Bicycle and pedestrian issues task force




DATE, TIME, LOCATION:  May 26, 1998, 4:00 - 5:40 PM, CDTC offices


PRESENT:  Don Odell (Albany County Economic Development, Conservation and Planning), Jeff Olson (NYSDOT Statewide Bicycle/Pedestrian Program), Don Robertson (NYSDOT – Region 1), Paul Russell (Town of Colonie Conservation Advisory Council), Michael Urban (NYS Department of Environmental Conservation), Ivan Vamos (NYBC), Steve Allocco (CDTC)


ISSUES:  Regional Bike/Hike Map; TEA-21 (new highway/mass transit bill); Advisory Committee goals and functions.




Note: CDTC staff comments or followups to items discussed at the meeting are presented in italics.


Regional Bike/Hike Map


Don Odell, Steve Feeney (Schenectady County Planning) and Steve Allocco have been periodically discussing the idea of producing a "next generation" version of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail map; the map is something of a hot item, with roughly 33000 of the 35000 copies printed in 1993 having been distributed.


There was consensus among those in attendance that any next generation map should shift the focus from the single trail to the Capital District and its various offerings.  The quasi-brainstorming exercise in this discussion yielded several ideas for features to include, including the following:


·       Beyond Class 1 bike facilities (separate trails), include bike lanes (Class 2 facilities), signed bike routes without any other accommodation (Class 3) and possibly some set of "more bikeable" streets

·       Inclusion of parks with bikeable paths or trails and other major bikeable locations, showing them as labeled points rather than linear facilities (e.g., a dot or symbol with the label "XYZ Nature Trail" next to it); the appearances of the locator points could vary based on whether or not the location has bike trails or other bikeable areas, e.g., 5

·       Inclusion of some historical information about the Capital District

·       Dot-, symbol- or flag-based location of bike shops, comfort stations, historic sites, picnic areas, nature sites

·       Inclusion of emergency phone numbers

·       Possible private sector sponsorship of the map, on either a "related activity" (e.g., bike shops) or a "title sponsor" (e.g., "Freihofer's Run for Women") basis.  If the former, could frame map with ads; if the latter, consider using dots/flags to locate all of the sponsor's area locations.


A couple of notes on this approach are in order:  if private sponsorship is pursued, the main roles for CDTC staff would likely come in providing a setting for meetings to develop the map and in some technical support, the latter e.g., getting information together to include in the map.  Also, it would be easier to include bike shops and other businesses in a sponsored rather than publicly funded map.


·       Alternatively, funding development of the map through some state or federal program, with one example noted in the discussion being a Governor's Traffic Safety Committee program (applications for the current round of which are due on July 7) which supports development of safety brochures.  It was theorized that inclusion of some safety information (e.g., as one side of the map) could make a map project eligible.


The time frame for the GTSC program is not compatible with current CDTC staff activities, thus CDTC will not be pursuing funding via this route.


Based on CDTC staff discussions, there is a good chance that development of a regional bike/hike map can be progressed in the course of CDTC's bicycle/pedestrian (B/P) planning activities in the current program year.  Time (i.e., staff availability) rather than funding is the real issue with regard to CDTC involvement in such an effort; simply put, the more effort required of CDTC to "make the map happen," the longer it will take to develop.  The initial expectation is that were this to be pursued as a CDTC effort, CDTC staff would facilitate the map development effort (in the same way it did for the two editions of the Mohawk-Hudson map) and do some of the necessary fieldwork.


The first step in the map development process will be for the Task Force to reach closure on what elements or features the map should include.  This done, it will then be possible to structure the effort, particularly with regard to delegation of responsibilities ( for data collection) and establishing a timetable for getting the map set to print.


CDTC recently received a copy of the Greater Rochester Area Bike Map, which could serve as a model for the Capital District Bike/Hike Map.  The Rochester map starts from a full-size road map of the sort one might buy or get from AAA, with blowups of downtowns and other areas of particular interest, but also features a set of streets color-coded based on "bikeability" (a function of pavement width, traffic volume, and other factors, validated through  field assessments by volunteers).  CDTC has been exploring ideas for bikeability index-type representations; the Rochester map gives a sense of how this information could be presented.  CDTC will secure a few additional copies of the map for the Task Force to examine at its next meeting.


