‘It’s unthinkable’: new Albany cycling activist says NYC trails crisis is a ‘frightening’ sign

Last month, the Guardian published an article about the hiking trail that runs through the Cayuga-Schenectady-Poughkeepsie corridor. It had recently closed and, thanks to a dedicated group of professionals and volunteers, was about to…

'It's unthinkable': new Albany cycling activist says NYC trails crisis is a 'frightening' sign

Last month, the Guardian published an article about the hiking trail that runs through the Cayuga-Schenectady-Poughkeepsie corridor. It had recently closed and, thanks to a dedicated group of professionals and volunteers, was about to reopen to public use. Every aspect of the trail – such as building multi-use designated parking lots, laying fiber optic cable and putting in interpretive signs – had been a source of constant frustration for cycling advocates, who have devoted countless hours of volunteer effort and hard work to create what is potentially one of the most epic hiking trails in the world.

A ‘clean’ section of the Cayuga-Schenectady-Poughkeepsie trail on the shore of the Delaware south of Albany. Photograph: Joann Braun

But now, the trail seems to have fallen through the cracks. The planned reopening was delayed because the city announced last week that the trail will be closed for nine months to allow for remediation of a dangerous combination of tall weeds, overgrown brush and hazardous footing at the trailhead on Richmond Road.

The NCT Triathalon Team, a nonprofit organisation that provides technical support and training to triathletes, was forced to cancel the hiking trails, having not had enough time to fundraise for safety measures on the trails before the event. The organization hopes to reschedule the event for later this year, but hopes to find a new location to continue the training that has already been completed.

This Sunday, the team and a growing coalition of groups, including the City of Albany Parks Advocates, the Whitetail Council and Canalway Alliance of New York, will hold a protest in Albany. The group is calling on the city and Governor Andrew Cuomo to donate $50,000 to start safety improvements.

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Several cyclists brought to the recent protest were backpacking and touring the area. One of them, Carly Caramone, said she has witnessed an increase in the number of bicycle related collisions over the last three years as the trail reaches more densely populated parts of the Albany metro area.

“Like the Oyster Creek section of the trail, there are overgrown ‘steppes’ of weeds in both long and short sections of the trail,” she said. “I’ve seen people fall and break their legs, never mind serious accidents. It’s just a huge issue. It’s unbelievable that the trail has gone to this extent.”

Bike commuters and recreational hikers are angry that the city is taking such a long time to get the trail back in shape. A recent AP article entitled “Hiking Trail Shut Down in The Bronx is Another Sign of NY’s Anti-Bicycle Law” should further raise the hackles of all bike advocates. The piece reported: “Not every city councilor and Parks Department official who oppose trails thinks they are a public safety hazard, [study leader Kevin] DeLeue said. But the findings, he said, show that: ‘The city does what the majority of the council will do, and that is to say it’s not dangerous enough to worry about.’”

One of the group’s goals on the protest is to raise awareness of Albany’s anti-bike law, which City Council member Stephen Kotlarz was quoted as saying is “not appropriate for this area because there’s so many potential threats that it would be bad for public safety”.

The city has been indifferent to the needs of both biking commuters and hikers, but is now facing a real emergency, so hopefully, they will start listening.

Caitlin Parrott (@caitlinparrott) @GreencarzCR @stevesquid @deleue35 Co-founder of the kayaking club Whitetail @ThisIsACamp

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