RECORD OF MEETING
BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN ISSUES TASK FORCE
DATE/TIME/PLACE: Wednesday, February 22, 1995, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center
IN ATTENDANCE: Brad Birge (CDRPC), Emily H. Goodman (citizen member), Bob Kirker (Town of Wilton Highway Committee), Don Odell (Albany County Planning Department), Don Robertson (NYSDOT - Region 1), 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.
Vision Statement: The Task Force indicated it was comfortable with the wording of the Vision Statement as presented in the record of the December 28 meeting.
Proposed Additional Priority Network Mileage: The Task Force concurred with the idea of adding Priority Network mileage in Schenectady and Rotterdam as proposed in the February 6 update on staff work. One question raised regarding the Priority Network was that of whether Kings Road would be preferable to Albany Street as a priority facility, as the former includes a long stretch which is relatively straight and flat between Old State Road and the Schenectady County line. It was decided that Albany Street would be acceptable if Kings Road was part of the larger Regional Bicycle Network; a subsequent check of that network confirmed that it does include the subject segment of Kings Road.
Notes on "Working Environment": The Task Force was briefly updated on several developments which took place since the last meeting in December.
1. Federal, State Fiscal Situations: At the federal level, the possible consolidation of USDOT and its funding programs is being explored. Still, CDTC's New Visions effort will continue on the assumption that a given amount of money above and beyond basic needs will be available; the functional difference is that it may be distributed over a longer period of time (e.g., $600 million over the next 25 years instead of over the next 20 years). Thus, as the Task Forces go about their work, there should be no real effect on how they identify their sets of desirable actions.
(One example of how the extended timetable for funding could affect Task Force work was illustrated in the Expressway Management Task Force's development of a "staging plan" for one part of its recommendation set. The Task Force considered the idea of accelerating development of some components of its Intelligent Transportation System, but decided that the current Federal and State fiscal climates made a slower pace ambitious enough.)
Not much hard information is available yet on future State investments in transportation. The working assumption could be that a "do more with less" or "do more with what's already allocated" philosophy would come about; as some larger capital projects are already being scaled back or called into question completely (e.g., Northway Interchange 3 construction, rehabilitation of Northway bridges between Interchanges 2 and 8), it should not be expected that high-cost capital projects to enhance the bicycle/pedestrian environment (e.g., the I-787 ped/bike bridge) would be pursued at as large a scale as when originally conceived, if at all.
2. Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) Status: The next planned update of the TIP was the 1995-2000 update; fiscal circumstances have put this update on hold. As this "hold" status is a change from the previous expectation, which was "no new projects," there is no effective difference with regard to opportunities to pursue bicycle/pedestrian-related improvements.
The earlier "no new projects" expectation was rooted in the realization that available funds which could have gone to a TIP update this year had already been substantially allocated, and what little remained available could likely have been used up by cost overruns on major projects already on the TIP.
The current expectation is for there to be funding available for a number of new projects added to the TIP when the 1996-2001 update takes place.
3. New Visions Schedule: A current schedule for the New Visions effort was distributed. The effort will continue at its own pace, in spite of the USDOT reorganization and fiscal considerations noted earlier.
4. ANCA Report: The Adirondack North Country Association released its Bicycle Master Plan for the Adirondack North Country Region of New York State, which sets forth analyses and recommendations for enhancing the cycling environment in that 14-county region (which includes Saratoga County). It was noted that the Task Force's Make Your Community More Bicycle- and Pedestrian-Friendly brochure was liberally excerpted in the report, indicating the value of this concise summary of steps to enhance the cycling and walking environments. (Update on Task Force Brochure: some possible paper stocks for printing have been identified; the goal is to have a quantity produced such that members can take a handful with them after the April meeting.)
5. SUNY Summer Course in Urban Design -- Urban Bikeway Concept: This summer, the Geography and Planning Department at SUNY/Albany will be offering a six-week Urban Design course for which the subject will be the "downtown to SUNY (and on to Crossgates Mall)" corridor concept plan on which Alicia Fernandez gave a presentation at the October 1994 Task Force meeting. The aim is to develop the bikeway's design specifications to the point that the City of Albany, the State Office of General Services and State DOT would be able to submit it as a proposal for funding or, alternatively, to pay for its development themselves. The class starts May 30; Thyag (who will be teaching the course) plans to sit in on Task Force meetings when time permits to keep the group posted on the progress of the design work.
