Earlier this month, a volunteer with the Albany Bicycle Coalition stood on the point at Madison and Western avenues, clipboard in hand. He was counting the number of bicyclists using the road during high-traffic times for the Albany Bicycle Coalition. The volunteer also observed, disapprovingly, the number of cyclists using the sidewalk instead of the road, which can be a hazard to pedestrians.
If you’ve ever biked along Madison Avenue, you can understand why cyclists prefer weaving around pedestrians instead of riding with traffic. Madison Avenue is already known for its high number of traffic accidents, a condition that is being addressed by proposed traffic calming measures, or a “road diet,” that possibly would reduce the lanes from two to one, with a center turning lane. The Albany Bicycle Coalition and an affiliated group, Put Albany on the Protected Bike Lane Map, are advocating for the inclusion of a protected bicycle lane that would make it safe for cyclists to utilize Madison Avenue.
The busy corridor is considered an ideal starting point for such a lane because of its surrounding mix of residential and commercial sections, including Washington Park, the College of Saint Rose, the Madison Theater, Price Chopper, and many stores and eateries. The avenue also provides a direct ride from downtown to uptown while connecting to eight bus routes.
A protected bike lane by definition is a lane that is protected from traffic by a physical barrier such as short posts, curbs, or parked cars, eliminating the need for cyclists to hop on the sidewalk for safety and making cycling for transportation more appealing to a wider spectrum of riders.
According to a presentation drafted by the Albany Bicycle Coalition, removing two lanes for cars on Madison would create a three-lane configuration that would retain space for parked cars—the barrier. These travel lanes would occupy the current road width, with bike lanes of 4.5-feet-wide and a 3-foot painted buffer. One of the many advantages to the lanes is the reduction of “dooring” (bikes getting hit by an opening car door). The lanes are expected to increase ridership by making cycling safer and enticing hesitant riders.
Studies show that PBLs reduce cycling accidents by 90 percent and have reduced crashes involving bikes and cars, and bikes and pedestrians, by 63 percent, despite increased ridership. In some cities with PBLs, such as Montreal, ridership tripled after the implementation of the lanes.
Major benefits for residents overall are reduced wear and tear on roadways (and the cost of repair) and a reduction in greenhouse gases. In another study included in the presentation, it was found that shoppers who bike to businesses spend more money than those who drive, and that cycling-friendly areas were more effective in attracting younger residents.
The Albany Bicycle Coalition proposal has been presented to Mayor Kathy Sheehan, said Councilwoman Leah Golby, and “the mayor is very interested.”