Hudson Bike Share, Poughkeepsie, New York
A lack of safe walking routes and safe bicycling routes were two of the most commonly cited transportation challenges in our Transportation Barriers survey, and when asked about transportation priorities for their community, more people chose ‘better walking routes’ than any other improvement (‘better bicycling routes’ tied for fourth). Clearly, walking and bicycling infrastructure is important to county residents, and we must continue to work with State, County and local partners to improve access via foot and bicycle.
How walkable are our centers?
Sidewalks are most useful when they connect nearby destinations—the places we go every day. Dutchess County has more than 300 miles of sidewalks along its streets, concentrated in cities, villages, and town centers. However, within these areas, sidewalks are not evenly distributed.
The amount of sidewalk coverage in our 76 centers (as designated by the County Planning Department) varies substantially, and 23 centers (30 percent) have no sidewalk coverage at all. Overall, centers in the cities of Beacon and Poughkeepsie, the villages of Wappingers Falls and Rhinebeck, and the Arlington area have 50 percent or more sidewalk coverage, other village centers have 20 to 35 percent sidewalk coverage, and centers in suburban and rural areas have less than 20 percent sidewalk coverage.
Of course, walkability is also influenced by many other factors (whether there are destinations close enough to walk to, the street network, vehicle volumes and speeds, the quality of sidewalks, etc.). We focused on sidewalk coverage for this county-level analysis, but we consider other elements in our smaller-scale studies, and may be able to include some of them in a future county-wide analysis.
The Barriers to Reliable Access map shows sidewalks relative to centers.
How accessible are our transit stops?
Safe and convenient access to transit by walking is important to a functional transit system. On average, sidewalk coverage within a half-mile of our train stations is less than 20 percent. This varies from 82 percent near the Poughkeepsie station to less than one percent near the New Hamburg and Wassaic stations.
While sidewalk coverage is close to 100 percent within a half-mile of the transit hub on Market Street in Poughkeepsie, many of the county’s bus stops are not accessible by sidewalks. A 2020 analysis of Dutchess County Public Transit’s 268 existing stops showed that just over 60 percent of stops have an adjacent sidewalk or pavers; about 40 percent do not. In some cases, sidewalks may only be short segments. The County’s analysis also showed that approximately 30 percent of the existing stops lack ADA access, meaning that the adjacent sidewalk does not have curb ramps or the bus shelter is not accessible. The County is developing recommendations for accessibility improvements at each stop.
How many of our streets are walkable?
Ideally, most streets in our cities and many in our suburbs should have sidewalks, but cost and limited right of way mean that road owners often don’t provide them. Local policies that require property owners to maintain sidewalks adjacent to their property also often reduce support for building new sidewalks. In rural areas, roads connecting key destinations should have wide shoulders (at least four feet) to provide adequate space to anyone walking or bicycling along them, but again, cost and limited right of way are major hurdles.
While we don’t have complete data on all roads, a 2017 analysis of County road segments found that about 85 percent have no walking infrastructure at all (sidewalks, wide shoulders, or crosswalks). We have been working with County Public Works to improve access along their roads. Our other sidewalk planning initiatives include local Pedestrian Plans, the West Road (CR 71) Sidewalk Feasibility Study, and the Arlington Main Street Redesign Initiative.
How many people have access to a rail trail?
Dutchess County currently has more than 49 miles of rail trails, with an additional 2.7 miles planned. These trails provide protected space for walking and bicycling and have proven to be enormously popular. However, only 4.5 percent of the population lives within a half-mile of a rail trail access point or trailhead (via roads, many of which lack sidewalks). While this will increase to 6.5 percent with the construction of the planned trail on the north side of Poughkeepsie, it will still represent a small fraction of the population. This means many people cannot easily access these trails, especially those who are unable to drive to a trailhead.
The Multi-Modal Accessibility Analysis in our Congestion Management Process identified several significant gaps in our rail trail network, including between the City of Beacon and the Dutchess Rail Trail in Hopewell Junction; between the Dutchess and Harlem Valley rail trails; and between the Dutchess Rail Trail in Poughkeepsie and destinations to the north.
In addition, several opportunities have been identified to convert old rail lines to rail trails. These include a Beacon Rail Trail using the Beacon rail line between Beacon and Hopewell Junction; a Hucklebush Rail Trail using the Hucklebush rail line between Rhinebeck and Millerton; and a Stanford-Pine Plains Rail Trail using abandoned rail lines.
Where are the on-street bicycle facilities?
While Dutchess County has signed bike routes and sharrows in various locations, there are no on-street facilities that provide dedicated space for bicycling, and no on-street bicycle facilities are currently planned. This lack of dedicated on-street bicycling space stands as a major impediment to people feeling comfortable using bicycles for everyday travel.
Where is there bicycle parking?
Bicycle parking is an important but often overlooked component of a bicycle network. Our online Bicycle Parking app shows locations of publicly-accessible bike racks. Based on the app, there are clusters of racks in the City of Poughkeepsie, City of Beacon, and Villages of Rhinebeck and Red Hook, while other locations have few bike racks. However, this is an incomplete picture, as we don’t have a reliable system for tracking new (or removed) racks.
The Multi-Modal Accessibility Analysis in our Congestion Management Process evaluated bike parking availability at key transit locations (train stations, parking and ride lots, the Poughkeepsie transit hub, and the Beacon ferry terminal). It found that only half of key transit locations have bike parking, and less than 20 percent have long-term bike parking (such as lockers).