Report on Staff Technical Work
Since the last meeting in December, CDTC staff has been performing the technical work necessary to make the objective case for pursuing the Task Force's recommendations. Some early findings of this work were presented as a way of illustrating how this case can be made. They are attached as an appendix.
Additional Ideas for Enhancing Cycling and Walking: With development of its "required products" complete, the Task Force was invited to spend a few minutes brainstorming possible additional recommendations to make in the Phase Two report. Two types of ideas came up in this exercise: identification of possible actions or tools for decisionmakers to consider as they plan their road improvement work, and guidance to "bear in mind" in the transportation planning process. Some of the ideas raised were as follow:
1. Shoulder Provision: While crosswalk markings, "share the road" signs and the like are desirable low-cost means of raising motorist awareness of cyclists and pedestrians, the most critical element of the road system for cyclists is the availability of adequate travel pavement or shoulder width to use a given route. Providing for reasonable physical separation from motor vehicles benefits cyclists of all ability levels; thus, it is logically the first order of business not only to maintain existing cycling levels but to encourage more shifts from driving to cycling.
2. Lane Markings/Striping: Particularly at those locations where current cycling/walking levels are not high, clear lane/shoulder markings and crosswalk markings are important means of raising and maintaining driver awareness of (a)the possible presence of cyclists or pedestrians in an area and (b)where their vehicles should be as they travel through the area. This can make the travel environment more predictable to the cyclist or pedestrian. In addition, as not all cyclists or pedestrians obey traffic laws, these markings give them guidance as to where they should be on or along the roadway.
3. Pavement Reallocation: In managing our street system, the operating assumption has always been that travel lane, shoulder and median widths should be as great as possible to maximize roadway capacity. While this relationship does hold true -- reducing these widths does reduce capacity -- going by this assumption in practice has resulted in a street system which largely discourages cycling by minimizing the amount of space available for it. To remove the disincentives to cycling presented by roadway profiles, we should consider reallocating total pavement width -- through restriping and, in some cases, minor reconstruction such as narrowing of a wide median -- to ensure the "reasonable separation" of cyclists from motor vehicles cited above. The Wolf Road "laboratory" concept to be discussed on Page 5 could provide a good example of how pavement reallocation can work.
4. Traffic Calming: The discussion of pavement reallocation flows into consideration of traffic calming, as many applications of traffic calming are simply aggressive reallocation efforts. While drastically narrowing streets or closing them to motor vehicle traffic are the typically cited examples of traffic calming, the comment raised in Task Force discussions was that modest traffic calming at strategic locations can remove some major barriers to safe bicycle and pedestrian travel. An example cited was on bridges: if it is not possible to widen the travel surface of the bridge to provide a wide shoulder, bike lane or sidewalk, reducing the speed limit or slightly narrowing the center-stripe-to-outside-stripe width of the travel lane should enhance cyclist safety by reducing the likelihood that a motorist will very suddenly encounter a cyclist in the travel lane.
5. Grates/Grate Strips: When installing new drain grates, the grate strips should run perpendicular to the travel lane to eliminate the possibility of a cyclist catching a tire. Existing grates can be modified easily by welding strips of steel across them; this would not be likely to have a significant effect on the ability of water to pass through the grate.
An additional note regarding storm drains was that they should be kept at the same level as the pavement around them.
6. Bike Racks on Buses/at Intermodal Facilities: A truly intermodal transportation system should recognize the fact that people might combine bike travel with bus, train or even plane travel to complete a trip. In addition to installing bike lockers and/or racks at the region's airports and train stations, we should be examining the potential for bike racks to be installed on buses and determine the key transit stops (e.g., along popular routes, at park-and-ride lots, et cetera) at which locker/rack provision would be most beneficial.