Don Odell's discussion of the Cape Cod map raised another point which the Task Force might do well to bear in mind:  while the map he purchased had bike routes shown, not all maps for an area do; if the aim is to promote both cycling/walking and a particular guide like a regional bike map, other maps (e.g., Chamber of Commerce- or Tourism Department-prepared maps) should either include B/P-related information or at least refer to maps such as the conceptual regional B/P map which do contain this information.  Without such a relationship, potential bike tourists might be calling a tourism agency which, if it knows nothing about the bike map or area bike routes based on its own information, could fail to provide these people with a reason to come to the area.  This is not a trivial point; Steve Feeney is currently refining a draft report on the Mohawk-Hudson Trail which includes the estimate (based on user counts and surveys) that the Trail sees about 4,600 bicycle tourists per year.


Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21)


The new highway and transit bill, known as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), was signed into law on June 9.  (At the time of the Task Force meeting, the bill had been passed by both houses of Congress, and awaited signature.)  The Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals prepared a summary of the highlights of TEA-21's bicycle and pedestrian-related provisions, which Jeff Olson handed out at the meeting.  The highlights included the following:


·       Increased funding for the transportation enhancements program.  Elements of note in the program include:

Ø      B/P safety and education projects are now eligible

Ø      the 20 percent match requirement is now a requirement at the state level rather than the project level (that is, individual projects may now have local matches of less than 20 percent provided enhancement projects in New York State in total have a total local match of 20 percent or more)

·       Pedestrian projects are now explicitly eligible for funding using National Highway System (NHS) funds -- in ISTEA, only bicycle-related projects had this explicit mention

·       The Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program (known as CMAQ) will see a 50 percent increase in funding over 1997 levels (compared to the full range of transportation projects, bicycle and pedestrian projects have relatively few classes of competitors for CMAQ funds)

·       Symms Act (National Recreational Trails Act) funds will continue, beginning at $30 million and increasing to $50 million over the duration of TEA-21

·       Hazard Elimination Program funds may now be used for mitigation of bicycle- and pedestrian-related hazards

·       A new transit enhancement program was established, and among the eligible project types are projects which would improve bicycle and pedestrian access to transit.  This program requires only a five percent local match.


CDTC has received some early reviews of TEA-21 from USDOT and the national Association of Metropolitan Organizations (AMPO) and via its subscriptions to several transportation-related newsletters and fax services (such as the Washington Letter on Transportation and the Tri-State Transportation Campaign's Mobilizing the Region newsletter).  Much additional information is expected to come to CDTC in the near future; staff will pass along to or summarize for the Task Force (and Advisory Committee) such information, as it could serve to "educate" efforts to enhance the bicycle and pedestrian travel environments over the duration of TEA-21.


The group saw TEA-21 as something upon which to capitalize -- a strong argument can be made that its provisions present substantial opportunities to carry out the plans for "leveling the playing field" set forth in the Task Force's report to the New Visions effort and in the New Visions plan itself.  (Bear in mind that the New Visions plan adopted the major elements of the Task Force report by reference, with the intention being to carry out its goals over the next 20 years.)  Ways the group identified for this "capitalizing" included the following:


·       Accelerating the pace at which the New Visions goals are pursued


(The key issue here will probably be -- as it always is -- getting the "owners of the roads" (i.e., municipalities, NYSDOT, OGS, Thruway Authority) to propose projects furthering the goals of the regional plan which they adopted.  Bicycle and pedestrian accommodations arguably have a leg up on projects in other areas in this regard, for the old Enhancement Program and the 1997-2002 Transportation Improvement Program update saw very strong responses to funding opportunities -- particularly at the municipal level, there is no shortage of interest in pursuing these types of projects.)


·       Somehow getting CDTC to play a greater role in project development, so as to ensure bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly design as a matter of routine


(Here, of course, the issue is how to do this without "burning bridges."  CDTC has made some inroads in this area, such that it is now almost routine for CDTC staff to have the opportunity to provide input to project scoping; the key is to not be heavy-handed (or for any other reason becoming resented by project designers) in getting the message across on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation.  As it was put in the meeting, the idea is to ensure that "direction from the provider of the funds" is given; what will have to be kept in mind is that the Committees -- Planning and Policy -- are the providers of the funds, while the Central Staff is there to provide support to these Committees (and the municipalities and agencies of the Capital District)  rather than to be their "enforcers.")


