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Paul Cummings of Chazen & Companies (left), Plattsburgh State University Police Officer Robert Light (center) and Josh Wilson of the New York Bicycling Coalition, discuss pedestrian safety during the recent Adirondack Coast Walk/Bike Symposium in Stafford Theatre at Clinton Community College. The event presented strategies for creating pedestrian- and bike-friendly communities along the Adirondack Coast. (Staff Photo/Rob Fountain)

Complete Streets planning benefits touted

By: DAN HEATH

PLATTSBURGH — Complete Streets design concepts make travel safer for all modes of transportation, including cyclists and pedestrians.

That was the message from a round-table discussion at the recent Adirondack Coast Walk/Bike Symposium held in the Stafford Auditorium at Clinton Community College.

Paul Cummings, a planner with the Chazen Companies, said the company does a lot of engineering and planning work across New York. They are seeing more and more interest in design according to Complete Streets concepts, he said, and this region has made some good initial strides.

He said it will take generations to change the transportation network from a strict focus on vehicular travel. Previous construction often focused on wide roadways with little or no shoulder, with an emphasis on travel at higher speeds.

PUBLIC-PRIVATE EFFORT

Intersections are a point of emphasis. Well-marked crosswalks, with sidewalk bump outs that reduce the distance of roadway to be crossed are a big help, he said. Signage and lighting can also help increase pedestrian safety.

Roundabouts are becoming increasingly popular. When well designed, those can help reduce the chance for contact between pedestrians and vehicles by half.

Cummings said public-private partnerships are an opportunity for municipalities to identify ways to develop Complete Streets concepts at a reduced cost.

“They (developers) realize it will benefit them,” he said.

One example is the Homestead on Ampersand apartment complex approved by the Town of Plattsburgh Planning Board earlier this year. Regan Development Corp. agreed to install sidewalks from Rugar Street to Consumer Square as part of the project and also plans a stop for public transit.

Infrastructure projects such as water- or sewer-line installation also present opportunities to include the new concepts. 

BICYCLE RULES

New York State University Police Officer Bob Light, who works at SUNY Plattsburgh and helped create its Police Bicycle Program, offered insights into cycling rules. 

Cyclists often fail to follow those laws, he noted.

They are supposed to follow the same traffic rules as motor vehicles, including riding with the traffic flow.

A big problem is riding on the wrong side of the road, as the cyclist then can’t see traffic control signs.

Cyclists should ride as far to the right as possible to minimize the possibility of contact with vehicles, Light said.

And they should go single file when being overtaken by a vehicle. Hand signals should be used to show the riders intentions when turning.

LIGHT AT NIGHT

Bicycles are required to have at least one seat and one working brake. They also need a light for night riding, as well as reflectors.

Light said awareness goes a long way to staying safe while riding. Cyclists should focus on three Bs - Be Seen, Be Predictable and Be Paranoid.

“You have to anticipate bad driving,” he said.

MUTUAL RESPECT

New York Bicycling Coalition Executive Director Josh Wilson spoke of the importance of cycling education. He said about 35 percent of the U.S. population rides a bicycle, and the use of bikes for commuting is up 68 percent since 2005 in the 50 largest cities in the United States.

While New York has the third-highest fatality rate in the country from 2009 to 2011, there was only one in Clinton County in that period, he noted.

Wilson said graphic emotion-based campaigns are usually most effective, but there is a trade off, as they may keep people from riding.

“The last thing we want to do when trying to get people on a bike is to make them afraid,” he said.

Wilson said the cycling community has a lot to gain by sharing responsibility. The coalition’s new campaign is that mutual respect between cyclists and motorists saves lives. 

TOURISM DRAW

Prior to the round table, Adirondack Coast Visitors Bureau Director Kristy Kennedy said recreation is one of the three keys of the region’s Destination Master Plan. Part of that is to make the area a destination for cyclists.

Complete Streets implementation makes for a better cycling experience for all involved, she said.

“Complete Streets doesn’t only help quality of life of residents, it has a huge impact on tourism,” she said.

Karen Derusha, a public health educator with the Clinton County Health Department, said Complete Streets fits in perfectly with that department’s mission. The department is nearing completion of a five-year community health strategic plan, which includes a focus on making better infrastructure for recreation so exercise becomes an easier choice.

“People on the local level can really move the community toward health and wellness,” she said. 

Email Dan Heath:dheath@pressrepublican.com

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