RECORD OF MEETING
BICYCLE AND PEDESTRIAN ISSUES TASK FORCE
DATE/TIME/PLACE: Tuesday, May 17, 1994, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center
IN ATTENDANCE: Brad Birge (CDRPC), Helene Brecker (Saratoga County Heritage Trail Committee), Emily H. Goodman (private citizen), Jerry Mueller (Green City Transportation Council), Katrina Neugebauer (Troy Architectural Program), Don Odell (Albany County Planning Department), Don Robertson (NYSDOT - Region 1), Bert Schou (CDTA), Russell Ziemba (Rensselaer County Environmental Action), Steve Allocco (CDTC)
Note: All meeting handouts referred to in this report are attached for members who did not attend the meeting.
Design Guidelines: The design guidelines subcommittee has prepared a nuts-and-bolts listing of ways to make communities more bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly. Brad Birge distributed this listing for review; Task Force members are invited to get back to Brad with comments or suggestions on the document by Friday, June 3 (voice 393-1715; fax 393-6081). Meeting participants commented favorably on the format and content of the listing, which through its "in order of increasing cost" structure drives home the message that better accommodation of cyclists and pedestrians does not necessarily mean spending major amounts of money.
Subsequent to the meeting, CDTC staff explored the prospects for sending this document out in the near future as an "FYI" item to local municipalities and other interested parties. It appears that this is possible if the document first gets Planning Committee approval. It was proposed that the Task Force plan on approving the document at its June meeting; arrangements can be made to present the document to the Planning Committee for consideration afterward.
Deferral of More Specific Design Guidelines: Given continued delays in completion of the Highway Design Manual update, and the extension of the Phase Two timetable, spending any great amount of time on developing recommended roadway/off-road treatments at this point could prove to be a waste of time other than as an intellectual exercise. Thus, this work will be deferred to after September.
Additional Recommendations: Discussions raised the possibility of offering a few additional recommendations beyond the four main products (desirable bicycle/pedestrian treatments, pilot project(s), maintenance practices and designated bicycle network) the group was charged with developing after the first conference. For example, there was some discussion of the idea of a regional clearinghouse/point person to address the bicycle- and pedestrian-related elements of all major capital highway projects and site developments in the region. (As this would likely amount to a full-time job by itself, the implication is for creation of such a position rather than adding it to someone's current duties.) Along this line, members interested in setting forth recommendations going beyond the Task Force's "product mandate" are encouraged to develop these ideas and prepare concise summaries of them for consideration by other members. CDTC staff will look into the possible avenues through which the Task Force could introduce these recommendations.
Core Performance Measures: The draft core performance measures document distributed previously was revisited. As noted during the discussion, the purpose of having these core measures is to provide a fair basis for understanding the merits of projects which would produce different types of benefits.
Performance measures will not "make or break" projects at the New Visions conferences or in Planning Committee discussions -- rather, they will be for informational purposes. For example, when an HOV project is compared to a bike project or a transit project, the measures will indicate how the projects would provide benefits in different areas (e.g., emissions reductions or single-occupant vehicles removed from the highway system) without setting "minimums" such as "if the project would not save X vehicle hours of delay per year, it drops from contention".
The most important use of the performance measures could be within Task Force discussions, where Task Forces may make use of the performance measures as internal checks to see how the projects they are considering match up to their own objectives. For example, the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force might use the performance measures to compare competing pilot project candidates to determine which ones are most worth advancing through the New Visions process.
The group discussed a few possible additions to the core measures list. Safety and environmental impacts were the main areas of discussion. It was decided that members would take some time on their own to think about possible additions to the list and pass these on to CDTC for distribution prior to the next meeting; Friday, June 3 will be the deadline for these submissions. The group should plan on approving any additional measures at the June meeting, for as the designated bicycle network and pilot projects are approved during the summer, these measures will be needed to produce some objective measures of benefits.
Designated Bicycle Network: Discussion of the designated bicycle network concept began. As noted, there are two main reasons to identify a network of this sort:
1. This sort of priority treatment network (the term being used across Task Forces in the New Visions effort) will influence strategies for infrastructure maintenance and renewal. For example, cyclists tend to be more sensitive to the physical conditions of road surfaces than cars are. Thus, being a "priority treatment" facility could translate to a policy that a road be swept more frequently than non-priority roads, or that it not be allowed to deteriorate as greatly as non-priority roads before being rehabilitated.
2. Going beyond rehabilitation (reconstruction of a roadway based on physical deterioration), a policy could be developed to advance Transportation Improvement Program (TIP) projects to reconstruct priority facilities to FHWA Group A cyclist design guidelines even before true rehabilitation needs set in. There could conceivably be one or more projects added during each TIP update which would consist solely of shoulder widenings or bike lane development.
Copies of CDTC's 1976 Regional Bicycle Transportation Plan system map were distributed. This plan, developed through extensive public participation and considerable staff time (in an era when there was funding for such activity), identifies a network of arterial, collector and touring facilities which could if properly improved accommodate both transportation and recreational bicycle travel. It was suggested that the 1976 map, while dated, could provide a good starting point for the group's identification of a priority network. The group examined the maps and determined that looking at a "clean slate" rather than starting from the 1976 map might prevent any biasing of how they consider bicycle travel needs and possible priority routes. It was decided that at the June meeting, the group would start from unmarked maps and develop a priority network. Plots indicating peak hour traffic volumes and major activity centers (particularly employment centers, schools, shopping and recreational areas) will be provided for reference during this exercise.
