Bike lane out of line?
Saranac Lake trustees raise concerns about bike lanes, wanted advance vote
SARANAC LAKE — The village painted new bike lanes on Ampersand Avenue last week, fulfilling a request from local families who wanted a safer path for their children to travel to the recently opened Harrietstown Bike Park and Pump Track on John Munn Road. But some Saranac Lake Village Board members are unhappy with how crooked the lines look and that the board did not take a vote on painting the lines before it happened.
“I am very disgusted and very embarrassed with the paint that was put down on Ampersand Avenue,” Trustee Tom Catillaz said at a board meeting on Monday. “It is the most ridiculous thing I ever saw.”
Catillaz lives on Ampersand Avenue, and his home happens to be near some of the worst bends in the lines. The lines were painted Friday and span from Hope Street, past the Civic Center, to the intersection of John Munn Road.
“There’s not a straight line in it,” Catillaz said on Monday. “It zig-zags.”
He said the lines on a street, with no other paint markings, are sending unclear directions to motorists, who seem unsure of where the lines are sending them and what they mean.
“People don’t know where to go,” he said. “There’s people driving down the white lines. There are people stopping.”
Catillaz said he’s seen a truck straddling the two lines on the north side of the road, driving right over the bike lane. Another car stopped altogether. It’s dangerous, he said, and steers people into traffic on a road that is already narrow.
“I don’t think it’s safe,” he said.
He’s worried about the young cyclists and doesn’t think enough thought was put into the bikes lanes.
Trustee Rich Shapiro, an avid cyclist who can often be seen riding a tandem bike with his wife Lindy Ellis around town, said he does not believe enough design went into the bike lanes.
“Somebody asked for something and our mayor is trying to respond positively to everything that’s being asked for,” Shapiro said. “This was done quickly in response to community request but they didn’t take the time to design it properly.”
Catillaz said he does not have a problem with a bike path on his road, but he does have an issue with how it was done. He said the board should have voted on it.
“There’s no reason to have the four of us (trustees) here if we have nothing to say about anything that goes on,” Catillaz said. “Who authorized this?”
“We all did,” Mayor Jimmy Williams said.
There was no official vote taken, but the board discussed it beforehand.
The village board first spoke about potentially painting bike lanes on the street at a public meeting with families and locals at Ken Garwood Park on Ampersand Avenue on Aug. 4, then at a joint meeting with the town of Harrietstown last week.
Williams felt the painting wasn’t going to be a surprise to anyone, but realized he was wrong.
“I definitely didn’t meant to sneak one by you,” Williams said. “I thought that everybody was aware that the bike paths were going to go down.”
Williams said on Tuesday he doesn’t think the village needs to approve a resolution to paint bike lanes, but said, “We maybe should have communicated better as a board.”
At a village board meeting earlier this month, village resident Jeremy Evans, speaking on behalf of the Saranac Lake Innovative Cycling Kids grassroots group, thanked the board for considering putting the lines down. He said the road can be dangerous for young cyclists and said he has personally seen his son have a close call with a car there.
“In the past, these types of proposals would have died before they ever went anywhere,” Evans said, saying the village board has a new energy with its new members. “The research would be done to prove that it couldn’t be done and hopefully it would get swept under the rug.”
He was happy they made it work and hopes the village will slow the speed limit on Ampersand Avenue in the future.
Williams said he told the people asking for the bike lanes that the village didn’t have the proper painter for the job but was told in response that anything would work — they just wanted a bike path and didn’t mind if it was sub-par or if it was a bit crooked.
“It seemed like folks, especially with the redesign of the road and winter approaching, were OK with just something down by the start of school,” Williams said.
So he went ahead and told the village Department of Public Works to paint the lines.
“It was our first one,” Williams said. “It didn’t come out good.”
The DPW’s paint machine is only meant for parking spots, Williams said — painting a couple of feet, not 900-foot long lines.
“If you can’t drive a straight line with the thing it never should have been used,” Catillaz said. “The guy who authorized it needs to fix it.”
Williams said a new painter would cost around $100,000 — and the village can’t afford that.
Williams said there are plans for the village to re-engineer and re-pave the road, possibly next year. After an engineering study, he said the village may put a permanent bike path or a sidewalk there in the future.
“I still hope that we can celebrate that there are more bike lanes than there were two weeks ago and then look to make the process firmed up so we do it better going forward,” Trustee Matt Scollin said.
Scollin said adding stencil drawings of bikers denoting the area as a bike lane may clear up confusion for motorists driving over the lines. He hopes the village will be adding more bike lanes in the near future.
Williams said he’d consider doing a shared service agreement with a nearby town or village to use their painting equipment and repay the favor with in-kind services.
Trustee Kelly Brunette said she didn’t think DPW Superintendent Dustin Martin was happy with how the lines turned out, either.
Brunette wants the board to clear up the process for adding bike lanes to village streets for the future.