Coalition Vision for a Model Trail Section

III. Consideration of Frequently Mentioned Concerns 

In this section we consider and discuss certain issues that have been frequently mentioned by the Project Consultant during the project development process to argue against the possibility of considering the Coalition recommended alternatives. These issues are: 1) Accessibility; 2) Safety; and 3) Connectivity.

1. Accessibility

Despite statements by the Consultant to the contrary – the 3’ alternative meets Access Board requirements for ADA. This was confirmed by the FHWA ADA specialist, Bob Speece, in an email to Steve Beauvais on April 24, 2008, where he says “ADA…indicates a minimum 3’ clear width that will accommodate disabled persons.” We note that the original grant proposal submitted by the Town stated that the trail would meet minimum ADA guidance. As stated by FHWA, the 3’ alternative meets ADA requirements.

The Consultant, however, recently stated that meeting ADA is not enough, despite the language in the grant proposal, which the Coalition read and supported. The Consultant states that the design must meet AASHTO guidance (note the term guidance – i.e. it is not a requirement) for a bicycle path. AASHTO recommends a minimum width for two bicycles to pass side by side (or a bicycle and wheelchair, etc.)

The consultant uses the following language of the Access Board to back up their claim. Bicyclists and skaters have design needs which exceed the minimum guidelines for trails. A trail designed only to meet the proposed accessibility guidelines for trails may not be adequate, and possibly hazardous for bicyclists or skaters. While the consultant claims that this statement supports their wider proposal, we respectfully disagree.

Note the word ‘may’ in the language: guidelines for trails may not be adequate. This is precisely the point to be addressed in the design exception, where a strong argument can be made that in the 3000’ sensitive environmental area, the guidelines for trails WILL be adequate for cyclists. The reasons the guidelines for minimum ADA (3’ width) will be adequate are:

1) The exception is only for 3000’. Within the 3000’ we recommend two or three interpretive ‘pull-outs’, which will also serve for passing. 
2) There is excellent sight distance for this 3000’. 
3) Passing on the existing grassy verge is done today – a walker may simply step off the path, or a cyclist simply rides on the grassy verge. 
4) There is low projected use on the trail 
5) The environmental sensitivity, including threatened species protection, requires minimal or no widening 
6) The overwhelming desire of trail users is to protect this area with minimal (3’ maximum) or no widening. 

2. Safety

The consultant has stated that safety concerns would dictate that the trail must be wide enough for 2 bicycles (or other mixed users) to pass side by side. Yet the Draft Design Report acknowledges that the existing footpath (a narrow 1' wide footpath with wide, vegetated shoulders) is already safe. The Draft Report also mentions that there have been no safety incidents on the existing trail.

The reason that the existing path is safe is that it is straight and flat, with excellent sight distance and wide shoulders. Bicycle speeds are slow and, when necessary, users are able to pass each other safely and easily on the firm, stable, grassy shoulders of the existing path.

A 3’ alternative would also help to maintain slow bicycle speeds, in the way that narrower roads encourage slower speeds. Safety is not an issue on the existing footpath, nor would it be on a 3' wide compromise.

3. Connectivity

The trail is part of a larger regional vision put forth by the Genesee Transportation Council (GTC), where the trail continues north to Pittsford and Brighton. This project, however, will end in a parking lot at Powder Mills Park (where bicycles are not permitted on park trails), regardless of the width used in RRMSEA. It will not connect further north at present, nor is it likely to do so in the foreseeable future.

The GTC concept is for a northward continuation of the trail to Pittsford; this will entail crossing Rt. 96 and the Barge Canal. These are major logistical and financial hurdles. The Town of Pittsford has no plans for doing so, nor has it identified any funding for such a project.

When the planners and others claim the trail is important for ‘commuting’ and ‘connectivity,’ they are using buzzwords for the purpose of meeting the criteria of a transportation grant, rather than any objective reality.