather than flee after graduation

People move after graduation because they get decent jobs; something that's sorely missing in Albany. No amount of urban design will compensate for unemployment

Lu, with one of the strongest employment centers upstate, that's a bold statement.

Jason, why would Myrtle Avenue need bike lanes? It's a calm, mostly one-way side street that is currently an alternative to roads like Madison Avenue, where bike lanes would actually help.

It's too bad the presentation was canceled.

"At a minimum, bikes used on the street should be regularly inspected, the riders should be licensed, and riders should be required to carry a meaningful amount of liability insurance." lol okay, sounds fiscally responsible.

It seems like most who oppose the bike lanes are those who seek to rocket down Madison Ave in cars to the safety of the suburbs.

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