Published in The Daily Gazette’s “Letters to the Editor,” Monday, June 14, 2014
Re June 7 article, “$4.6 million to fund Schenectady County road, trail work“: We were happy to read that federal funds will be used to upgrade safety features along the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail in the town of Rotterdam.
The Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail has been focused on safety, on and off, the trail from Rotterdam to Albany for many years. In 2013, poorly designed barriers, intended to prevent motor vehicle access to the trail, caused two serious injuries in Colonie in July. In addition, a collision with a bollard just east of Kiwanis Park in Rotterdam on June 17 led to the death of Kathy Botelho several days later. In each these cases, the injured parties were experienced cyclists that ran afoul of bollards that needed to be upgraded.
Three years ago, a section of the bike path in Schenectady was upgraded using newer, safer barriers, and the town of Niskayuna has also been improving its bollards. After last year’s accidents, Colonie took action right away to correct their barriers, but Schenectady County, the municipality that maintains the trail in Rotterdam, insists that a study must be done before any upgrades can be made.
We are sure that Schenectady County engineering will follow their procedures to a safe and satisfactory solution using new “access control devices” as described in the Gazette. Unfortunately, we know this probably won’t happen this year and may not happen before next year’s cycling season either.
In the meantime, we are concerned that the accident site just east of the Kiwanis Park is still dangerous. After Ms. Botelho’s accident, vandals removed the post she collided with, but the county elected to replace it with a new and even bigger obstacle. Combined with a neighboring post that leans to one side, creating a narrow passage, and a sharp curve in the trail, this barrier is another accident waiting to happen.
On July 19, more than 500 cyclists will pass that point as part of the annual Cycle the Erie Canal Ride. In July 2015, the same number of riders will use this route to complete the same eight-day journey from Buffalo to Albany. Count them: 1,000 experienced riders that may not have ridden in the Capital Region.
That’s in addition to the cyclists that ride the trail every other day of the year. What are odds that someone else will run into the offending bollard?
We are asking that Schenectady County temporarily remove the dangerous post east of Kiwanis Park or install a “knock-down” post before the Cycle the Erie Canal riders arrive. It’s a small, inexpensive change that will greatly improve the safety of the trail for all its users.
The writer is the president of Friends of the Mohawk-Hudson Bike-Hike Trail.