7. Travel Maps Identifying Preferable Bicycle Routes: When area residents decide to bike a little further than usual, tourists decide to ride from some local point or longer-distance cyclists enter the Capital District, a map or series of maps identifying the region's key cycling routes would enable them to "better educate their guesses" on how to travel through the area. The Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail map is a popular guide to one particular facility which is almost entirely Class 1 and thus understood to be safe; there might be a way to produce a basic map which directs cyclists to those roads with the best combinations of directness, coverage, available services and motor vehicle traffic conditions for their purposes.
8. Signage: Motor vehicle travelers get considerable guidance as to the best routes to take for their destinations; while signage need not be as prevalent for cyclists as it currently is for cars, directional signs at access points on the Bike-Hike Trail as well as signs indicating where roads take cyclists when they leave the Trail are two examples of informational signage which would particularly benefit two groups: occasional trail users who are not familiar with where it goes, and the longer-distance cyclists noted above.
Other types of signage which would be beneficial if supplied in greater number would be "Pedestrian Crossing," "Bike Route," "Share the Road" and similar signs. These signs could produce two types of benefits:
* they could raise and maintain motorist awareness of the possible presence of cyclists and/or pedestrians, as would the lane markings and stripings noted earlier; in addition,
* investing in these signs could be a form of "validation" of these modes of travel in motorists' minds; this could in turn translate to greater respect for and consideration of cyclists and pedestrians on the roadways.
9. Accident Information: The point was raised that motor vehicle/bicycle and motor vehicle/pedestrian accident information is sparse and difficult from which to draw conclusions, for two reasons: many of these accidents are not reported, and accident reports do not capture much detail about these accidents such that the hazardous elements of a location can be determined. One example of the latter would be right turns on red (RTORs). The basic problem with RTORs is that they tend to become "right turns after a rolling stop" -- the driver is watching for an adequate gap in oncoming traffic, and thus may not check thoroughly enough for pedestrians or cyclists in the path of his/her turn.
The suggestion was raised that additional information on the nature and possible cause of accidents involving cyclists or pedestrians should be collected. It was noted that this might entail modification of the standard traffic accident report form; this idea could be included in the Task Force's report, with the understanding that any change to the accident report form would probably best be lobbied for by advocacy groups -- the New Visions effort is not aimed at developing recommendations for changes to State agency procedures.
Points of Guidance
1. Bridge/Structure Concerns: There are only a few bridges carrying streets over the Hudson or Mohawk Rivers; wherever possible, these bridges should accommodate cyclist and pedestrian travel. ISTEA (Section 1033) requires that when the deck of a bridge upon which bicycle travel is permitted is replaced or rehabilitated with federal funds, the bridge should after this work is completed accommodate bicycle travel. "Accommodate" is a vague term, as simply having a cross-section which allows for bicycle travel could be considered an accommodation; the sentiment expressed in Task Force discussions was that accommodation should produce a genuine improvement in how bikeable the bridge is. This approach should similarly hold true for pedestrians, as there are few facilities which are legally usable by cyclists but not pedestrians.
"Providing for genuine improvement in bikeability/walkability" could mean structural work to widen the bridge structure or the pavement portion of the bridge deck; alternatively, it might entail traffic calming as described earlier.
This philosophy should also apply to elevated roadway structures not technically considered 'bridges' upon which cyclists and pedestrians may travel, with one example being the segment of Henry Johnson Boulevard between Central and Sheridan Avenues in Albany.
2. Target Special Sites: Early in Phase Two, the Task Force compiled a list of major destinations to serve as a reference, highlighting the need to provide access to employment and recreational sites, downtowns and more remote areas, local transit and interregional travel facilities, and so on. Discussions of the results of staff examinations of pavement conditions on the Priority Bicycle Network (see Appendix) raised the reminder that different types of destinations will require different accommodations. The example with regard to pavement condition was school areas: with greater likelihoods of students cycling on the roads, and with many of these students being regular riders but still arguably not "expert" cyclists, holding pavement conditions to a higher standard might be one way to enhance safety in these areas. Simply put, better pavement presents fewer obstacles and makes avoidance of other obstacles (cars, dogs, et cetera) easier. A few other general statements on destination types and the accommodations they warrant could be included in the Phase Two report.
