RECORD OF MEETING
BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN ISSUES TASK FORCE
DATE/TIME/PLACE: Thursday, April 27, 1995, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center
IN ATTENDANCE: Brad Birge (CDRPC), Emily H. Goodman (New York Bicycling Coalition), Bob Kirker (Town of Wilton Highway Committee), Katrina Neugebauer (Troy Architectural Program), Don Odell (Albany County Planning Department), Ivan Vamos (Hudson River Valley Greenway Communities Council), Steve Allocco (CDTC)
Note: Any handouts referenced in the summary are attached for those who did not attend the meeting.
Current Bicycle/Pedestrian Travel and their Benefits: Beyond Census journey-to-work information, there is little hard data available on bicycle and pedestrian travel in the Capital District. The CDTC staff used the findings of its Household Travel Survey along with the 1990 Census results and the CDTC regional traffic model to generate estimates of bicycle/pedestrian tripmaking and the public benefits they produce (in terms of the negative impacts of motor vehicle travel avoided). The first handout (entitled "Estimates of Bicycle and Pedestrian...") summarizes the results of this investigation. It should be noted that the estimates are for travel by persons 16 years or older, between discrete origins and destinations -- it does not include "children going to the schoolyard" or "pleasure trips" starting and ending at one point.
Followup on "Accessibility" Evaluations: At the February Task Force meeting, there was a discussion of the concept of accessibility -- the competitiveness of cycling or walking with driving for a given trip. A trip was considered "accessible" to cyclists or walkers if it could be made within 20 minutes of the time it would take via car. At the April meeting, there was a revision to the figures presented and a qualification to the definition of accessibility.
The original analysis of accessibility did not adequately reflect the out-of-car time associated with car trips -- walking between wherever the vehicle was parked and the origin or destination of the trip. To reflect this additional time, five minutes were added to either end of each car trip. The "Updated Figures..." handout presents the resulting findings on accessibility.
The initial evaluation of "accessibility" was strictly based on travel time -- particularly for cyclists, it implicitly assumed a willingness to use any legally accessible roadway regardless of motor vehicle traffic characteristics. By this measure, to take one example, a trip from Albany Airport to Northway Mall (via Albany Shaker and Wolf Roads) is "accessible." The second page of the "Updated Figures..." handout lists some sample "accessible trip" volumes on roadways not commonly considered "accessible" to the average rider.
The argument can be made that the initial "accessibility" evaluation only applies to "Group A" cyclists -- experienced, highly skilled riders. As the Bicycle Federation of America estimates that less than 5 percent of the 100 million people in the U.S. who own bicycles would be considered Group A cyclists, the initial investigation only applied to a small proportion of the general population. Thus, a "Group B" accessibility determination was pursued to better reflect accessibility to average adult riders.
While the initial "Group A" analysis only shut down limited access highways and those facilities where bicycle and pedestrian travel are prohibited, the "Group B" analysis makes roads progressively less attractive as we move up in their hierarchy. For example, a subdivision street would be very attractive; the collector road it feeds into is less attractive; the minor arterial the collector feeds into is still less attractive; and so on. The "Interim Estimates..." handout shows the results of this approach. Perhaps the most surprising finding of this investigation is that 2/3 of all trips 5 miles or less in length are still accessible to Group B cyclists; as the side-by-side graphics entitled "GROUP A" and "GROUP B" (on the sheet following the "Interim Estimates..." handout; also enclosed for those in attendance 4/27) show, the difference lies in Group B cyclists' making greater use of lower-order streets to complete these trips. (The arrows give a sense of the shifts away from the arterials; these graphics are not meant to show where people currently make cycling trips, nor do they reflect the potential benefits of the Priority Bicycle Network.)
Pedestrian Treatments: At its June 1994 meeting, the Task Force discussed and approved the idea of developing and applying advisory sidewalk warrants to give some directions as to "where to start" in providing better accommodation of pedestrian travel. Three "warrant" bases were investigated: a "traffic volume/speed" basis which considers exposure to motor vehicle traffic; a "potential for errands" basis which considers the proximity of residential, office and retail activity; and a "recreational walking" basis which considers residential density.
In attempting to develop any of these three possible warrants, the same problem seems to come up: depending on where the "cutoffs" are set, either almost none of the area's roadways or almost all of them tend to have pedestrian treatments warranted. More troubling still, to date CDTC has not found an objective warrant basis which flags the locations which have been the most frequent subjects of complaint -- major travel corridors in the inner suburbs, in particular.
The possible warrants tested by CDTC to date have generally been more aggressive than the warrants contained in NYSDOT's recently released Pedestrian and Bicycle Facility Scoping Guide, excerpts of which were distributed at the meeting. As such, the NYSDOT document's warrants may be as aggressive as the Task Force can hope to be at this time, unless communities decide on their own to start accommodating pedestrians without a standard suggesting that they do so.
In addition to the NYSDOT guide, copies of a guide produced by the Florida Department of Transportation's Pedestrian and Bicycle Program were also distributed. The "Walkable Communities" guide provides some handy illustrations of how to go about making a community more pedestrian-friendly. Given the way in which this document presents pedestrian accommodation techniques in a clear, approachable format, distributing this document to Capital District municipalities would be an important step in educating decisionmakers on how to enhance the liveability of their areas.
Discussion of the difficulty in providing a targeted listing of locations at which pedestrian accommodation should be made a priority did raise one idea which might be a workable means of providing specific, localized guidance to municipalities looking to become more pedestrian-friendly. If maps of serviceable sidewalks could be secured from local public works departments, strategic connections could be identified as ways to create continuous pedestrian networks. CDTC will investigate the availability of these maps.
