Walking & Bicycling

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 implementing 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 about 50 miles of rail trails, with an additional 2 miles planned as part of the Northside Line in Poughkeepsie. 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 Northside Line, 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-Hopewell 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 (except for very short stretches on Route 9), 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 Bike Dutchess app shows locations of publicly-accessible bike racks (along with bike routes and nearby points of interest). 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.

What We Heard

"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

What We Heard

"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

Our Role

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.