Public Safety Commissioner Martin Responds On Lake Avenue Bike Lane Plans

I received a response from Public Safety Commissioner Peter Martin regarding Chris Mathiesen’s letter expressing reservations about the Lake Avenue bike lane proposal..

The full text is below but I want to offer some observations on his emails.

Commissioner Martin makes a very compelling argument rejecting Mathiesen’s recommendation about an alternative bike route.  Commissioner Martin asserts that a study done on bike usage shows that Lake Avenue is one of the most actively used roads as regards bike traffic.  It seems more than reasonable to assume that bike riders will continue to ride the full length of Lake Avenue even if a safer route along Caroline or York Avenue were available.  If the goal of the bike lane is not only to encourage bike riding but more importantly, to make bike riding safer, it is important to make Lake Avenue as safe as possible.

In fact, Mr. Martin references a study done by Creighton Manning in 2016 that stated that “…adding  5’ bike lanes to Lake Avenue…. would provide traffic calming which will also provide a more pedestrian friendly environment.”

Commissioner Martin also asserts that very few parking spaces will be lost by implementing his plan.  He observes that currently people park along the Eastside Recreational Fields in a haphazard manner and that he is working with the school system that manages the fields to create a more efficient parking pattern.  This could minimize the impact of the lost parking spaces.

Still, while it is regrettable to inconvenience some home owners in removing their on-street parking, Martin points out that all these homes have driveways. In the interest of pursuing the public good, it can be argued that the change would be worth it.

Commissioner Mathiesen’s critique pointed out that Lake Avenue has a narrow stretch.  Mr. Mathiesen explained in his letter that the city’s employee who dealt with traffic control, was concerned about the impact of increasing this constriction by adding two five foot bike lanes to this stretch.   Commissioner Martin did a power point presentation at the last City Council meeting.  In one of the graphics shown this problematic stretch has some lines superimposed on the image indicating where Lake Avenue might be widened by a future road project.  In his follow up email me he simply offers that this will be an area that may need additional work in the future.  While I would have preferred something more thought out, I am willing to accept that if this bottle neck ends up being a problem that the city will invest whatever may be necessary to rectify it in the future.

I applaud Commissioner Martin’s efforts to expand and improve the city’s bike trail system.

I am putting a link to the power point presentation he did for the City Council meeting.  The images show a rendering of the bike lanes along sections of Lake Avenue.  There is also a map documenting the intensity of bike use on the streets of our city.

Unfortunately, if the readers of this blog do not have power point installed on their computer, they will not be able to view the graphics.  I asked Commissioner Martin to provide me with the images of  Lake Avenue and the map of bike use intensity so that I could post them on my site to make them accessible to more of my readers .  I was quite troubled by his response.  He declined my request on the basis that the renderings are tentative and are subject to change once the engineering studies are done.  As you will read in his email, he believed that in order to understand their tentative nature, the graphics had to be presented as part of his power point presentation. 

Power Point Presentation

This excess of caution probably reflects his career as a lawyer.  I think he badly underestimates the readers of this blog.  The graphics include large lettering stating on each image that they are “drafts.”  The substance of his emails also make clear that the bike lanes as proposed are subject to change as the project matures.

One other note, in a joint letter that appeared in the Saratogian today, Sunday, Todd Shimkus who is the executive director of the Chamber of Commerce and Art Holmberg who is the president of Sustainable Saratoga endorsed the Lake Avenue bike lane project.


From: Peter Martin [peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org]
Sent: Thursday, June 28, 2018 8:42 PM
To: John Kaufmann
Subject: Re: Follow up
Attachments: Lake Avenue Bike Lanes Revised 4.pptx

Dear John,
I was traveling on vacation when I saw your first e-mail.  Please pardon the delayed response.  I have attached a power-point which I presented at our most recent city council meeting.
I have reviewed the Reader’s View submitted by Chris Mathiesen, my predecessor as Public Safety Commissioner and was struck by two things:
1.        Every fact that he states is honest and correct; and
2.        His conclusions are flawed because he missed several additional pertinent facts and the analysis of several national experts in this area.
Let me start by stating that Chris Mathiesen is a friend and I respect many of his
accomplishments as he served our city, both on the city zoning board (where he served as chairperson) and on the city council.  This does not mean that I agree with every position that he took in his many years of City service and, specifically, I disagree with his conclusions that resulted in the failure to improve the safety of our City by striping Lake Avenue with Bike Lanes.