Don Odell, Jeff Olson and Maggie Vinciguerra represented the Bicycle/Pedestrian Task Force at a meeting with CP Rail and Conrail officials at CDTC on May 18. Also representing the bicycle/pedestrian community was Ivan Vamos, who is the consultant for the Greenway Conservancy for the Hudson River Valley. The purpose of the meeting was to establish a dialogue between the railroads and bicycle/pedestrian advocates regarding possible rail-to-trail conversions or the sharing of railroad rights-of-way for both railroad and trail uses. A summary of this meeting will be sent out when available; in the meantime, the key points for the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force to bear in mind from this meeting are the following:
1. Contrary to what may be the popular perception, the railroad industry has "turned the corner" from the depths of the recession; some rail companies are even exploring the potential to restore some long-inactive trackage to use. As such it should not be expected that there are or will be great amounts of abandoned right of way (ROW) available for conversion to trails in the Capital District. In short, "what is out there now" is the network, and the Task Force should not count on other abandonments in developing its pilot projects or a designated bicycle network.
2. Furthering the point raised above with regard to conversion, lines which were historically abandoned (particularly in the 1970s, as Conrail was formed) were minor lines carrying very small amounts of traffic. In the Capital District, most rail lines are either mainlines or critical connections, such that even if the rail industry was in a period of scaling back, there probably would not be many local candidates for abandonment.
3. Conrail's policy on shared use of ROWs was representative of that of the industry: shared use (e.g., a rail line and a bicycle/pedestrian trail both within the ROW) is not permitted along active lines. Liability is a major concern in the industry; CP Rail posts its property and prosecutes trespassers (typically cross-country skiers, snowmobilers) caught on its lines.
4. An example was provided of an approach which has been used elsewhere to get around the "shared ROW" issue: where the ROW is unusually wide, there are no foreseeable track additions within the ROW and the railroad's ROW width could be reduced and still allow for adequate separation of activities, splitting the ROW (e.g., by selling off part of it to a state, locality or other group) has made land available for trail use. This facilitates trail development while relieving the railroad of liability and tax concerns. This approach to trail development would be considered on a case-by-case basis.
UPDATE ON PHASE TWO TIMETABLE
With a number of Task Forces looking at extended work efforts and/or the need to coordinate their work with non-New Visions activities (for example, the Expressway Management Task Force's development of a strategic plan for an Intelligent Vehicle-Highway System (IVHS) for the Capital District has to dovetail with NYSDOT's effort at developing similar plans across the State), the next conference has been moved back to May of 1995. As noted on Page 1, this will allow the Bicycle and Pedestrian Issues Task Force to revisit the issue of design guidelines later this year. For the moment, it is proposed that the group still try to adhere to the revised Work Program distributed in the March 24 mailing, save for "sliding" the timetable one month such that the May activities be pursued in June, the June in July, and so forth.
* CDTC to prepare copies of 1994-99 TIP project listings by county for next meeting. Task Force members will be able to examine these listings to get a better understanding of how bicycle and pedestrian accommodations can be included in capital projects which have already been placed on the TIP. Note: in total, a couple of sets of these listings will be brought to the next meeting.
* CDTC to prepare suitable "blank" maps for Task Force to use in identifying Designated Bicycle Network facilities. Plots of PM peak hour traffic volumes will also be prepared to help members identify suitable lower-volume facilities to designated as "preferable alternatives" to busy, high-speed arterials.
* Task Force members to review draft document, "Making Your Community More Bicycle- and Pedestrian-Friendly," and get comments/suggestions to Brad Birge (v:393-1715; fx:393-6081) by Friday, June 3.
* Task Force members to review "Core Performance Measures" document and get comments/suggestions to CDTC (v:458-2161; fx:459-2155) by Friday, June 3. CDTC will send out list with any additions for member consideration, along with "Bicycle/Pedestrian-Friendly" document by June 10.
Any suggestions for additional measures should be measurable at the regional level, e.g., "centerline miles of roadway meeting FHWA Group A design standards in the Capital District." "Specific location" measures, such as "safe walking distance from office building X to bus stop Y," would be difficult to apply in this sort of exercise, and would probably require a lot of "judgment calls" not just with regard to bicycle/pedestrian accommodations, but in various other fields.
Measures should be quantifiable rather than simple yes/no items. The idea is to give some indication of the magnitude of benefits attendant to a project, rather than simply indicating that they make bicycle/foot travel easier.
* Next Task Force meeting: Thursday, June 23, 5:30 - 7:30 PM, Colonie Community Center, 1653 Central Avenue (across from Lake Electronics). Room assignment to be announced in future mailing.
Meeting agenda to include:
* Approval of content of "Making Your Community More Bicycle- and Pedestrian-Friendly"
* Approval of Core Performance Measures document (with any additions)
* Begin development of Designated Bicycle Network