·       NYSDOT is considering the idea of holding a series of three "what TEA-21 means for bicycle and pedestrian transportation" meetings around the state, with one possible location being the SUNY/Albany campus.  It was asked whether CDTC would consider co-sponsoring such a local presentation.  Internal staff discussions reached the determination that this is something CDTC can do.


Advisory Committee Goals/Functions/Makeup


As noted in the previous section, TEA-21 presents the opportunity to continue the progress made in recent years via ISTEA and the New Visions effort.  The upcoming transition of the Task Force to Advisory Committee (AC) status (which will be specified in the next CDTC Prospectus -- the "operating manual" for the MPO -- expected to be ready by December) will introduce a mechanism in the CDTC process for providing input specific to bicycle and pedestrian matters.  (Bicycle and Pedestrian is one of two Task Forces which will be transitioned to AC status, Goods Movement being the other.)


The group was asked for its ideas on how the AC could have an appropriate impact in the CDTC process, recognizing that the group will indeed be advisory, and thus a source of guidance and insight rather than of direction and decisions.  A few ideas were raised, including the following:


·       It was suggested that within a certain period of time after its establishment (say, one year), the AC should make a short presentation or speech to the CDTC Policy Committee, with the general aim being to remind the Committee of the new law, regional B/P priorities, and the connections between the two.  The intention would be to get commitments from those around the Policy Committee table to bicycle and pedestrian travel, in the hope that these commitments would ensure project implementors' proper inclusion of bicycle and pedestrian elements in projects.


In CDTC's structure, the AC will be advisory to the Planning Committee.  Policy Committee meetings include time allotments for public comment (as do Planning Committee meetings); members of the AC would certainly be welcome to make statements to the Policy Committee during these opportunities.  But the primary influence of the AC would come in providing a level of detail on B/P issues for Planning Committee use that the Planning Committee cannot generate by itself.


·       Somehow, it would be desirable for the AC to be a source of citizen review or input on individual projects.  This could be either through the CDTC staff B/P liaison providing material to the AC and distilling responses to a short "sense of the Committee" writeup, or via the creation of a set of subcommittees (having one for each county was one suggested approach) to conduct these reviews for projects within their areas. 


CDTC staff discussions of the subcommittee idea raised the notes that it could raise such issues as stratification (e.g., "within a county, do we need urban/suburban/rural reps?"), coverage (e.g., "each city/larger town/village…") and "creation of a bureaucracy."  It was also noted that periodically, circumstances will trigger the emergence of ad-hoc issue-specific subcommittees.  The Task Force will need to further discuss the issue of structure (note the discussion of AC makeup on the next page). 


·       CDTC staff have also pulled together some ideas for Advisory Committee functions/duties, including the following:


Ø      Possible Committee Functions:

v     provide concise reports to the Planning Committee on problems in the bicycle/pedestrian travel environments

v     draft B/P planning products for Planning Committee review/approval

v     provide feedback on project proposals for Enhancement Program, Spot Improvement Program

v     carry out special projects (studies, public meetings) or prepare discussions of specific topics as requested by Planning Committee

Ø      Possible Meeting Goals:

v     Routine Meetings:

¨      prepare status reports on bicycle and pedestrian travel environments

¨      identify  opportunities for improvement

¨      prepare reports on  conferences, success stories elsewhere for Planning Committee information

v     "Special Topic" Meetings:

¨      develop specific deliverables (e.g., regional bike/ped plan, bike/ped travel studies) for Planning Committee review

Ø      Meeting Products:

v     Routine products would include memos to the Planning Committee, with these memos including discussions of problems noted, opportunities for B/P accommodation and any recommendations.

v     Special products would be draft plans, maps or reports.


·       The issue of Advisory Committee makeup was also discussed.  While the basic intent is for the Task Force to evolve into the AC, from among the 30 people on the Task Force mailing list there are only a small number of "regulars" (~6) at the Task Force meetings.  While few people get involved with efforts such as working groups because they like spending time in meetings -- their hopes are to actually get something to happen out in the field -- membership on an AC would arguably carry with it some greater level of responsibility to participate rather than simply to be on the mailing list.  This factor should be considered by Task Force members (1)deciding whether to ask that they be included on the AC roster and/or (2)considering recommendation of other stakeholder groups for inclusion.


As was the intent of inviting whom we did to participate in the New Visions task forces, we want to make a diligent effort to ensure that appropriate stakeholder groups are represented on the AC.  The aim will be to have good stakeholder "coverage" but with an AC size still allowing for effective meetings -- say, no more than 12-15 people. 