Where bike parking does exist, it is usually a simple bike rack, which does not provide long-term security or protection from weather. In addition, racks are often poorly designed, located, and/or maintained, which limits their usefulness. Our Bicycle Parking page provides guidance for bicycle parking styles and installations. Limited bicycle parking, as well as parking that is poorly designed, located or maintained makes it difficult for people to bicycle for transportation.
What is the demand for safe walking & bicycling access?
We began counting people walking and bicycling in 2012 as part of the development of Walk Bike Dutchess, our county-wide Pedestrian and Bicycle Plan. Since then, our count program has expanded beyond annual manual counts (done by volunteers) to include bicycle-specific tube counts and video-based counts. While the data is limited, it reveals key trends and needs:
- The extremely high use of our rail trails illustrates the desire for off-street shared-use paths.
- The high proportion of sidewalk bicycling, particularly in our cities, underscores the need for safer streets with dedicated on-street bicycle facilities, such as protected bicycle lanes.
- The very low percentage of women bicycling on streets (compared to on rail trails) also suggests a need for safer streets with dedicated bicycle facilities.
We also know that there is a high demand for quality walking and bicycling facilities based on the popularity of funding programs such as the Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP). Unfortunately, limited funding is a common barrier to improving the walkability and bikeability of our communities.
DUTCHESS COUNTY CENTERS & GREENSPACES PROGRAM
The County Planning Department’s Centers & Greenspaces program encourages municipalities to focus development in existing and emerging centers, while preserving greenspaces. The website includes a four-page guide, case studies, countywide maps, and municipal maps showing centers, greenspaces, and habitat areas.
"Even though most destinations require a drive, it would be nice to at least be able to walk once I have arrived at my destination."
- Moving Dutchess Forward survey
Click on image to enlarge
BUILDING CONNECTIONS, ONE STEP AT A TIME
A 2017 pedestrian demand model developed for County roads identified priority road segments for sidewalk improvements, based on high demand (destinations, residential and job density, demographics, and safety hazards) and poor existing conditions (sidewalks, crosswalks, and ramps). The model also identified priority areas for improvements based on clusters of priority road segments.
Building on this model, we have been working with the County’s Complete Streets Committee and County Public Works to prioritize County roads with walking infrastructure that should be improved, using Universal Accessibility funding provided by the County Legislature. In 2020, County Public Works progressed the first of these projects, which included crosswalk and sidewalk improvements on Dutcher Avenue (CR 69) in the Village of Pawling. A project on Innis Avenue (CR 75) in the Town of Poughkeepsie is also planned.
CITY OF POUGHKEEPSIE BICYCLE PLANNING
The City of Poughkeepsie took several steps towards on-street bicycling infrastructure in 2020:
The City worked with Scenic Hudson to host Courtney Williams, ‘the Brown Bike Girl,’ for an equity-focused community bicycle planning workshop.
The City marked sharrows on one of their nine codified bicycle routes: the City Transect Route (which is also part of State Bike Route 9). They continue to evaluate the potential for bicycle lanes (Walk Bike Dutchess recommends implementing all of the City’s bike routes with various treatments, based on available right of way).
The City worked with Parks & Trails New York to implement a one-day pop-up ‘cycle track’ (two-way protected bike lane) on Market Street and continues to evaluate the potential for permanent bike lanes.
"I often encounter intersections that are hostile to pedestrians...They don't offer a clear option for crossing, vehicles enter them at high speeds, I'm afraid a driver will fail to yield, or the road I must cross is simply too wide."
- Moving Dutchess Forward survey
Based on this analysis, our role could include the following:
- Encourage Complete Streets policies & projects. Help municipalities develop and implement Complete Streets policies; continue our local pedestrian plans and work with municipalities to implement improvement projects; coordinate with municipalities, NYSDOT, County Public Works and County Public Transit to improve access to transit; and assist State, County, and local road owners to incorporate walking and bicycling infrastructure into road and bridge projects.
- Support local ADA inventories & transition plans. Work with partners to complete the County’s ADA Transition Plan and encourage municipalities to develop ADA transition plans. (Best practice methodologies are available on NYSAMPO’s ADA toolkit).
- Conduct more pedestrian and bicycle counts to document use and demand. Work with County Public Works to install automated/permanent counters on rail trails, improve our count database to include annual estimates, and post data on an online interactive map.
- Promote “all ages & abilities” bicycle facilities. Work with roadway owners to plan and construct dedicated bicycle facilities in centers, and encourage additional bicycle parking, including secure longer-term options, at train stations, ferry stations, transit hubs, park & ride lots, and other destinations.
- Conduct a county-wide Level of Traffic Stress analysis to further identify gaps and help develop a low-stress bicycle network.
- Encourage municipalities to treat sidewalks as shared public infrastructure, similar to streets. This would mean budgeting for sidewalk maintenance and plowing as well as new sidewalk construction.
DUTCHESS COUNTY'S COMPLETE STREETS INITIATIVE
In 2014, we created a Complete Streets Committee with representatives from various County departments. The Committee developed a Complete Streets policy, which applies to projects involving County roads, parks, and buildings, as well as private projects over which the County Public Works has permitting authority. As part of the policy, we developed a Complete Streets checklist. The checklist is intended to help County staff and private applicants consider ways to incorporate complete streets principles, including access for walking, bicycling, and transit, into proposed projects. DCTC and County Public Works staff coordinate to review these checklists and recommend improvements to the project.