Task Force Technical Report: In the context of the New Visions effort, the purpose of the Technical Report is to provide additional information (beyond that presented in the 10-20 page New Visions-wide "Executive Summary") to people wishing to invest some time in becoming familiar with the Task Force's investigations and recommendations. As the introductory note to the draft Report outline (mailed out on April 18) indicated, the Technical Report could also serve as a stand-alone reference for use in developing plans for enhancing the Capital District's bicycle and pedestrian travel environments. Given this larger potential function, the group was asked for comments on the outline, particularly along the lines of items to add in order to make the report as comprehensive and useful a reference as possible. The following ideas were raised; along with others raised at previous meetings, they could be presented in an "additional steps which would enhance bicycle/pedestrian planning at the municipal and regional levels" discussion.
0. Note: The draft outline included a section on "existing conditions," but did not have a section on future conditions. A section on projected future conditions will be included.
1. Cycling-Specific Pavement Photo Log: At the February meeting, a copy of NYSDOT's Pavement Condition Rating Manual was circulated during a discussion of pavement conditions and their effects on cycling safety. The Manual is in essence a photo log which guides the "scoring" of pavement condition on a 1-10 scale. The idea was raised that a photo log illustrating the dangers presented by pavement condition and spot-level defects (e.g., raised drainage grates, road seams) could guide smaller-scale maintenance and improvement programs.
2. Economic Importance of Cycling and Walking: The Task Force has concentrated on identifying the steps necessary to make cycling and walking more viable forms of transportation. Still, because accommodation of cycling and walking can yield significant benefits in the areas of recreation, tourism and the general quality of life -- and because these benefits can in turn produce very real economic benefits -- the "economic logic" of investing in these modes of travel should be prominently noted.
As one example of how bike-friendliness can be promoted, Ivan provided a copy of a recent "in-flight magazine" article (copy enclosed) on bicycle touring in Holland. The article presents Holland as an attractive place for bicycle touring; in addition, by noting that Northwest Airlines travelers can take a bike with them free as one of their two checked pieces of luggage, Northwest presents itself as accommodating to cyclists, who are often faced with charges of $50 to $90 or more to bring their bikes with them when flying.
3. Additional "Networks" (Section 3b): Existing facilities, such as the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail, the canal system, and Bike Routes 5 and 9 should be noted.
4. Regional Bike Map: There should be a way to draw on the popularity of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail map as a motivator for development of a regional bike map. (Note: and of the facilities which would be indicated on such a map.)
It could be argued that the Capital District's problem with regard to regional bike maps is that there are not many existing bike facilities to put on such a map. The Genesee Transportation Council (the Rochester area MPO) got around this problem by putting out a bike map showing the "rideability" of different streets based on field observations (see October 1994 Task Force Status Report); development of such a map for the Capital District might be an option.
5. Existing Facilities: Section 2.b.i. will note that one characteristic of the Capital District's bicycle/pedestrian travel environment is "few dedicated facilities;" both dedicated and otherwise, these facilities should be identified in the report.
6. Suggestions for Additional Items under "Other Recommendations":
* continue efforts at bringing advocacy groups into the planning process
* note and incorporate other individual and group planning and advocacy efforts in the region (the Saratoga County Heritage Trail Committee, NYBC, Capital Regional Cycling, et cetera) -- this would be an important step in maintaining lines of communication with the cycling/pedestrian community.
* hold a monthly bicycle/pedestrian issues forum?
(Note: distribution of informally-written reports or "hot sheets" on issues raised at these fora could be useful ways of getting information out to the interested community and responsible public agencies.)
* add a bicycle/pedestrian advocate to the CDTC Planning and Policy Committees
(Note: this idea was raised with both "voting member" and "non-voting member" variants. Early exploration by the CDTC staff of the issues which would be raised by this idea -- ranging from the "consensus" criterion applied to CDTC committee votes to the more philosophical question of "what specifically would the group be looking to change through membership, and could being a pest at regular meetings without having membership accomplish the same thing? -- suggested that this sort of recommendation will likely be a source of much contention as the New Visions effort winds down and the Committees enter the "post-New Visions" era.)
Miscellaneous Items1: To keep the Task Force informed of current happenings in the field of cycling/walking as transportation, articles from three recent issues of the Urban Transportation Monitor were distributed. Note with regard to the article on bicycle use of highway shoulders (from the April 14 issue) that there was a major typo in the third column: the accident rate as shown under item 3 works out to about 4.1 billion accidents per million miles of travel, or one accident every 1.3 feet. Had the exponent been properly printed as -6 instead of 6, the accident rate would have worked out to .008 accidents per million miles of travel -- far closer to the definition of "negligible."
* CDTC to prepare draft technical report. Probably on a "chapter by chapter" basis, rough draft to be mailed out by June 1.
* CDTC to contact transportation and public works agencies for information on availability of sidewalk maps or other sidewalk inventories.
* Next Task Force meeting: Thursday, June 15, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center, 1653 Central Avenue (across from Lake Electronics). Meeting to concentrate on discussion of draft technical report.
TO: Members of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force
Other Interested Parties
FROM: Steve Allocco
DATE: May 11, 1995
RE: April 27 Meeting Summary; Details on Next Meeting
Enclosed please find a summary of the April 27 meeting. The next meeting of the Task Force will be held on Thursday, June 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at the Colonie Community Center, 1653 Central Avenue, Colonie (across from Lake Electronics). At this meeting, we will discuss the draft Technical Report, which should get out to you in rough form by June 1. In the meantime, please feel free to call, fax or write if any questions or comments come up.
Enclosure(s, for those not in attendance 4/27)
1Note: these items were raised at the beginning of the meeting to provide some "food for thought" when additional ideas for inclusion in the technical report were considered later on.