By Kristin Schultz
NISKAYUNA — The Niskayuna Town Board unanimously adopted a resolution implementing a complete streets policy sponsored by Councilman Della Ratta at its regular meeting Jan. 31.
Under the new policy, future road construction and reconstruction projects will give equal consideration to bicyclists, pedestrians and mass transit in addition to private vehicles.
The policy was put together by the town’s Complete Streets committee, which has been meeting since June 2016, and is made up of five community members along with Niskayuna Town Planner Laura Robertson.
“Implementing the policy will improve the pedestrian and bike plan for people to move around in the community,” said committee member William Chapman. “We want people to be able to get from A to B either by walking or on a bicycle, as they are able. That gets people out of doors, which is a benefit to physical and mental health.”
As new construction and reconstruction projects are planned, the Complete Streets committee will recommend to the town how the project may be changed to make it more friendly to walkers and bikers. Potential changes to construction plans could include building curb cuts and ramps at intersections, adding sidewalks for ease of pedestrian movement, installing crosswalks and signals for safety and bike lanes for bicycle safety in traffic.
There will also be education and enforcement components to ensure harmony among the various road users.
“We want people to know a pedestrian’s rights in a crosswalk and there will be enforcement of issues between cars and bicycles,” said Robertson. “The police do a lot at Niska-Day with talking to the public about safety and wearing helmets and reflective clothing when walking.”
With an educated public and walkable streets, the committee and Town Board hope these measures will contribute to Niskayuna’s continued growth by making the town and its amenities more accessible.
“One of the reasons we moved to Old Niskayuna is that it’s walkable already,” said Complete Streets committee member Jim Levy. “There is already a lot of connectivity, but we’re working to make it even better. It’s a great step as we look how to move the town forward.”
The additional construction of sidewalks, paved shoulders and other Complete Street features can add cost to a project, both in material and manpower, but Robertson believes these costs can be minimal, especially if pedestrian-friendly elements are factored into a project from the start and do not need to be retrofitted later.
“The projects don’t have to be more expensive, but there is only so much money in the pot so you have to decide what your priorities are,” said Robertson. “We’ll look and see if there is a low-cost solution for pedestrians. For example, if we’re doing a repaving project and can do something minimal, we at least have to look. It’s about working together and coordinating to work on the same page toward the same goals.”
While no plans are currently in place, the goal of making Niskayuna a more pedestrian-friendly town may start with the stretch of Nott Street between Baker Avenue and Lexington Parkway, which does not currently have a sidewalk, so that residents can walk safely to the Niskayuna Co-op and other shops.
In addition to advising on future projects, the committee is also involved in grant writing in order to secure third-party funding for the work to be done.