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Bicyclists – not Hells Angels

May 1, 2012 - John Stack
I’ve recently received more requests to sign a petition than for any other reason in my life. It is a seemingly simple petition – to widen Rt 86 by a few feet so that bikers are safer riding between Saranac Lake and Lake Placid. Its not asking for a dedicated bike lane, as many opponents have characterized this. Yes, a bike lane would be great, but its not seemingly feasible at this time.

This petition was started by Matt Young, a Lake Placid Elementary School teacher. Matt says he rides the 8 mile corridor often. I don’t know Matt, but maybe a safer sport would be to join an Ed Norton type Fight Club… but seriously, I have ridden thousands of miles on my bike in the Adirondacks and I can’t remember 3 times that I have ridden that corridor in the last 12 years. Its just dangerous. The road is in awful shape (that even motorists are aware) and it is abysmal for bikers. This summer, DOT is repaving this stretch, but according to DOT spokesman Carol Breen has made it clear they will only be replacing the current pavement, adding no extra width. Breen also said “"Building bike lanes could be considered as part of a more in-depth reconstruction in the future." The future? It has taken this long for the State to just repave this road. The Future seems to be like Bender and Leila future when I will be dead and gone before this road gets reconstructed and a bike lane is added.

This all flies in the face of common sense though. Mayor Rabideau says he talked to DOT officials who said it could cost ‘tens of millions’ to re-engineer the road. Really? A bike path is being built through wetlands and an area 100 times more tough to build and get approved, and while the engineering is costly, (around a million dollars or more I think), why on earth would engineering an extra few feet on the side of the road – to be used by cyclists – not by 60 mph thousands of pounds vehicles – for some reason cost in the factor of 10 times as much more to engineer? The road is already there! I think that’s what most people would call CYA or as Colonel Potter would say ‘bull pucky!’ in order to not build the lane.

There are numerous studies and laws that now push for more safe roadways, including bicycle safety. Recently, Gov Cuomo signed into law the ‘Complete Streets’ law, passing unanimously through both houses, and becoming the 17th state to pass the legislation. This law has proponents from every conceivable corner (Sierra Club, Town Highway superintendents, AAA- showing an incredible broad based support). Complete streets design principles are roadway design features that accommodate and facilitate safe travel by pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists of all ages and abilities. These features include sidewalks, paved shoulders suitable for use by bicyclists, among other safety concerns.

Opponents say it would be too costly (see Mayor Rabideau’s talk with DOT). Others are Talk of the Town callers, including host Ted Morgan, who said it would cost millions and millions to add this extra few feet. I don’t think that is true at all. The safety implications are without argument. The economic impact can only be NEGATIVE to not having the extra few feet. Placid Planet owner Kenny Boettger commented ‘"We are a tourism-based economy. If more people are coming to ride here, it's just bringing more business and more money to the area. And more people will experience what we have to offer." Kenny has been at the forefront of biking and bike safety. He has been a proponent and contributor to the bike/rail trail. Placid Planet has been pro-active about asking bikers to share the road, to ride single file if they can. Ironman is also of supreme importance to our area, being one of the first of its kind in the world, pumping millions every year into our economy. But, other towns are vying to be Ironman destinations. Some promise millions in infrastructure updates just to woo the Ironman head honchos! What would it be like to lose ironman because of the shortsightedness of this DOT decision? We can find millions to build a convention center. Tens of millions on the Mt Van Hovenburgh Sports area. All basically in the name of economic progress. But without the modern road infrastructure, we won’t have that many people going to the bobsled track, or biathlon range, or cross country ski complex? Not to mention fewer groups coming to the convention center.

As a cyclist, I take it personally the comments made about how bad cyclists are. As there are bad teachers, bad policemen and bad parents, there are some bad cyclists. But for the vast vast majority of these groups, they are all good people with a desire to work together with everyone for the benefit of the whole. In 2010 , Gov Patterson signed Merrill’s Law. This law requires motorists to keep ‘a safe distance’ from cyclists when passing. Its named after Merril Cassell who was killed when he was sideswiped by a bus while riding his bike. The owner of the bus wasn’t even ticketed! Drivers may have stories about how they have seen rude cyclists. I’ll tell you, get together a group of cyclists and you’ll hear a number of harrowing near misses, collisions, and rotten behavior by motorists. Beeping a couple hundred yards back to warn a cyclist isn’t the same as laying on the horn when you get on a cyclists tire. I don’t know how many fatalities have caused by a 3 ton bicycle plowing through a pick up truck, but you get the picture.

Please sign the petition to the right if you haven’t all ready done so…

 
 

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