On Election Day, the community where I worked rejected a proposal to modify a stretch of Delaware Avenue in their town. I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know all of the details (I don’t live in the district where I teach) but, from what I’ve read and heard, the plan would have taken the road from two lanes in each direction to just one lane going north or south. A center turning lane also would have been added along with bike lanes in both directions.
The anticipated impact would have been slowed traffic in an area where the speed limit is 40 mph and, potentially, back ups because of the number of vehicles which travel this route. Some businesses along the corridor also were concerned with the impact on their bottom lines caused by months of construction, from what I’ve been told by residents with whom I am friends.
While I may not have had an official vote on this topic, as someone who lives off of Delaware Avenue in Albany and who travels 185 days a year along this route to commute to work, I have to say I’m really surprised and disappointed with the results of the vote.
In fact, I find it wildly inconsistent with the level of this community’s commitment to children, education and sports, to be honest.
On a rainy night last month, I took note of the fact that between the Hannaford Plaza in Delmar and Graceland Cemetery in Albany there isn’t a single crosswalk to provide safe passage for pedestrians If you’re not familiar with the stretch of road I’m referencing, it is a length of nearly a mile, making the density of trash cans on my usual Albany 5-mile run (a total of 7) seem generous comparatively. I recently measured the distance and determined that in 1.9 miles there are only 2 legal crosswalks on Delaware Avenue between the town line and Kenwood Avenue.
The lack of safe places to cross the busy, 4-lane road where the posted speed limit is often, in my observations, ignored, means that pedestrians are forced to risk personal safety if they seek to conduct business or patronize a restaurant that lies on the other side of the street. This corridor also features an elementary school where many children are “walkers.”
I’ve said many times that the lack of adherence to yielding the right of way to pedestrians is abysmal in this area and have personally gotten out of my car to address the horn blowing of a vehicle behind me whose driver was irate by my stopping and permitting pedestrians to cross safely. You know, as the law requires.
I’ve witnessed people trying to cross Delaware from their place of employment to businesses on the opposite side of the street and it is not an act for the faint at heart. In fact, it looks downright scary. If a person wanted to perhaps buy lunch or a pack of gum during a break in their work day, they would be risking their lives to get to the other side of the road – twice!
The businesses who apparently signed a petition encouraging people to vote “No” on the proposal are understandably concerned about congestion and alternative routes being utilized by potential customers, but I truly believe they are focusing on the wrong thing. It seems to me that drivers are more inclined to notice and frequent establishments when they are traveling slowly. Making a left turn with a dedicated turning lane is much less intimidating than stopping one’s vehicle in a road where other cars are often driving at far greater speeds than 40 mph.
They also may find themselves singled out by former customers, like a friend I have in the community, who have vowed to no longer patronize businesses which actively campaigned against this project which would have greatly improved safety and walkability in a community which prides itself on providing a high quality of life and being a great place to raise children.
Alternatives aren’t exclusive to routes to take.
Featured image: Will Waldron, Times Union