I have spoken with many residents who live on and near Lake Avenue, as well as many
residents who travel to the schools, churches, and recreation field on that street.  There is no unanimous choice about whether to mark bike lanes on this street, although the large majority of those who have spoken to me, support marked bike lanes here.  This majority includes many residents who currently ride on Lake Avenue on their bicycles – both adults and children.  As explained in my presentation, the attached slide titled “Current Bicycle Traffic . . .” is a STRAVA heat map representing the number of riders who use GPS for their bike trips.  By this measure, Lake Avenue is one of the most heavily traveled bike routes in Saratoga Springs.  In addition to recreational through-riders, I have spoken with students who ride to practice at the Rec. Fields and adults who commute on Lake Ave. to work.  There is, today, a bike-safety issue on Lake Avenue and the proposed bike lanes address this issue.
Many of the residents who have spoken to me about Lake Avenue note the number of large trucks that use that rode as well as the perceived speed with which many vehicles travel.  I agree that both present a challenge to safety as the road is currently marked.  This challenge affects pedestrians crossing Lake Avenue and other drivers as well as bicyclists traveling along the street.  National studies show that designated bike lanes help calm traffic and direct vehicles to the travel lanes, away from pedestrians and cyclists.   In 2016, the Department of Public Safety commissioned a report titled “Pedestrian Safety Audit and Recommendations”, which was prepared by two engineering firms, Creighton Manning and Alta Planning and Design.  In pertinent part, this report recommended “adding  5’ bike lanes to Lake Ave.  This would provide
traffic calming which will also provide a more pedestrian friendly environment.”
It should be noted that only a portion of the parking along Lake Avenue would be lost to
accommodate the bike lanes.  Although we are working with concept drawings until we
commission and receive engineered scaled drawings, we do not anticipate losing parking
between Regent St. and East Ave., and only one side of the street parking between East Ave and Ritchie Place.  The aforementioned Pedestrian Safety Audit states : ” It may require the park’s (East Side Rec’s) parking to be restructured though, in order to accommodate the loss of on street parking.”  This is most certainly an appropriate time to work on improved safety for parking at the East Side Rec because the Saratoga Springs City School District just approved funding for their Great Outdoors Project, which includes significant enhancements to the East Side Rec.  Adding legal, safe parking along the northwestern corner of the East Side Rec. should be possible and would be a very positive improvement.  We expect that improved bike accessability throughout Saratoga Springs will reduce the automobile traffic that is the subject of so many complaints.
In his opinion piece, Mr. Mathiesen suggested that bike lanes could be added to smaller side streets rather than Lake Avenue.  This is not practical for several reasons.  First, many of the recommended streets are not wide enough to support bike lanes.  Also, they cross other major streets at points that are not as well marked, or that lack traffic signals which protect bikers.

Further, bikers, like pedestrians, frequently choose to take the shortest distance between two points, and inconvenient bike routes will not cause them to change their travel patterns.

We will engage surveyors and engineers to design bike lanes on Lake Avenue that improve the safety  for all who travel along this heavily used street.  In my power-point presentation, I included  two pictures from Madison Avenue in Albany, which is State Route 20.  It has been reported that those bike lanes, which were controversial when first proposed, are heavily used by bikers and enjoy great popularity.

John, these proposed bike lanes are just one of several Complete Street accommodations that can improve the lives, the health and the safety of our residents and guests in Saratoga Springs.

Accommodations for alternative modes of transportation are necessary for the success of our city in the 21st century.

Peter R. Martin
Commissioner of Public Safety
City of Saratoga Springs
_____________________________________
City Hall, 474 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866
Phone: (518) 587-3550 ext. 2627
Email: peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org
_____________________________________

 


 

From: Peter Martin <peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org> Date: June 29, 2018 at 2:40:12 PM EDT To: John Kaufmann <john.kaufmann21@gmail.com> Subject: Re: Follow up

Dear John,

The overhead street photos that were incorporated in the power-point presentation represent a concept drawing only.  They are marked draft because we expect that the final engineered drawings will have some differences.  I would prefer that they only be presented as part of the powerpoint, because they should not be interpreted as final plans.  The engineer who prepared these concept drawings has informed me that Lake Ave can support safety improvements for bike riders from Regent eastward past the Eastside Rec. and St. Clements Church.  The exact location of bike lanes and transitions at the East Side Rec. may take one configuration initially, and then be revised if the city and the school district improve the parking situation along the narrower stretch  that you have asked about.  I will request engineered reports that provide alternatives that can further enhance pedestrian and bicycle safety along Lake Ave. over time.

One additional thought about the alternatives on side streets.  As I previously mentioned, crossing a major intersection from a side street is more dangerous than crossing at a signaled intersection along a major thoroughfare.  Further, side streets like York do not connect many of the popular destinations that Lake connects.  Bicyclists would then be left to unmarked streets to reach these popular destinations (e.g. Lake Ave. Elementary).

I hope that the council and the citizens embrace this proposal as good start to the advantages of complete streets in Saratoga Springs.

Thank you for your interest in this proposal.