3. Wolf Road as a "Laboratory" for Bicycle/Pedestrian Accommodation: It was noted that with two projects on the current TIP and the potential for reallocation of pavement to provide bike lanes, Wolf Road could be the target of an early effort at applying several of the techniques for better bicycle and pedestrian accommodation identified by the Task Force. These might include the following:
* sidewalks and/or connections of land uses along the road
* bike lanes
* separate stop lines for left-turning cyclists
* pedestrian phases at signals OR right turn on red prohibitions
Perhaps as a conceptual illustration, these tools could be presented in a basic "Wolf Road Bicycle/Pedestrian Circulation Plan" in the Phase Two report.
The Phase Two report will provide additional detail on all of these concepts, along with any other concepts the Task Force may deem worth highlighting. Ideally, it will serve both as a shopping list of desirable treatments at particular locations and as a general primer on how to enhance the bicycle- and pedestrian-friendliness of the Capital District.
Benefits of Accommodations: Ivan noted a recent Washington Post article on the desirable elements of planned communities, as indicated by the findings of a poll of a group of consumers who bought or shopped for homes in such communities. Most noteworthy about the article (attached) was the finding that the third most frequently indicated desirable amenity (after low traffic/quiet and natural, open space) was "walking and biking paths." Coupled with other studies which have found that proximity to these paths can in fact increase home values, the article is a good reminder of the positive impacts on quality of life of bicycle and pedestrian accommodations.
* CDTC to continue evaluation of Task Force recommendations and work on preparation of Phase Two report.
* Next Task Force meeting: Thursday, April 27, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center, 1653 Central Avenue (across from Lake Electronics). Meeting to concentrate on continued discussion of evaluation findings, plus some discussion of any additional items (along lines of those in "Additional Items" section, pp. 2-5) the Task Force wishes to include in Phase Two report.
STAFF TECHNICAL WORK
Note: by necessity, some technical background was provided at the meeting (and appears here as well) to illustrate how the numbers presented were derived; in the Phase Two reports, however, while there will be more of this background, it will be relegated to the appropriate supporting documents or technical appendices, and the basic "pitch" presented in the main report will be more concise.
The basic findings of technical work to date are shown here in large text and boxes; narrative explaining methodologies or providing interpretation are not boxed.
Current Cycling/Walking Conditions: The Priority Bicycle Network was used as the basis for "in the field" evaluations of current provisions for cyclists.
Currently Acceptable Facilities
It is recognized that there are some problems with these measures which still need to be resolved. For example, the "Group A-adequate" evaluation still needs to determine how many of these miles are continuous; there are cases where a road may be adequate for a mile, but inadequate for some length between that adequate section and another adequate network facility. As for pedestrian adequacy, the shoulder allowance would suggest that Route 9 in Halfmoon and Clifton Park, with 55+ MPH speeds, is adequate for pedestrian travel. Efforts to refine these evaluations are underway, as are evaluations of the non-state mileage.
One of the five overriding considerations of the New Visions effort is social equity. The way in which the transportation system functions can have a profound effect on opportunities for basic mobility. While enhancing the bicycle and pedestrian travel environments could have an effect on trip mode decisions for people who have a choice in the matter (in particular, those who own cars), the true social benefit of these enhancements will come in making it easier for those people who cannot drive and must walk, bike, use transit, or employ some combination of these modes to get around.
"Accessibility" is a measure of the competitiveness of cycling or walking with driving. In essence, it considers the question of whether, on travel time and comfort bases, cycling and walking are viable alternatives to driving. To get a measure of accessibility, the CDTC staff developed a procedure for using its regional traffic model to compare the travel times associated with motor vehicle use, cycling and walking. (As will be discussed in the section on benefits, the procedure assumes that the comfort and general desirability of cycling or walking can be reflected in average speed.)
Using the afternoon rush hour as the basis and trip length limits of 2 miles for pedestrians and 5 miles for cyclists, the procedure assumes that a trip is bikeable or walkable within 20 minutes of the time a car trip would take. As CDTC evaluations have found that average motor vehicle speeds increase as trips get longer (because there is a greater likelihood that longer trips will use higher-speed arterials and highways), this logic (coupled with the two- and five-mile caps) limits "accessible" trips to those which are realistically walkable or bikeable for the average person.
