New York State Department of Transportation (the “NYSDOT”) Commissioner Joan McDonald says NYSDOT is “glad to see more and more cyclists traveling New York State.” This she says in an article announcing their updated website. An updated website?! Allow me to paraphrase Navin R. Johnson (you know him as Steve Martin in The Jerk). Yay! The updated website is here! The updated website is here! Let’s look around.
I was immediately drawn to the interactive map. Maps are always fun. Why not plan a bike tour? More realistically, I decided to check out my area. Albany is putting up new facilities all the time. Maybe there is something I haven’t heard about or seen. Didn’t take me but a second to decide the map isn’t going to be very useful.
The map omits the only bike trail we have–the Corning Trail running from downtown Albany and leading most of the way to Troy. The map would instead have us pedaling the length of Broadway. I did that once, but once was enough. Once will be enough for this map, too. Fail!
I next checked out the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (a third-party site run my a private nonprofit, the “PBIC”). My mouse was drawn there because the NYSDOT represented that the PBIC would offer encouragement to bike. A little encouragement is a good thing, especially in the winter. Spoiler alert–I was not encouraged. I started at the beginning by clicking on “Bicycling Basics.” The first tab there, “Why Bicycle” starts off harmlessly by promising “improved environmental and personal health, reduced traffic congestion, enhanced quality of life and economic rewards.” Right on. Next tab, “Bike More” says the same stuff. I guess if some bicycling is good, more is better. You know I don’t agree with that. Onward? Maybe not. Better to stop while you are nowhere, because the next tab under Bicycle Basics (“Crash and Safety Facts”) offers up this lovely image:
I am so not encouraged! To be fair, maybe the NYSDOT should not have represented the PBIC as a place to find encouragement. The PBIC describes itself as
“… a national clearinghouse for information about health and safety, engineering, advocacy, education, enforcement, access, and mobility for pedestrians (including transit users) and bicyclists. The PBIC serves anyone interested in pedestrian and bicycle issues, including planners, engineers, private citizens, advocates, educators, police enforcement, and the health community.”
Doesn’t say anything about encouragement. Maybe the Center feels its mission is to give the full picture, warts and all, and let folks decide for themselves whether they want to bike. Kind of like taking kids on a field trip to a prison so they can decide whether they want to abide by the law. You know–scared straight. Apparently the PBIC wants to scare would be new cyclists into cars.
I headed back to the NYDOT site and then jumped to “FHWA Bicycle Safety” page. You know I love me some good cycling safety information (and such a catchy title). Sadly, once again the NYDOT couldn’t be bothered to put together their own page. Just another link to a third party site (this one is hosted by the Federal Highway Administration). While the FHWA bicycle safety page offers a fair summary of the law, on the whole it devotes more space to encouraging us to pedal in the gutter than it does to teaching us how to pedal for optimum safety. You know cars rule at the FHWA. I think the NYDOT could have done better.
In all I spent as much as a half hour at the updated NYSDOT site before I bailed. Think anyone will spend more time? I’d guess my 30 minutes makes me the heaviest user of the updated site to date (and I don’t expect my record to be broken any time soon). Prove me wrong. Check it out and let me know if you find any special goodness there or on the other ho-hum sites to which the NYDOT links. I am done with it.