Mechanically, the approach to developing the AC roster will probably be to have current TF members self-nominate if they would like to serve, suggest other people to include and "pass the word" to possibly interested parties.  CDTC can take care of any formal invitations to possible "new players."  If any decisions need to be made on exclusions, CDTC staff will advise the Task Force of such conditions and solicit their feedback.  This topic will be discussed further at future Task Force meetings.


Other Stray Notes


Routine Incorporation of Bicycle and Pedestrian Elements in Projects


Partially as an outgrowth of the TEA-21 and Advisory Committee discussions and partially because of "current events" discussions of upcoming projects, the group spent some time on what still seems to be a problem of "corporate culture" when it comes to addressing bicycle and pedestrian needs via elements of non-B/P specific projects (e.g., road reconstructions).  A couple of specific examples were cited.


·       Wolf Road:  Scoping for this rehabilitation project is to begin shortly.  The project will include sidewalks, as it was decided in the CDTC process to include this element after the Town of Colonie proposed and got the sidewalk project onto the Transportation Improvement Program (TIP).  As for bicycles, concerns have been raised with regard to "whether and how" to accommodate cyclists.  The fact of the matter is that there are people who ride along Wolf Road now, and thus there is arguably the obligation to properly accommodate them; a counterargument is that it might not however be desirable to encourage others to ride along this road (the example raised at the meeting being "the eight year-old who lives nearby").  In addition, it was suggested that some bypass or other alternate route (e.g., along a "Maxwell Road Extension" or through rear lots of Wolf Road businesses and offices) could provide a safer alternative; however, such options must be considered against the backdrop of a project budgeted as a rehabilitation, not a full-scale corridor redevelopment.  These considerations illustrate why input to the scoping process and other public and professional comment will be needed to ensure that the outcome of this project with regard to bicycle accommodation does not end up like it was for another project:  the Route 7 project in Colonie and Niskayuna.


·       Route 7:  This road gets a considerable number of bicycle commuters, but the widening project of a few years back did not provide it with a pavement allocation including bike lanes.  At the time, there was some "back and forth" on the subject of a two-foot wide "offset" (basically, a stripe two feet from the curb) versus a 14'-wide curb lane, with the wide curb lane eventually winning out.  One of the issues at the time was the distinction between observed demand (people actually out there cycling on the road) and latent demand (those who would with some greater accommodation in place -- recall Don Odell's "cyclists are not stupid -- if there is not a safe place for them to ride, they won't do so" remark).  Latent demand was apparently not a consideration when this project was in design; there is some evidence to suggest that it is at least something of a consideration now.


New York Bicycling Coalition (NYBC) "Good Design" Award Program


Ivan Vamos reported that throughout the year, NYBC will be making "local achievement awards" to municipalities and transit providers for exemplary projects which enhance bicycle-friendliness.  The NYBC newsletter asks that people wishing to make nominations send to NYBC (43 Fuller Road, Albany 12205) letters including project descriptions, the name(s) of the responsible agency(ies), and any supporting letters.


Colonie B/P Planning


Paul Russell reported that one of the issues which the Colonie Conservation Advisory Council (CAC) is working on is that of how to promote alternative modes of transportation, i.e., cycling and walking.  Steve Allocco met with the CAC to discuss some of what can be done in this area, with the possibilities including presentation of the USDOT Pedestrian Safety Road Show as a way of helping the Town develop an action plan for enhancing the walking environment.  Also on the subject of promoting cycling and walking but in another sense, on June 20 the Town planned to have tables with informational material on cycling and walking at its stop along the "New York State Canals Cruise and Trail Trek," which was to be on its final leg (Schenectady to Waterford) on that day.




1.      Steve Allocco checking around on matters of B/P advisory committee content/missions and bike/hike map contents.

2.      Don Odell contacting Jimapco and the private firm which prepared Cape Cod map featuring bike routes to investigate the prospects of working with these firms to develop the map.

3.      Mailing list members to consider whether they wish to serve on the Advisory Committee and whom else they think should be on it.

4.      Mailing list members to also get ideas together on what they see as desirable features for a "next generation" bike/hike map, this one having a regional rather than single facility orientation.

5.      An announcement of a next meeting will come out in the next few weeks.  It will likely be on a Friday afternoon at the CDTC offices (see cover memo).