Looking at the year 2015 -- the New Visions effort's horizon year -- the accessibility findings are as follow:
The 1990 numbers are a little lower than these -- 12,500 for walking and 88,000 for cycling. The 1990 Census found that in the Capital District, about 19,000 people walk to work, and 700 bike. Thus, we can argue the following:
Priority Network Costs, Benefits:
CDTC staff calculated the estimated cost, section-by-section, of upgrading Priority Bicycle Network roadways to FHWA Group A pavement widths. The totals were as follow:
It was noted at the Task Force meeting, however, that developing the Priority Network might not "cost" this much as far as taking funds away from other items would be concerned. The Infrastructure Task Force has been examining the idea of improving all roads to AASHTO1 design standards when they are ready to be rehabilitated, with the rationale being that this would extend facility life and enhance safety. In a large number of cases, upgrades to AASHTO standards would also result in FHWA Group A cross sections. Thus, one way to look at the dollar amounts involved would be to consider only the cost of developing the Priority Network on those facilities for which the AASHTO guidelines would not result in Group A-width pavement. This issue will be explored further as Phase Two winds down and as the various Task Forces' recommendations are considered together during Phase Three.
To estimate bicycle accessibility benefits, the bicycle/pedestrian travel model was run with speeds on Priority Network roads increased from 10 MPH to 13 MPH. This was based on three assumptions:
1. A roadway on which cyclists enjoy adequate separation from motor vehicles allows for more maneuvering room to avoid obstacles, increasing average speed.
2. Average speed is a fair proxy for the "attractiveness" of a roadway, and can be used to reflect the increased likelihood that someone will choose to use it if the proper accommodations were in place.
3. 10 MPH is a reasonable, leisurely cycling pace; a 30 percent increase in simulated speeds to reflect improved safety and comfort still does not result in a difficult pace.
A similar exercise was undertaken for pedestrian travel, assuming that the greater physical separation provided for by the Priority Bicycle Network would enhance pedestrian comfort and willingness to walk as well. To model this effect, pedestrian speeds on Network roads were increased from 2 to 3 MPH.
Enhancing pedestrian access would also require consideration of intersection treatments and other "non-linear" issues; the means and costs of these additional treatments are still being evaluated.
Potential Use and Aggregate Benefits
The main problem in getting bicycle/pedestrian projects funded has historically been that they were not expected to get many travelers to change from cycling to walking, and thus in turn that they would not generate the magnitudes of benefits that car-oriented projects tend to. CDTC's analyses of the potential use of the Priority Network and the resulting aggregate or "societal" benefits offers a counterargument: with growing congestion, which first and foremost will result in the lowest average speeds for the shortest trips (which are the best candidates for conversion to cycling or walking), getting a relatively small number of drivers to shift from driving for these short lengths to cycling or walking both (a)is not an unreasonable expectation and (b)could produce significant aggregate benefits in terms of the value of travel time saved and pollution reductions.
Preliminary findings for selected levels of traveler response to opportunities presented by the Priority Network are as follow:
NOTES: Shifts to cycling produce greater benefit because on average, they remove longer motor vehicle trips than do shifts to walking.
"Justified Investment" is based on a standard employed by NYSDOT and CDTC in determining whether a project would provide for a given minimum amount of benefit per million dollars of project cost. It is calculated here as $1 million of total project cost for every 25 "excess vehicle hours of delay" the project would remove.
Recognizing that Capital District weather and the need to run errands from time to time could keep many shifts to cycling or walking from being in effect five days a week, factoring these numbers by 40 percent (to reflect cycling or walking two days a week) would illustrate the benefits of encouraging even intermittent use of cycling or walking: factoring the first entries on each table, there would still be annual savings of over $12 million attendant to shifting to cycling, and over $6 million annually for shifting to walking. The respective "justified investments per year" levels would be estimated at $1 million and $0.6 million.
