Opinion - Saratoga Springs Politics

The below blog posts are written by John Kaufmann.
These opinions do not reflect the views of Saratoga TODAY newspaper.

Thursday, 02 February 2023 15:05

A Discussion Of The Issues In Enhancing Union Avenue #3

By John Kaufmann | Saratoga Springs Politics
A Discussion Of The Issues In Enhancing Union Avenue #3

[Jim Matinez Responds To Ed Lindner in this post. I invite anyone who would like to join in the conversation to send me their comments]

The attorney has plainly provided the prepared images and talking points developed by a consultant whose charge was to present a bike trail system from the standpoint of its proponents. It is important to ask if there is any recent verifiable data on the use of bicycles throughout this city? Have we heard from an expert witness on the impacts to the residents along these proposed lanes, and on the cost analysis impacts to the budgets of the Department of Public Works to maintain these proposals or from the Department of Public Safety who must have had to review these proposals regarding the impact that a reduction in vehicle loading on Union Avenue will have on Racecourse traffic twice daily during the August meet?  

Every seasoned city resident will attest to the double lane use both east and west on Union Avenue travelling towards the Union Avenue or Nelson Avenue gates at post time and the reverse loading of traffic traveling west towards Circular Street, half going south towards exit 13, the others going north into the city throughout the Thoroughbred meet. Will the exiting Nelson Avenue traffic traveling north that merges at Union Avenue to drive downtown be now forced to seek other routes like White Street as a cut through? This proposal to calm traffic by proposing single lanes is myopic and self-serving, turning a blinds eye to how this arterial street functions for automobile traffic during the summer track season. Have the required traffic studies that should have been prepared during the peak hours of the racing season been presented?  

Much like the design of stormwater drainage systems and exit corridor widths in structures, the required widths respond directly to the size of the volume or occupant load at peak times. The city presently defines its system of roadways by width and volume. Have we challenged their data and designations by altering volume loading on this arterial?  

Presently, the city boasts 156 miles of shared roadway. What percentage of those routes will be abandoned by cyclists for limited use seasonal bike lanes that will amount to less than 2% of those 156 miles of roadways?  

I initially posed several questions referencing the city’s Complete Streets Plan that embraced a bicycle inclusive community plan but failed to address a compliment understanding of the limited use of public right of way lands for sidewalks and compliance with the American with Disabilities Act for our residents. Sidewalk navigation (as defined by City Code) is a year-round activity for both ambulatory and non-ambulatory residents, yet have we overlooked them for a limited mostly seasonal cyclist population?  

In 2021, NYSMV recognized and responded to the cycling population that must navigate on our complete 156 miles of roadway by legislating a law that defines the shared use of roadways and the responsibilities of those participants. In 2022, Legislation was passed in NYS requiring instruction in “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety as Part of Drivers Pre-licensing Course”, yet where are the bicyclists with their newfound freedoms to be instructed on their responsibilities to share the road “with all the responsibilities of a licensed motor vehicle driver”?  

Most importantly, I question whether a community who is tasked with enforcing this new law has considered educating its cyclists as to its requirements. This is not an unfunded mandate, but an enforceable law. Conversely, when a new traffic control is installed, the intersection is flagged for months alerting the public of the change. Should this proposal also include an educational component by the municipality for drivers and cyclists alike given it proposes to increase the already segmented bike lanes without involving themselves into a risk management position to avoid liabilities? Has this law been enforced over the last several years, or at a minimum, have citations been issued as a learning tool to an inexperienced cycling population that may not realize that rules and responsibilities are in place which they are expected to adhere? Has the city conferred with its Risk Manager for an assessment regarding the current conditions at intersections and terminus points of the existing segmented bike lane experiment? 

In a preoccupied rush to construct seasonal bike lanes, competing with 98% of the roads in this city that are mandated to share the pavement, how is it that so many peripheral questions and potential collateral issues have not been a part of this pushed presentation? At the very least, shouldn’t the consultants provide the unfunded buildout costs beyond construction for our community residents as part of this discussion?  

Those of us who ride our bikes on Union Avenue, Lake Avenue and other city arterial roads from neighborhoods and feeder streets to and from points east around the Lake or to Fitch Road know well enough to avoid those congested times when vehicular traffic is at its peak. We choose alternate times and different routes sharing the road and shoulders as provided. This is what most cyclists will continue to do on 98% of city roads.  

As stated, Union Avenue, an arterial street should remain a double loaded four lane thoroughfare with a planted median strip (as a calming control and safety zone for pedestrians) that is first vetted by the Department of Public Works regarding feasibility with existing underground utilities. The existing residential parking lanes both north and south should remain and the turning lanes at Nelson Avenue and Circular Street should remain insitu. Openings at cross streets would be required. The current bicycle restrictions in City Park to safeguard the public should remain and the cycling public should be educated to the current enforceable NYSDMV Chapter 11 amendment regarding the shared use of our city’s roadways.

The Architect

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