Peter

 

Peter R. Martin Commissioner of Public Safety City of Saratoga Springs _____________________________________ City Hall, 474 Broadway Saratoga Springs, NY 12866 Phone: (518) 587-3550 ext. 2627 Email: peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org _____________________________________

 

From: “John Kaufmann” <john.kaufmann21@gmail.com> To: “Peter Martin” <peter.martin@saratoga-springs.org> Cc: “Meg Kelly” <meg.kelly@saratoga-springs.org>, “Skip Sciroco” <skip.scirocco@saratoga-springs.org>, “Michele Madigan” <michele.madigan@saratoga-springs.org>, “John Franck” <johnfranck@your-cpas.com> Sent: Friday, June 29, 2018 7:34:04 AM Subject: RE: Follow up

Thank you for your very thoughtful response.  I do have one question.

Mr. Mathiesen expressed concern about the narrow section of Lake Avenue as a problem.  As I read your map, you identify this as a possible area for what appears to be widening of the street to address this issue.  I have no idea as to the cost or other potential obstacles to doing this but as I understand your plan, the striping would be done prior to any project to widen the street.  Could you offer your thoughts about this particular concern.

As  I understand it, Mr. Mathiesen does not envisage the bike lanes along the alternate route he proposes as exclusive but rather he sees them as “sharrows” which would mitigate the issue of limited space.  Still, I take your point that people will see Lake Avenue as the fastest route and tend to continue to use it.

Also, I would like to post the map and the images of the roads that appeared in your power point presentation.  Would it be possible to get a copy of these images?

My plan is to post the text of your email along with the pictures should you make them available on my site with little in the way of comment by me.  As I understand it, the council will be voting on the plan at the next meeting so I would like to get the post up as soon as possible.  Please advise me at your earliest convenience as to the availability of the images.  If they are not available I will post your comments immediately.

Again, thank you for your long and thoughtful email.

 

3 thoughts on “Public Safety Commissioner Martin Responds On Lake Avenue Bike Lane Plans”

  1. The assumption is that the Dentist’s opinion carries weight. His opinion has been countered by the neighbors along the proposed bike route, as well as citizens who are aware of the bottle-neck between East Ave. and …..let’s say…..Benton Drive.
    It appears, from the various newspaper reports, and this blog’s excellent coverage, that a spat is brewing between the outgoing and new Commish of Public Safety. Let’s not let the politics get in the way of common sense.
    Does anyone believe that kids of bike-riding-age will use the proposed marked bike lanes? Give me a break. Anyone who rides a bike, kids or adults, enjoy the ability to choose their own route. Think back to the days when you were a teenager….did you use the same route to ride to school, to downtown, to your friend’s house? Not every biker is on a ten mile trek. Especially kids. Let’s ease up on all this control, and politically correct bike route stuff. I can’t think of anything that I would hate any more, as a kid, than being told where to ride my bike.

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  2. More rules, just what we need (insert plucky grin here).

    Want to eliminate the safety problem at East Side Rec?
    A friend said to post no parking signs in front of St. Clement’s down to Auggie’s.
    No parking on the north side of the street will make sense.
    No more worries about folks jumping out from in-between parked cars!

    Think about it.
    But it won’t happen.

    Know why?
    It just might work, that’s why.

    Jus’ too easy a fix to understand.
    lol

    -JC

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    1. The purpose of my letter to the Saratogian was not to take a stand for or against bike lanes but to explain what happened last year when the Public Safety Dept. was asked to change the position of the center lane striping on the portion of Lake Avenue that had been re-surfaced. The request for the center line striping change was to allow for eventual bike lanes between East Avenue and St. Clements. The bike lanes would have required significant loss of on-street parking for residents and businesses in that area. It was my decision not to make this change because I didn’t feel that it was fair to those property owners.

      Many cities have faced similar challenges by substituting sharrows on portions of streets that are too narrow to allow the five ft. bike lanes. However, I was advised that sharrows could put bikers at risk due to the heavy tractor trailer use on Lake Avenue. It was suggested that other routes should be considered.

      While it has been stated that bike lanes have a calming effect of vehicular traffic speeding, it should also be noted that on-street parking has a similar effect.

      Regarding safety on that portion of Lake Avenue, it should be noted that an enhanced pedestrian crossing signal was installed last year opposite the Lake Avenue gate to the East Side Rec. This was one of eleven pedestrian crossing improvements that were approved in the Capital Budget as part of the City’s commitment to Complete Streets. Unfortunately, the other ten projects have yet to be started.

      I have great confidence in Commissioner Martin. His perspective on various issues facing our City may be different than mine but I am sure that he is doing what he feels is best for the City I do feel that explaining the situation that arose last year regarding the Lake Avenue bike lanes can be helpful to the City Council and to the community at large as Complete Streets measures continue to be implemented.

      Chris Mathiesen

      Like

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