As noted earlier, the Priority Network could help facilitate these shifts by enhancing accessibility for several thousand trips; it is important to note that any other action which would encourage these levels of response would be expected to produce comparable benefits. Thus, there should be continued exploration of ways to encourage greater cycling and walking, for the previous two tables illustrate the potential gains to be realized in doing so.
Potential Effects of Prohibiting Right Turns on Red (RTORs): In the section on accident information, it was noted how RTORs tend to become rolling stops, introducing hazards for cyclists and pedestrians. One idea discussed by the Task Force in past meetings has been the restriction of rights on red at intersections where this is a problem. CDTC staff evaluated the potential effects of RTOR prohibition at a number of locations where they are (a)presently permitted and (b)occurring in significant numbers. The findings were that in general, this restriction would not have significant effects on average delays either for the intersection as a whole (with any signal timing changes necessary to accommodate the right turners) or for the right-turning vehicles which would now have to wait for a green light:
While these estimates suggest that RTOR prohibition imposes a very small delay cost in exchange for increased cyclist and pedestrian safety, the problem noted in reviewing CDTC's inventory of 400 signalized intersections was that there are not very many signalized intersections at which (a)there are significant pedestrian traffic and (b)right turns on red are permitted. (One example found was Madison Avenue/Eagle Street in Albany; right turns are permitted on the Madison Avenue approaches.) The remaining question is thus as follows:
Pavement Condition on the Priority Network: In past discussions, it has been noted that adequate pavement or shoulder width alone is not sufficient to make a road "acceptable" for bicycles. In addition to being free of debris, pavement needs to be free of buckling, major cracks, chipping or loose chunks to be reasonably safe for bicycle travel on tires generally 2" wide or less. Conventional roadway condition scoring would rate "good" (a score of 7 or 8 on a 1-10 scale, with 10 being new pavement) or "fair" (score of 6) pavement which would present a number of these obstacles. A further problem lies in the tendency of the structural design of roadways to result in deterioration first at the outer edges of the pavement, where cyclists will tend to ride. Thus, in addition to pavement width, it is important to determine pavement condition to get a better sense of how much of our street system is truly "accessible" to cyclists.
CDTC staff evaluated the condition of pavements on the Priority Bicycle Network, based on fieldwork by NYSDOT and CDTC staff using NYSDOT's Pavement Condition Rating Manual. By lane-mile, the totals were as follow:
A condition score of 8 is perhaps the minimum at which a pavement would be consistently comfortable for the average cyclist. The table indicates that about 70 percent of the Priority Network is presently below this level. The question of whether to propose a minimum pavement condition standard -- e.g., 7 as "acceptable," 8 as "desirable" -- was raised, with the note that it would cost an estimated $19 million to bring all of the network at least up to "acceptable." (Generally, roads deteriorate to a score of about 4 before they are rehabilitated; this proposal accelerates the schedule considerably.) The Task Force decided instead to emphasize the "adequate width" concerns as first priority. There is a reasonable logic to this decision, as noted earlier: adequate physical separation from motor vehicles does provide cyclists with room to maneuver around obstacles; it is better to first ensure the availability of this maneuvering room. As noted in the section on targeting special sites, the group did, however, suggest that roads near schools were an example of where higher pavement condition standards might be particularly beneficial from a safety standpoint.
TO: Members of the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force
Other Interested Parties
FROM: Steve Allocco
DATE: March 9, 1995
RE: February 22 Meeting Summary; Details on Next Meeting
Enclosed please find a summary of the February 22 meeting. Apologies for the delay in getting it to you, but as those in attendance seemed to find the results of recent staff bike/ped technical studies interesting, I decided to include a fair amount of this material as an appendix. Thus, if you're not interested in getting a number fix, simply disregard the appendix; once reading the appendix, you can avoid the background narrative by only reading the larger text in the boxes.
The next meeting of the Task Force will be held on Thursday, April 27, 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 continue discussing the results of staff evaluations of the Task Force's recommendations; also, given the considerable response to the opportunity provided for "general idea" brainstorming at the February 22 meeting, we can continue this exercise to ensure that Phase Two report is as comprehensive a discussion of your ideas as possible. In the meantime, please feel free to call, fax or write if any questions or comments come up.
1American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials